Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween

Halloween in the Brokerage, like in many other offices, is an interesting day. Naturally the gals all decide it's dress-up day. We have the usual witches and princesses. The interesting costume today was our most senior lady wearing what she thought was a "sexy" outfit. She somehow found some black stretchy material that was not flattering. I guess her husband thought it was sexy.

The ladies in the offices on the lower floors were dressed in interesting costumes as well. It was pretty amazing to see these ladies dressed as cartoon characters in front of the building sucking on a cigarette. Good thing there weren't any kids around or the whole happy image would have been blown. One girl came dressed in her robe, slippers, and messy hair. I'm betting she didn't have a big challenge getting ready for work by the looks of things.

It's a good thing most of the guys in the office didn't dress up. Guys rarely do the costume thing. We did have one newbie bring a mask, but he's really weird anyway, so it helped to have him wearing the mask. As for the rest of the guys, if they had been forced to dress in a costume, most of them would show up in shorts and a polo type shirt with a golf club. I guess we all could have bailed out for an afternoon of golf with their "costumes". Maybe next year.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wholesalers

Wholesalers can be a good thing or a bad thing in this business. Wholesalers are those people that are employees of different investment companies that are sent around a territory to pump up the use of the products from their company. For example, mutual fund ABC will have their guy or gal run around their geographic territory and be a resource for their funds, encourage brokers to use their funds, and do whatever they can to encourage sales.

Most wholesalers can be good sources of information. Many of them will help support a broker in gaining new clients in various ways. All in all, most wholesalers are fine people that will help a broker with good information on their products, and many of them help with new ideas and give you food for thought.

The problem starts when one of these outside companies abuses their wholesalers. I have seen a few women wholesalers over the years that were hired to be the "pretty face" for their company. Certain of these ladies use their "charms" to help pump up sales of their products, which works especially good on some of the older guys. After all, you get some old gray-haired broker that's been around a while, and a pretty 20-something wholesaler suggests using a certain fund, and soon the old guy is off to the races in selling that product. Most brokers see through this technique, but occasionally, it works. The poor ladies are forced to work this charade anyway.

The poor guy wholesalers don't have this type of advantage like certain women do, in most geographic areas anyway. (I can't speak for the west coast.) Most wholesalers, being guys, are forced to be a better resource and provide good information to brokers and help with clients. Don't get me wrong here. I'm happy seeing the wholesaler gals come into the office. Unfortunately, the guy wholesalers outnumber the girl wholesalers by about 20 to 1. I guess one day when I've been around for 30-plus years, I'll look forward to "Miss Wholesaler" batting her eyes at me too. In the mean time, I'll keep using the products I have done my due diligence on, regardless of how much the wholesalers kiss up to me. After all, just how many coffee mugs from different mutual fund companies does one broker need?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Conferences

Conferences-- love them or hate them, you have to attend some time. The Boss says so.

Unfortunately, the Boss asked me to attend the week-long slam-fest, and I'm finally back home. I learned a lot of important stuff. I learned it is important to look for clients that want your help (oh really?), asset allocation is still being talked about ad nauseum by every speaker out there, the hot button right now is all the talk about hedge funds (even though most people don't know what they are), and fees are a big issue with clients. The fees are the big deal for some clients with most brokers asking for 1 percent or thereabouts to manage a client's account. But the bitching begins with clients complaining about the one percent fee, even though they just handed over 3 to 6 percent to someone that sold their home. Whaaa??? So, hand over 25 to 50 THOUSAND DOLLARS to someone to sell your home in six days, but complain that a broker charged you 1 percent to manage your account to a gain in a tough market this year? I'm confused about your priorities.

Yes, you learn a lot at conferences. I've been going to conferences for almost 20 years now on various subjects, but the one thing that remains the same is that after all the talk and meetings, you learn the most at the bar having drinks after the day is done. That's when you get to sit down with other guys and gals and talk about the real world. You talk about how clients are ignoring their accounts, how junior associates are wasting the salary you pay them, and how your assistants are waiting for retirement (all except for mine, that is).

Actually, I'm glad to be home. It's really a pain to be out at a nice hotel with a $250 per day meal budget. It's tough to eat that much and to treat so many other potential new hires to drinks. After all, that's why the Boss sent me to the conference-- to spend money and wine and dine the bigger hitters and to convince them to work with us.

It's not about the conference, the speakers, the information to be learned, or anything like that. It's about influencing other successful brokers to move over and work for our firm. After all, the Boss gets that big bonus if he sucks brokers away from other firms this year. Needless to say, I spent the week doing the job for him.