Why Advisors Should Focus Their Business Development on THIS Generation
October 14, 1985 was a pivotal day. Had I made a different choice that day you would have never given a crap about anything I would ever say about helping FAs be successful, both in terms of client experience and your own goal achievement. There would not have been a speaking career, industry best-selling books, no articles written or read, and no workshops or training and coaching programs. I might have washed out like so many others who enter our business. That was an important day. As a person with no background or formal education in finance and no contacts in the community it was not easy to get hired at a major firm in a wealthy area like La Jolla, California. But now the 3-month training program was behind me, the Series 7 test had been passed, and it was my first day in the real world of being a “broker.” It was time to go get clients. My sales manager, Steve, and I had the following conversation:
Bill: So, Steve, what’s the process for me to connect with rich people in La Jolla and get them to change advisors and become my clients?
Steve: Bill, that’s not how it works.
Bill: Uh… not how it works?
Steve: No. You’re 26 years old, you’re not wealthy, you have no experience working with wealthy people, and you don’t have any contacts with wealthy people. You’ll build your business by working in your “natural market.”
Bill: You’re (expletive deleted) kidding, right? Your advice for my success is that I work with other broke 26-year-olds? Am I supposed to wrestle away their beer money to open an IRA?
(Actually, I wasn’t exactly broke. Broke was my goal. My friends would say, “damn I’m broke” and I’d respond, “how’d you do it?” If I could just get my net worth back to zero, maybe someday I would be financially successful.)
Steve: As other young professionals grow in their careers and start earning and saving more money, your business will grow with them.
That was the day I “fired” my sales manager. The choice was to NOT allow myself to be infected with his limiting beliefs about what was possible. Just because he didn’t know how to teach a young advisor how to get older clients with money did not mean it couldn’t be done. On that day, I dedicated myself to figuring out how to develop the people skills necessary to meet financially successful people, how to talk to financially successful people, and how to offer them a better value promise so some would leave their long-time relationship with their other advisor(s). (I’m referring to people with $1M+.) Had I made a different choice, you’d surely be reading someone else’s column in FA Magazine today.
As an advisor who delivers a high-touch and personal client experience it makes sense to work with people who have more money, right? You’re not trying to have a big clientele with many hundreds of clients. You want 40, 50, or 60 great clients you can really make a difference for. You’re not a mass-market financial services business like a bank or consumer-direct financial services company with employee advisors in a customer service call center or a robo. Hopefully, you’re not a one-trick pony product-flogger either.
I’m not a fan of the generation labels like baby boomer, gen x, gen y, and millennial. From a business development and client service viewpoint, there are people who have enough money to make your business work and there are people who don’t.
Perhaps a more relevant question to consider is, “will this generation of people over 50 keep their money longer than previous generations of 50+?” If the answer to that question is “yes,” then worrying about who’s going to inherit their money and when is a non-issue.
By the way, the answer to that question is definitely “YES.” The fastest growing demographic is people over 100. Why? Advances in science, medicine, genetics, robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and synthetic biology will ensure this hard trend continues.
The smartest people in the world are not on Wall Street trying to figure out how to create and sell the next derivatives. The smartest people in the world are working on much bigger initiatives. Dr. J. Craig Venter, the genius who led the project to successfully map the human genome much faster and less expensively than our government dreamt possible, recently co-founded a new company called Human Longevity, Inc. Their mission is to make age 100 the new 60. He’s 70 and would certainly like to accomplish this goal in the next decade or two. If you doubt these breakthroughs, the rate of acceleration, or their impact on longevity just Google “latest breakthroughs in science and medicine.” Prepare to be amazed.
How will this affect the trillions of dollars of wealth transfer you’ve been led to believe is inevitable?
First of all, what’s your experience working with people who inherited money compared to those who earned and saved it themselves? Do you even want to work with the kids of your clients? Some who may be ungrateful little vultures who will surely piss away everything their parents worked a lifetime to achieve faster than you can say mutual fund. The predicted wealth transfer is based on linear thinking using old data. People in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s are likely to live much longer than their hoping-to-inherent-the-cash kids and grandkids realize.
How much money will there be to pass to the next gen if the parents live another 10 or 15 or 20 years? You do the math. Run the cash flow projections for your clients if they live to 110 instead of 90. Besides spending their money on these extra years of day-to-day lifestyle, they will have the opportunity to make investments in their health and longevity that you could only imagine by watching Star Trek. Steve Jobs was worth $11B when he died from pancreatic cancer. If he could have purchased an artificial pancreas or had one grown from his own stem cells for say, $11B, what do you think he would have done? Who do you know who would give up all of their money to have their health back?
So the current 50+ group is going to keep their money longer, maybe much longer, than so-called conventional wisdom has estimated. Then that begs the question, “will this generation of younger people in their 20s, 30s, 40s be different when it comes to their money behavior than previous generations?” When will they develop an appreciation for financial planning, saving, investing, and insurance? Is it conceivable that the generation with 42 million living at home well into their 20s and even 30s might start acting like a responsible grownup a bit later than their parents? While every generation is unique in some ways, human nature doesn’t completely change in a generation. As their parents and grandparents live much longer than expected, this could reduce their fear of running out of time; therefore, give them even less incentive to warm up to financial planning, saving, investing, and insurance. Their attitude might become, “Well, if I’m going to live 20 or 30 years longer I guess I can start saving 20 or 30 years later.”
- Don’t sweat the younger generations because the majority of them are NOT going to earn, save, and invest their money any differently than every previous generation: over decades.
- Their inheritance is either going to be much smaller than projected or non-existent.
- Do you really want to inherit your clients’ kids as clients? What’s your experience been like working with the kids of your clients so far? Might it be better to go get another “old” client than to be stuck working the inheritor who doesn’t share the same values and personality traits that made their parents an Ideal Client for you? How much different are they than lottery winners? We all know what great clients lottery winners make, right?
- Work with people over 50 with money.
- You are also going to live much longer; therefore, need more money than you may have thought, so get ready to be in this business 5 – 20 years longer than you planned.
- If comfort is your goal, success is not in your future. Do what every generation of the most successful advisors have done before you. Get out of your comfort zone working with people your own age who don’t have much money (and are not likely to have serious money for decades) and develop the people skills to rescue the 50+ wealthier clients from their old advisors, many of whom are resting on their laurels assuming their clients will never leave them. They will leave. It’s your job to learn how to make that happen.
- You understand that as a younger person who entered the financial services business you’re weird, right? I mean, really, how are those conversations going with your peers about delaying gratification, paying yourself first, living within your means, doing financial planning, saving, investing, and buying insurance? Has it gotten any easier to wrestle away their beer money so they open an IRA?
NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work
Written by: Jon Sabes
When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward.
However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:
- He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
- He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
- When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
- While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
- In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.
Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (www.jonsabes.com), is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.
Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.
Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.
His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”
When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”
On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.
“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”
That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing. Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.
Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”
When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it. He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.
I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.
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