Let's Investigate

The senate confirmation process of a potential Supreme Court justice and the recent FBI investigation was at times painful but necessary.  The extensive two-sided nature seems merited since a court appointment has no term limit.  This week’s blog will examine how we make other decisions that could have a lengthy term.  Are we diligent or partisan?  Let’s investigate.

Effectively choosing a wealth advisor should be as comprehensive as our senate confirmation process.  Thankfully we have numerous tools that we can use to make this important decision.  Let’s take a look.

Many advisors either work at a regulated brokerage firm or they did at one time in their career. The broker check system archives any complaints that have been filed against the registered professional. It will allow you to be the FBI and ask the advisor about alleged customer complaints that happened over the last ten years.  Their answer can be very helpful to your final vote.  FINRA now requires that all regulated firms provide a link on their website to check current or ex brokers.  A thorough investigation should reference this comprehensive resource and accept that any information older than ten years will not be included - even brokers mature.

Knowledge vs. Experience

The job of an advisor requires certain academic accomplishments like a degree, CFP or CIMA.  These knowledge requirements are table stakes for many advisors and can be easily identified.  Experience trumps knowledge and requires further investigation.  A recent podcast by Michael Kitces with Mitch Anthony provides us with an improved approach to evaluate an advisor’s knowledge.  Unfortunately we defer to the firm the advisor works for or a ten-question questionaire.  Kitces and Anthony show that we can do better.  The FBI has earned the supreme investigator role in our society and in the recent senate confirmation. The Netflix series Mindhunter shows how FBI agents investigate their suspects.  They use a template but the best agents trust their instincts and adjust to the suspect’s life experiences.  That knowledge is priceless.

Checks and Balances

Thankfully this is not our first rodeo.  Our experience has set up checks and balances that improve our investigations. We should ask our prospective advisors what the investigations by the SEC, FINRA and their internal compliance officer identified. Their findings will inform your final vote.  We also complement our investigations with a few thought provocative podcasts.  Our current favorite is Seth Godin’s Akimbo.

If you are thinking this process sounds like it will take a lot of time, you are correct, but don’t forget this is a long-term commitment.

We have completed our investigation and chose an independent wealth advisory firm.  Our disclosed bias is we are an independent wealth advisor too, but not your advisor.


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