Selling Snow Cones To Eskimos

The financial services business is… interesting.  It’s not entirely devoid of good intentions and well-meaning people, but there is no question whose interest is the top priority—and it ain’t yours!  To paint you a picture, I’ve included an excerpt from The Financial Crossroads; the story of how I first entered (then temporarily left) “the business.”

From Chapter Seventeen: Everyone Is Biased:

Snow-cone-210x300 “Everyone is biased.”  Those were the words of a mentor of mine shortly after I entered the business of financial advising.  I had already been working in the financial industry for several years, but this was the second time that my idealistic view of the objective, trusted financial advisor received a healthy dose of reality.  The first time was about three years earlier.  I had just finished celebrating my rite of passage into the stock brokerage world—successful completion of the “Series 7” examination that allows one to sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, and various other securities to the public—when I left my entry-level back office job at a reputable brokerage firm to join a successful team of stock brokers at another firm as a “junior broker.”

I showed up the first day, bright and early, in my token blue pin-striped suit, starched white shirt, and bold power tie.  I sauntered into the team leader’s office to await my very first “Morning Call.”  I listened intently and began feverishly taking notes as a man’s voice rang through a small box detailing the economic events and non-events that were expected to influence the stock and bond markets that day, as well as the state of the current “inventory” that the company held.

As the call wrapped up with a dose of encouragement—akin to a team chant before a football game—I took a deep breath, a final swig of coffee, and moved forward onto the edge of my chair, eagerly awaiting the golden wisdom from my suspender-bound leader as I set out to save the populous from their deviant financial ways.  He stood up, glanced out over the magnificent view of the Baltimore harbor visible from his corner office, and invited me to walk across the hall to get comfortable in my new confines.

He grabbed a three-ring binder, six inches thick, and opened it to the first page.  Then he told me to write down the only note he had taken during the morning call:  “BGE 6.5% Preferred.”  My mission was to call the first number attached to the first name (of many) on the first page (of many) and begin a conversation to help bring whoever answered the phone to the conclusion that they could simply not go another day without putting some of their hard earned money to work for them in this bargain basement deal with an unbeatable yield on this new issue of the bedrock Baltimore utility company’s preferred stock.

I was told to start by putting a smile on my face, because my joy would better translate through the other end of the phone.  I should talk and talk and talk until the voice either transitioned into a static dial tone or submitted to my plea to “talk to the resident expert” in house (my team leader), at which point I should put them on hold and alert the big shark that we had a fish on the line (I’m not stretching the metaphors here; that’s really how they talked).

This was my dream??  Several weeks later, driving home from a client lunch with my leader, I got up the nerve to ask him a question, the answer to which I was dying to know:  “What drives you?  A genuine interest to guide a client to the path of financial success or a pure love of the sale?”

I appreciated his honesty as he let out a “hrmph” and retorted, “The sale—of course!  If this business dried up, I’d sell snow cones to Eskimos!”

He was the resident trainer for the company’s new breed of financial advisors that would guide (or pester) the residents of the Baltimore metropolitan area.  I talked to him a few days later and told him that I felt we had a “philosophical disconnect” in the way we viewed the business.  He agreed, saying, “Yeah, some people just aren’t cut out for the phone,” and we parted on good terms.

The celebrated entrance into the business I had dreamt about since the eighth grade ended in disappointment after only two months.