Tough Talk

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Jul 31, 2005 9:29 am

For the uninitiated, let's talk shop for a moment or two.  It's a Sunday morning and it only takes a few minutes to get to St. Pauls--although I'm being told that we may go to the Actor's Chapel today.  I rather enjoy going there--small, very small, and the services usually feature somebody from Broadway doing vocals.  It's nice.

But there I go, digressing.  Let's get on what I wanted to say.  It's going to be the equivalent of tossing cold water in your face.  See if you're man or woman enough to take it.  If you'd like to respond with a well written, well considered, response I hope you will.

No doubt Puts Wife and the other functionally illiterates will respond, just skip them.

There are two distinct routes you can take as you move into a career in financial product sales.

First, and by far the easiest, is to become an insurance agent.  The addage that they'll hire just about anybody is true, and the tests they have to take are all chosen from questions that are actually published by the various states in study guides--in other words rote memorization works just fine.

Add the layer that what you're selling is a commodity--an insurance policy.  If the buyer screws up all they have to do to unwind their error is not renew it, or even cancel it early if they don't mind early cancellation penalties.

In any case, customers can actually do business with morons without risking the farm--insurance companies know that so they hire morons because there is no reason not to.

Within the insurance industry there is a caste system too.  There are professional firms such as Met Life, The Guardian, Northwest Mutual, Mass Mutual and the like.

There are also hundres, if not thousands, of much less professional firms--go grab that book published by AM Best and see how many other places a moron can catch on if all they're qualfied to do is sell insurance--or inshawance as they call it down south.

I'm pretty aware and attuned to what I hear--or in this case what I read and I think it's a foregone conclusion that there is not a single professional life insurance company represented on this forum.  By definition a professional would not be present on the other forum--so let's end the discussion of insurance types by saying that there are no professional insurance agents present in the room.  So don't look for role models if you want to be an insurance professional--instead go to the Financial Planning website, it's loaded with professionals who are dispensing good advice and counsel.

Next let's touch on the securities industry--separate and distinct from the insurance industry even though the lines are becoming blurred.

For generations--like ever since they began to trade stocks under a tree in Manhattan way back when--the stock market has been somewhat of a mystery to the citizenry.  Stock brokering was considered a profession--parent were proud of a son who became a stock broker, while hanging their head if their son was an insurance agent.  Stock brokers had been to college, they were well trained--insurance agents were drawn from the ranks of he undereducated and received virtually no training.

One sought out stock brokers for advice, but reluctantly agreed to meet with an insurance agent because they knew they needed to buy a policy and, like buying a car, that meant they had to actually sit down and spend a few minutes with somebody who they would never have over for dinner.

Two distinct industries with widely differing standards, and widely differing images among the public.  On the one hand well spoken, well educated people much like bankers and lawyers while on the other hand there were poorly spoken, poorly educated people much like used car salesmen.

I started in the early 1970s.  I got my insurance license because I could pass the exams and my firm allowed us to write policies if we cared to.

The guy across the street from me back in those days went to work at NY Life about the same time.  We used to commiserate about how hard it was to find prospects for our new practices.

A common theme of those conversations was, "Yeah, but you (me) can sell so many more things than I can!"

He was right.  What was only mentioned once--and he had been drinking at the time--was "I really screwed up by dropping out of Tech" a reference to Texas Tech a school which now offers advanced degrees in financial planning.

There's that caste system again.  I possessed the degree--I had yet to get my MBA--while he did not.  I was the stock broker, he was the insurance agent.  We knew our places in the cosmos.

Here's some advice from a sixty year old veteran of the wars.

If you have a college education do not settle for being a life insurance agent--even with the great firms such as The Guardian.  Reach for the stars--send an application to Merrill, Smith Barney, Morgan Stanley (they'll hire again someday), PaineWebber (now known as UBS), or the huge collection of very good firms now known as Wachovia Securities.

If you find those doors to be closed lower your sights a bit--try the mega regionals AG Edward and Raymond James.  Unless you become a major producer in search of something very obscure you won't be able to tell the difference between a mega regional and a true worldwide wirehouse.

If you live in the tri-state area there are lots of very fine firms with which you could associate--institutional botiques and buy side opportunities are everywhere.

Whatever you do do NOT go to work at a place where you see brokers standing up, pacing like lions on chains.

I can  hear you know, "But professor, I do not have a degree."

Well, I can't help you there.  I don't indentify with people who are not ambitious enough to finish one of life's early goals--graduate from college.

I know, I know--you too can get hired by firms that would not have talked to you twenty years ago.  I simply suggest that the reason that Merrill Lynch is willing to hire people like  you is because they no longer see the career as a profession.  It (the career) is in decline as the Internet offers sophisticated investors myriad opportunities to access anything and everything they need without ever having to talk to a human being.

I mentioned yesterday that I trade with Fidelity--even though I earn my paycheck from one of the premier firms.  The reason I do that is because I like the software, but I have to admit I also like not having to talk to Gen-X slackers who haven't got a clue to what I'm talking about much less what I'm trying to accomplish or why I am trying to accomplish it.

As the days stretch into weeks, months and years more and more of the "boomers" are going to wake up and realize that the don't need to be paying upfront fees and trails to people our children's age who are incapable of understanding what they pretend to understand.

There is the Internet, there are no-load funds, there are fee only planners, there are TV and radio shows that focus on investing, there are magazines and newspaper columnists who seem to have an agenda of tossing "full service" brokerage firms on the trash heap of history.

Why in the world would anybody need to turn to a child who dropped out of college for advice?

Jul 31, 2005 10:19 am

simply put, you’re dead wrong.

Jul 31, 2005 10:25 am

[quote=ezmoney]simply put, you're dead wrong.[/quote]

Am I wrong to conclude that if you were able to cite why I am wrong you would have done so?

Jul 31, 2005 10:46 am

The majority of the population is not willing and not able to invest on their own. As a matter of fact the-do-i- yourselfers are only about 15% of the investing public. This past bear market has taught the majority of the investing public that they can't do it themselves, and in fact need help and advice for thier serious long term retirment money. As a result our future is bright. You simply failed to evaluate the situation in depth. BTW I'm a fee based advisor.

Jul 31, 2005 10:51 am


The majority of the population is not willing and not able to invest on their own. As a matter of fact the-do-i- yourselfers are only about 15% of the investing public. This past bear market has taught the majority of the investing public that they can't do it themselves, and in fact need help and advice for thier serious long term retirment money. As a result our future is bright. You simply failed to evaluate the situation in depth. BTW I'm a fee based advisor.


You may be right about the 15%.  Tell me, what percent of the population has enough disposable income to consider investing anyway?  Is a stock broker not looking for the upper 15% anyway?

Is the majority of the wealth in our society concentrated in those who are well educated and perfectly capable of doing things by themselves?

When a middle manager, or higher, type retires will they have the time to manage their own affairs?

Address a question that came up yesterday.  As a fee only planner do you:

1.  Sell mutual funds and collect commissions on them

2.  Have NASD licenses, and if so could you operate if you did not?  What if you were willing to relocate to another state?

Jul 31, 2005 10:55 am


You state that you are a SR-VP with a brokerage firm in NYC. Why have you consistently stated that brokerages add no value and that most investors can do just as well on their own. Isn't that a rather odd statement to make from someone in your position?

Seems like you are biting the hand that feeds you.

Jul 31, 2005 11:43 am



You state that you are a SR-VP with a brokerage firm in NYC. Why have you consistently stated that brokerages add no value and that most investors can do just as well on their own. Isn't that a rather odd statement to make from someone in your position?

Seems like you are biting the hand that feeds you.


This is an internet forum where people are supposed to engage in discussions.

The great thing about message boarding is that one can say what one believes without regard to what is politically popular in their every day world.

I am at the end of a long career, it bothers the hell out of me that the firm I love has had to lower its standards in order to find people to fill the desks.

But I understand why, the career has morphed into a job, not unlike putting wheels on cars as the line moves by. Endlessly doing the same thing again and again.

In an asset gathering environment it is no longer necessary for the customer's man to be able to think--others are doing the thinking.  The customer's man is to smile and dial, wear down the prospect so that the prospect will write a check.  That check will be given over to people who do things the customer's man cannot possibly understand.

Today the guy or gal who is sitting in my old office in that branch back in Dallas is very possibly a college drop out who has no idea how Wall Street works--all he or she is supposed to do is open another account.  Get AUM, get AUM, get AUM.

A mantra that can be understood by a simpleton, and is of no interest to anybody with an above average IQ.

Which is why I would never--as in NEVER--suggest that a bright young man or woman become a stock broker.  It has become a job for the college dropout set.

Will I say that tomorrow at the office--perhaps to the right people, sure.  Will I get up in front of a training class and pronounce them to be a collection of border line illiterates?

Of course not, not there.  But would I say it here?  Sure, I just did.

Jul 31, 2005 11:45 am

[quote=Puts Wife]

Does anyone actually read the BS that Putsy pecks out?

He or she is the reason I'm glad I have a scroller button and page down button on my mouse. One click, and his pecking is in the rear view mirror forever.

He's been on here all morning long. I get up, Putsy is here. I go for my morning run, come back, and he's still posting. I go to church, come back, and he's still pecking away. I'm sure when I get back from the lake, he'll still be here, pecking out lengthy diatribes that he's cut and paste from another source, and claiming it's his own work.


For some folks, mental masterbation is a very difficult hobby to control,(its an addiction) and given the fact that Putzy's outlet for this masterbation is by use of the internet, why, he can masterbate both by posting on this forum and jacking off on others......

In fact, come to think of it, Putzy is probably doing both on this forum, one hand down his trousers, and one hand on the keyboard...or on a variation to that - two hands down his pants and one nose pressed against the keyboard........does this shed any light as to his marathon sessions online??????

Jul 31, 2005 12:03 pm

Dance are you drinking by your self before you post? I hope so because if you are not then you have some issues.

Personally I think leaders, senior management, CFO's, analysts and executives of the financial industry went to hell over time. When you look at what happened over the 90's its easy to see the lack of integrity across the board. These leaders lied, stole, manipulated and completly failed and set a bad example for the future.

When a new GED, high school or college graduate is introducted to the industry they are iggnorant. For the most part they are stupid with visions of wealth and dreams. I think in general they are willing to do what ever it takes to succeed, but they dont know the negatives. That is until they realize that is what the senior management did and they succeeded.

My point is maybe a pathetic nose picking 20 year old Associates degree broker is sad, but the foundation of this industry has been far from the perfect example for these new brokers.

Jul 31, 2005 12:05 pm

My group reaches about 500,00 employees a yr through Seminars. In nutshell people want to be told what do do and how to do it. Bottom-line.

Jul 31, 2005 10:45 pm

You guys are paranoid.

Aug 1, 2005 4:28 pm

I hate to say it, but July/7/28/Harsh/Tough…(oh, I give up) does have a good point.  I am a banker, but had interviews with Schwab and AGE.  They really do not care what you know.  It is all about AUM!!!  And this environment of commision and 1% wrap fee gouging it is a tough sell.  They tell you that you are not an analyst or a true financial planner, but a salesperson…period.  The era of stock picking and true equity portfolios for the middle class investor is a mere memory.  Maybe after all the shake up it will some back.  I wish I knew.

Aug 1, 2005 5:17 pm

So if it is all about sales, which I accept your opinion. Why does Put spend his entire day ranting about test scores. Why would it matter?

If someone gets a 70, but is a hell of a salesman, he is ultimately the successful one.  I have found the bookworm rarely is a top sales achiever in any industry!

Aug 1, 2005 6:10 pm

Whats the old saying about car salesman?

Something like "The highest paying career without a college degree!"

Atleast that is what it says in my newspaper every other Sunday.  Sales are more to do with people skills than what any book will teach you. 

Aug 1, 2005 7:12 pm

By the way. Put. How much do you get paid for posting non-stop on the forums 18 hours a day?

That unemployment check only lasts for a limited time. What are you going to do then if you don't go out and look for a job.

Aug 1, 2005 9:03 pm

<—not Put

Aug 1, 2005 9:09 pm


Aug 1, 2005 9:54 pm

The administrator is good tonite.

Aug 1, 2005 10:04 pm

Sorry Juiced6, that wasn't directed at you. Just a general statement since I know he's out there lurking somewhere.

Aug 1, 2005 10:39 pm

Anticipation of death is worse than death itself.