The Worst Misconception About Advisors and Elder Financial Abuse
Imagine this: your aging client is 86 years old, slightly grumpy, and he thinks he knows better than just about everyone else on nearly everything. He’s quite willing to follow your advice, though and that’s what makes a good relationship with him.
Lately, he’s got you worried. He is obsessed with the internet. He spends many hours a day on it and he tells you about this man he met online who has an amazing investment he wants to get into. When he starts telling you about it, it sounds like a scam of the worst kind. You warn him not to do it and he says you don’t understand.
He asks you to liquidate one of his investments you manage. You do it. He tells you how happy he is that he’s got this great thing going now. A month later he calls you and wants to liquidate a lot of his funds to raise some significant cash for his “friend” who has the scammer-sounding “investment”. You say, “don’t do this!” He won’t follow your advice. This is new, and puzzling. What should you do?
Rules tell you that you must follow your client’s instruction and that you are not supposed to reveal his financial information to anyone. Should you call Adult Protective Services? Can you? You are not sure what to do.
Here’s the answer: you are permitted to report financial elder abuse. According to the regulators’ Interagency Guidance on Privacy Laws and Reporting Financial Abuse of Older Persons, which discusses the issue in detail, you are also permitted to disclose this information to protect against or prevent actual or potential fraud.
But what if your client think his internet “friend” is fine even if you are seeing telltale signs of fraud in your client’s interactions with the scammer? You can report the apparent crime in an online form to the FBI as long as you know enough detail from your client. I think anyone who suspects internet fraud should do this, even if it turns out to be some legitimate thing in the end. It probably isn’t. And your client’s money could all be gone if you do nothing. Would that be okay with you?
Financial professionals need to be clear about your role in preventing and stopping elder abuse. Law enforcement can’t always stop the criminals but sometimes they do. No one can stop what is never reported to them. Do not be misled by the misconception that protecting your client’s private information is supposed to stop you from reporting apparent fraud and abuse.
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I Have A Brand And It Haunts Me
I was talking to my pal “Jonas” who recently decided to freelance (vs building a multi-consultant business) when he left a bigger firm to do his own thing.
Jonas is a global talent guy who works across the planet for some of the world’s most well known companies. He decided his best play—the one that would allow him to focus on what he loves most and live the life he’s planned—is to freelance for other firms.
His plan got off to a bit of a rocky start because—get this—none of the firms he approached believed he’d actually want to “just” freelance. He’d earned his rep by steadily building deep, brand name client relationships, practices and business, not by going off by himself as a solo.
Or as he put it “I have a brand and it haunts me.”
We both had a good belly laugh because he was already rolling in new projects, thrilled with his choice to freelance.
And yet, isn’t that the truth?
Good, bad, indifferent—our brands DO haunt us.
They whisper messages to those in our circle “trust him, he’s the bomb”, “hire her for anything creative as long as your deadline isn’t critical”, “steer clear—he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver”.
And thanks to social media, those messages—good and bad—can accelerate faster than you can imagine. One client, one reader, one buyer can be the pivot point that takes your consulting business to new territory.
So how do you deal with it?
Yep—you go for more of what comes naturally. In Jonas’ case, he stuck with what he’s known for—his work, his relationships, his track record for integrity—and won over any lingering skepticism about his move.
We weather the bumps in the road by staying true to who we are at our core.
So when a potential client says “Sorry, you’re just too expensive for me”, you don’t run out and change your prices. Instead, you listen carefully and realize they aren’t the right fit for your particular brand of expertise and service.
When a social media troll chooses you to lash out at, you ignore them and stay with your true audience—your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
And when your most challenging client tells you it’s time to change your business model to serve them better, you listen closely (there may be some learning here) and—if it doesn’t suit your strengths—you kiss them good-bye.
If your brand isn’t haunting you, is it really much of a brand?
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