Is Your Financial Advisor a Team Player, Too?
In your busy life, you probably already “get” the value of teamwork in managing your personal wealth. Perhaps, like me, you’ve been inspired by someone like baseball legend Johnny Bench, my own boyhood hero. Bench was one of the greatest catchers of all time, renowned for his ability to help his team stick together during the toughest of plays. A catcher’s role is to direct the team to be correctly positioned, to calm the pitcher, and to anticipate opposing players’ actions with swift and appropriate reactions.
But even a great catcher also needs a great team. That’s how it is for investors and their financial advisors too.
A robust advisory team can free you to focus on your own talents and interests. It also brings experience and perspective, so you aren’t making critical ﬁnancial decisions in a vacuum. But, while you may be a team player, is your financial advisor one, too? Does she routinely exchange wisdom and insights by collaborating with a wide network of professional colleagues? If that’s missing from your relationship, it can serve as a weak link in an otherwise strong chain. It’s a link you may not realize is damaged until it breaks.
Why Financial Advisor Teamwork Matters
What does a team approach add to the mix? Even the smartest, most experienced advisor is human, like anyone else. To avoid succumbing to myopic decision-making, it’s a wise person who routinely stress-tests his or her thought processes, seeking the input of others to objectively validate or refute good or bad ideas.
At ﬁrst, you may not think it matters if your financial advisor ﬂies solo or consults with a team, as long as he or she seems to be providing quality care and advice. But, while you may not miss the “safety net” of a team approach when everything is going well, you may well miss it sorely if you could beneﬁt from it during times of crisis … like what we’ve experienced lately.
A Wall Street Journal Marketwatch column reported on the aftermath of the 2008 ﬁnancial crisis offers a case in point.
The article cited the results of a study published in the Journal of Financial Therapy, which found that more than 90 percent of advisors and planners suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following that crisis. They experienced anxiety, self-doubt, negativity, loss of sleep and depression.
Worse, the study found that PTSD caused many planners to panic and abandon their disciplined buy-and-hold recommendations, resorting to “tactical asset management (which is a fancy expression for market-timing). The article cited additional industry surveys ﬁnding similar shifts away from carefully planned strategies and toward reactionary behaviors during that period.
In short, just when their clients needed them the most, many advisors ﬂat out panicked during and after the Great Recession.
Keep a Cool Head During Financial Crises
The aforementioned article did not explore whether PTSD-affected advisors (and their clients) would have fared better were they in a well-structured, collaborative team environment. But I can speak from my own experience that I and my Buckingham Strategic Partner colleagues have not wavered from our continued, disciplined planning advice in the recent coronavirus chaos.
We are proud to belong to a community of advisors, financial specialists, insurance experts and people like you who believe that when our lives are guided by a sound plan, we can achieve great things.
That’s not to say this crisis hasn’t caused plenty of personal and professional stress. Anyone who didn’t ﬁnd the recent market fluctuations frightening needs to be checked for a pulse, not to mention the challenges of government stay-at-home orders or fears of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
The point is, as advisors we aren’t working in silos. We shared notes, ideas and insights to examine whether we should consider changing our underlying strategies. We had rigorous processes, extensive support systems and investment policy committees to review those strategies in light of the crazy volatility.
Based on the best available evidence we collectively gathered and assessed, we concluded that our existing tenets remained the most likely way for our clients see their way through the crisis. In fact, because I believe so strongly in this, the due diligence process also helped me stay true to these same tenets in managing my own family’s wealth. Not only did the power of collaboration help us keep our own fears in check, I believe our clients who relied on our steadfast advice were best served through the thoughtful alliance during this time of extreme market stress.
How to Spot a Team Player: Seek an Independent Thinker
So, how do you identify whether your wealth advisor is a team player? Of course, you can start by asking the question point blank. You also can assess the conversations you’re having, taking note of the sources being used to substantiate and support the advice. In recommending an investment strategy, is your advisor relying on robust evidence based on peer-reviewed, published ﬁndings? Or is he or she prognosticating based on an unknowable future? Does he or she have a cohesive network of service providers to address your spectrum of wealth needs (such as estate planning, insurance, tax preparation and business planning), or is investment advice being delivered in a void: not tied to your goals and dreams?
Speaking of collaboration, my colleague Dan Solin wrote an excellent column in the Hufﬁngton Post, “Investing Secrets of Wealthy Technology Entrepreneurs.” While presenting investment strategy to entrepreneurs at Google, Facebook and other tech ﬁrms across the U.S. and Canada, he reports having found four successful investment traits he feels many high-tech entrepreneurs exhibit:
- They aren’t inﬂuenced by convention.
- They’re data-driven.
- They focus on results.
- They are smart and savvy.
As I read Dan’s discovery, it struck me that these same traits can describe advisors and others who appreciate the power of collaboration. It may seem counterintuitive, but I believe the best team players are those who balance their own, independent thinking with open communication among those who have the acumen to complement, substantiate and sometimes challenge their beliefs. The end results strengthen our ability to champion our clients’ highest interests, even when (especially when) times are tough.
In other words, it may take two to Tango, but I believe it takes a team to tangle with the market. In our team’s collective experience, we’ve witnessed that the most successful investors were those that had a written financial plan based on their goals and unique circumstances, and didn’t deviate from that plan when high volatility showed up. We’ve also encountered investors who let their emotions get the best of them and they continually reacted to current events and dower headlines, and always in the wrong way and at the worst time.
We plan from the bottom up for our clients. Your dreams and passions are too important to leave up to chance.
Cogent serves as your think tank, where a kinetic mix of passion, drive and diverse professional experience come together to benefit our clients. Kelly Stanley and I collaborate with colleagues from around the country; each embody wide-ranging technical and intellectual insight. No silos here. Our entire team of specialists is on call to support, inform and advise you.
If your financial advisor is lacking a collaborative environment in which to strengthen and augment his or her independent skills, you may want to re-think the durability of your team. Find a financial advisor that is part of a team.
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