Financial Advisor or Producer?

If you have any doubt that what I have written over previous posts about the focus of some firms being to take your money carries truth, I thought I would share what many financial advisors are called internally in these firms. This should help reveal how these firms view their advisors and their customers. Insurance companies and investment firms often do not call their employees and contractors by the titles they use with clients; instead they are called “Producers.” Why producers? Because, in the opinion of these firms, the role of these individuals is to sell product and produce revenue. Their role is not to help clients, although they may choose to do so. The system they work in is designed to reinforce only that they need to close, close, close. All other considerations are secondary to their role as salespeople.

You may be thinking this is simply an argument in semantics. I submit that it is far more important than that. This speaks to the frame of mind of the firms, of the culture they create, and of where the duty lies for these “producers.” Even for those who want to truly help clients, they work in a culture where the sale is more important than the interests of the client. When performance of producers is reviewed, the question is not “how many people have you positively impacted”, but “how many products have you sold”. At every moment, producers are reminded by their employing firms what is most important – that they meet their sales quotas and sell profitable products. How can even the most principled, devoted professional be expected to maintain focus on helping people first when bombarded with reminders and virtual brainwashing techniques that teach that the sale is the most important goal?

When I began working in the financial services industry, I found myself in this type of environment. I worked with people who did try to put clients first, who truly wanted to help people and who tried to fight through the system in place to do so. On some level, I feel certain, that at times their judgment was clouded by the system. Try as they might, they were too often reminded that they were producers. I certainly fell into this trap. In fact, I looked for any way to increase my sales numbers because I needed income. In this search, I ran across an internet forum named Top Gun Producers. This website claims to help people struggling to move forward in sales in the financial services industry. They consider meeting with potential clients the “battleground.” The focus of the website and all discussions is how to win the sale at virtually any cost. Unfortunately, they have locked the forums now to registered users so you cannot see for yourself the types of people working as “financial advisors” that you must be aware of. I do think these types of individuals are the exception, not the norm; but many of them are very successful and you must be aware that they are out there, pretending to help people when in fact they are only trying to become as wealthy as possible as quickly as possible. These producers are not a part of any profession. They are vultures preying on the trust many professionals have worked very hard to create with consumers. The negative impact one of these individuals has requires the honest, good work of dozens of professionals to counteract both in terms of goodwill and damage done to people's financial well-being.

Consider, do you want to work with a producer or a financial advice professional? Do you to trust someone who is constantly bombarded by their employer that they must sell product, or do you want someone who is given the space and focus to provide advice in your best interest? Do you want to risk trusting a “Top Gun Producer”?


Russ said...

Great post, and a great explanation of one of the many reasons I left Merrill Lynch back in 2006

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