When I was a kid, I had a poster of my favorite hockey player on the wall.  More than likely a few adorned the walls of my room and I was proud to showcase them to friends. Now that I am a few years older and have an office that is frequented by colleagues and clients, I am very careful to not showcase any specific points of view that could easily turn someone off. 

Let me explain further. 

Recently I spoke with an advisor who narrowed his broker/dealer search down to two firms and scheduled a home-office visit to both.  Both firms are nationally recognized and well-respected by many in the industry. 

While in the office of one of the executives at Firm A, the Advisor noticed a prominently displayed political sign endorsing a current candidate.  You know where I am going here; needless to say that turned the advisor off so much, that it caused the advisor to choose Firm B.

Is this type of decision making common?  We have no way to measure this, but I argue that it is. 

We have deeply personal emotions, ties, commitments to political parties, religions, lifestyles, sports teams, etc. that we all judge, right or wrong. 

Let’s have some fun with this:  all else being equal, if an advisor is a life long New York Yankees fan and is trying to decide between two firms and upon landing in the office of the CEO who’s office is lavishly appointed in Red Sox décor, there may very well be an issue. 

We have become a sensitive society.  So here is a short list of personal alliances that may offend your audience:

  • Democrat vs. Republican
  • Browns vs. Steelers
  • Cowboys vs. any team
  • Pat’s vs. Geno’s
  • Tiger vs. Phil
  • Connors vs. McEnroe
  • New York pizza vs. Chicago pizza
  • Goodfellas vs. The Godfather

The term culture is overused in our industry, but at the same time it’s important and often a key reason advisors (and clients) are moving. Culture is valued and needed; it’s an environment where support and collaboration is encouraged upon its members.  To win the business of successful advisors who are your recruits, you must have the tangibles in place, while more importantly showcase the intangibles, which often are baked into the culture a firm has worked so hard to establish.  Culture at the firm level is not a political or religious perspective.  Understand how quickly one can be turned off by these displays; even though it may be an innocent display.
While the above example is pertaining to an advisor and broker-dealer relationship, the same is true with the advisor and client relationship, only amplified. 

Advisor Joe may have the best client-service team and significant portfolio performance, but be very aware of the perception that your environment is providing.  If Advisor Joe’s latest prospect is a PETA advocate and arrives only to see hunting trophies, there may be an issue. 

Its almost a daily occurrence that during a conversation the other person makes a political statement to me, assuming that I share the same belief or view.  I am certainly not going to argue their point because it will probably be a conversation killer.  When this happens in a meeting with a prospective client, the meeting more than likely will end cordially and then the prospective client will fail to answer or return phone calls from then on.  Be cognizant of this; be aware of the environment that you have created because you are asking clients to buy into it.  I am not saying be all things to all people, but once in a while put your self in their shoes for a different perspective.  Nothing positive comes from offending.  

All of this said, there is no debate about the fact that Chicago pizza is not really pizza.

Ned Van Riper is managing director with Finetooth Consulting and co-founder of Join a Firm. He has 13 years of industry experience split between the wirehouse and independent channels.

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