Why is this even legal?
We've been to D.C.. We've spoken with members of Congress. We've protested to SEC commissioners. But we realize that Wall Street's gazillion-dollar lobbying will always buy easier ways for it to capture a larger share of your wallet.
Today, most fee-paid "fiduciaries" carry an advisor registration in one hand and a broker sales license in the other.
Paying an "advisor" a fee to sell you something?
This is not what an informed consumer would do; but as long as federal regulators allow Wall Street to obscure the facts in fine print, even highly-educated consumers will continue to fall prey to the expensive conflicts of interest that dominate the financial services industry.
Maybe it isn't illegal (not yet) but that doesn't make it right.
Objectivity + Independence + Expertise
Insist upon all three!
1. OBJECTIVITY: If you want financial guidance that is never influenced by a sales agenda, choose an advisor who doesn't even have a sales license.
(Verify: Look up the firm's Form ADV disclosure: Truly objective firms like FirsTrust have no "BROKER" or "LIFE INSURANCE" sales licenses, and there are no fine print disclosures on the bottom of their advisors' business cards.)
2. INDEPENDENCE: If you want investment choices that are never dictated by a company profit agenda, choose a company that doesn't profit from your investment choices.
(Verify: Look up the firm's Form ADV disclosure : Truly independent firms like FirsTrust don't invest your money in their own funds, they have no "sell away" restrictions that handcuff them to a bank or brokerage menu, and they never profit from your investment choices.)
3. EXPERTISE: If you want financial guidance from actual experts, take the time to verify their expertise before you trust anybody with your money!
(Verify: Look up the firm's Form ADV disclosure: FirsTrust advisors are accredited experts with 20 to 30+ years of experience; references from local clients, attorneys and CPAs; and Public Disclosure Reports showing they have never been disciplined for violating a client’s trust.)
DON'T JUST BELIEVE THE MARKETING MATERIALS. VERIFY BEFORE YOU TRUST:
Commentary and a Word of Wisdom from our Founder:
Quick story: It's 1980-something; I'm standing in a cruise ship casino among a crowd of passengers who appear hypnotized by a large wheel, spinning on the casino wall.
The wheel contains the numbers 1 through 100, and the objective is to correctly pick which number will be at the top of the wheel once it stops.
An attendant in a tuxedo spins the wheel - a few gamblers place their bets - but the majority of the crowd just stands there gazing at the wheel, each holding a little yellow pencil and a white note card that says "Number Tracker" across the top in bright red letters.
Each time the wheel stops, Tuxedo yells out the winning number, and the spectators bow their heads to scribble something on their Number Tracker cards.
My curiosity grows, and I finally have to ask:
“Excuse me, Sir,” I said to the elderly man standing next to me, “May I ask what everyone’s doing?” He reluctantly revealed his Number Tracker card and said, “We're tracking the numbers."
As I studied his card, I saw that he had marked an "X" across the numbers that won in recent spins. “Number 34 just won," he said, "so I know that I should not bet on it right now.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He raised his eyebrows and glared at me over his glasses. “Odds are against it," he said. "How likely is it that 34 will win again on the very next spin?”
I quickly answered, “One in a hundred.”
He looked to the ceiling for patience and calmed himself with a deep breath.
"Now look," he said, "statistically, the chances of number 34 coming up twice in a row are pretty slim, so I crossed it off my card. Understand?"
"Actually," I replied, "every time the wheel spins, each number has a one-in-a-hundred chance of winning. It doesn't matter which number won last time."
The man threw his hands in the air and sarcastically barked, “Oh, I see; you’ve got it all figured out and the rest of us are just a bunch of dummies, huh?”
He returned to his task as I stood there with one of those "Are you serious?" looks on my face.
And then it suddenly occurred to me:
Who created these “Number Tracker” cards and provided the little yellow pencils?
That’s right - the casino did. They know that humans tend to validate risk through irrational behaviors, so the house promotes it. They capitalize on it. And they even distribute the tools for people to do it with.
Is it illegal? No.
But that doesn't make it right!
The same shameless profiteering has become a cornerstone of the Wall Street culture, and the once respected brokerage firm has become a pyramid-schemed product distributor at the expense of innocent investors and well-intended advisors …
… just like Tuxedo.
Does he know what’s going on?
He’s either ignorant or he’s complicit - but there’s no third option. And for the life of me, I couldn’t tell which.
So, I just stood there, for quite a while, staring at Tuxedo as he spun the wheel and handed out more “Number Tracker” cards with little yellow pencils.
And I still couldn’t tell.
Respectfully, my friends, when you talk to an "investment advisor" these days, neither can you.
Why am I still in this business if I so despise its culture?
Because this is where we can make a BIG difference.
No - it's not OK to promote confusion and then profit from the consumer's lack of understanding.
That's NOT doing the right thing, and our firm won't let it happen to our clients.
I guarantee it!
Michael T. Koenig
FirsTrust founder & CEO
We Know What True Wealth Looks Like
Just look at that picture.
A simple moment of joy as Grandpa and Granddaughter find new tomatoes growing in their garden.
That is what true wealth looks like.
Above all that I've learned during my 30+ years in this business, nothing is more wise or true.
True wealth comes from family. It comes from making a positive difference in the lives of others. And it comes from that sense of integrity you get from just doing the right thing.
We simply refuse to be influenced by all the mutual funds, insurance companies and investment vendors who want us to give them a piece of your portfolio.
We don't even hold the brokerage licenses to receive their sales commissions, promotional incentives, over-rides and kickbacks.
We also refuse to accept their marketing funds, production bonuses, free dinners, and invitations to their all-expense-paid "conferences" in Vegas.
Every year, we collect a pile of their holiday gift baskets, cookies, wreaths, cakes and boxes with who-knows-what inside - and we donate them anonymously to a local charity.
And at every Christmas party, for more then 20 years now, I make the same toast to the advisors and staff of FirsTrust; a group of truly consummate professionals who know what true wealth really looks like.
P.S.: A "Word of Wisdom" for Industry Professionals
I know you’re reading this too. Maybe even cursing me under your breath.
So what about you? Have you made the choice?
Who do you want to be?
Come on now - keep it real for a minute. We've all had to make the choice, so what about you?
Are you drinking so much of the company Kool-Aid that you're blissfully unaware of how they can afford to put their logo on football stadiums and Wall Street skyscrapers?
Do you honestly believe your company pays you promotional incentives and year-end bonuses to recommend investments that are in the client’s best interest?
A bond trader literally called us “stupid” one day because we put our client’s bonds out for bid to get them the highest price instead of letting an in-house trade desk mark them down and pocket the difference.
It's fine. Go ahead and call us stupid. We’ve got more than 100 collective years of experience and the highest educational credentials in the financial service industry - so if we’re stupid, it’s by CHOICE.
It's the same choice that every financial advisor eventually has to make:
WE have chosen to be the ones who can legitimately
claim to serve our clients' BEST interests at ALL TIMES.
So who do YOU want to be?
FACT: You don't need FINRA, broker-dealers, Series "XYZ" or insurance licenses to provide financial advice and investment management services for your clients . You only need them to sell products for your employer and collect financial incentives.
So please don't say, "I also serve the BEST interests of my clients" with a broker dealer disclosure and a Wall Street logo on your business card.
The most positive difference in your life will come from
making the most positive difference in the life of your client.
Want to take the first step? Go home and actually read all the conflicts of interest that your company discloses in fine print.
If you decide you're OK with that then be honest about it, and stop calling yourself an advisor when you're actually a company sales rep.
But if you’re not OK with that - if you truly want to change but don't know how - call me.
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