I heard an old proverb once that went something like, “Let everyone leave the marketplace with a little silver in their pocket.” In other words, make sure there is a fair deal. The concern for this reaches back across the millennia. In fact, there are stories of clerics who would travel from town to town in ancient days to make sure that the weights on scales had not been altered or tampered with.
In the complex world of investing, careers will ultimately rise or fall to the extent there is complete transparency in each transaction. Put another way, symmetry of information between buyer and seller, salesperson and client. Here’s a simple test. Next time you’re at a gathering of some kind, ask a few folks if they can describe the way their financial advisor is paid. Is there an embedded commission? Do they know how much it is? How it’s calculated? The bottom line is that when all the facts are on the table—and both parties still agree to go ahead with a transaction—there is symmetry of information. And that means there is integrity in the relationship.
Recently, we have seen a number of jurisdictions introduce various forms of crowdfunding, whereby start-up ventures, often with little more in the way of a business plan than a concept, can raise capital to start their enterprise. The potential is there for some great new businesses to get the equity funding that they really need. There is also the risk of abuse and fraud. There is certainly the risk that plain disclosure and a thorough discussion of the risk (e.g. “could you handle it if you lost ALL your money in this venture?”) may not be sufficiently robust.
Here’s the most amazing thing. Taking the time to explain everything, and then confirming it all in writing, will make you the talk of the town – in the most positive way imaginable. You will build lasting relationships with people who keep coming back to you—in the great deals and also the ones that don’t turn out so well.
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