I ignored stodgy, old Wall Street advice about taking on the small accounts of my friends when I first started in my career. It was one of the best career decisions I ever made.
Can you imagine cold calling today? I mean, when I started in the securities industry, the way we all did back in the day (for me it was 1990), we were like pledges for a fraternity in that it was like getting hazed. You were expected to make 300 dials, speak to 30 execs/business owners, and get 10 decent leads for the senior brokers whose team you were on. I tell people who are younger than me about this and they just can't even imagine it! The rejection. The tediousness. At the end of every day, your ear was beet red and your neck had a pinched nerve from holding the phone between your shoulder and ear - for ten hours a day. As one senior fellow who I was lucky to have become a mentor to me said about it, "the worst thing about cold calling is that it works". So true. It was also the time I started drinking coffee. And mind you, there was no Starbucks yet; you were stuck with the disgusting coffee from the cafeteria which tasted like something that someone shoveled from the riverbed of the Hudson.
Once I passed my Series 7 exam and opened the prerequisite 30 new accounts for my team, I was permitted to "get my own desk". A phone and a big stack of Dunn & Bradstreet cards; to call strangers on the other end of the phone. But it worked. One by one, people started saying yes; opening accounts with me. I hired my own bank of cold callers and my book of business really started to grow. I even got an office with a window, a prestigious perk in Manhattan.
The only thing was that burnout in the industry was sky high. It was a transactional business model and it was before 401(k) accounts and fee-based accounts took off. It may seem obvious now, but since hardly anyone had access to a 401(k), there were hardly any 401(k) rollovers, which is a major source of new assets for financial advisors to manage today. The ROTH IRA and 529 college savings plan weren't invented yet. The only two stock market celebs who you watched on TV were Lou Dobbs (yes, THAT Lou Dobbs currently on FOX News), and the late Louis Rukeyser. But the thing to note for this post is that the maximum contribution to an IRA was limited to $2,000.00. Can you imagine trying to save for retirement by adding only $2,000.00 per year to your retirement account? Crazy, right? Even by 1990 standards, that was a pittance.
My best friends from high school and college started calling me to open IRA's because their parents advised them to do so. They didn't even have the cash to max out the $2,000.00 IRA contribution limit! I gladly accepted their business. The senior brokers and management at the firm I worked for at the time urged me to turn them down; saying I should avoid small accounts. But I was so unbelievably flattered that I couldn't say no. Plus, these are my besties and I wouldn't insult them by telling them I can't accept their business. Think about this for a second. These amazing, awesome friends are the guys I grew up with, the ones who saw me do the dumbest sh#t it in my life. Heck, they were doing the dumb sh#t with me (or maybe I was the one doing the dumb sh#t with them). We still can't believe that we survived half the things we did. So, when these guys came to me for help with their financial future, you could understand how deeply moved and appreciative that made me feel. I'm sure lots of you had a similar experience.
We all started getting married, having kids, and buying homes. Our incomes grew too. Some of my buds were starting their own businesses, accumulating assets, and their incomes grew far beyond anything they imagined at that time. As their investment and financial planning needs grew in size and complexity, I was right in there with them; with a deep understanding about their situations and the necessary skillsets to help guide them. As we all made new friends, met new neighbors, and dealt with new attorneys and accountants, my clientele grew more. Not because I asked for introductions; it just happened that way. In that situation, how could it not?
I'm lucky and I know it. I'm glad I didn't follow the advice of those senior brokers and management, who didn't see the worth in taking on small accounts because they didn't comprehend the value of relationships. Life could've been very different for my family and myself today. I wouldn't want my history any other way. And the cold calling? Thankfully, that ended many, many years ago.
There's something else to be said for this. We were the millennials of that era - the newbies between the just-out-of-college stage and our full-on adult years. Whatever label anyone wants to put on a generation; each one has its own nuances, cultural icons, and stepping stones, but we all have the same need to be guided in a conflict-free, transparent, and knowledgeable way. I wish I had
today-me to advise
me back then, which is another way of saying "if I only knew then what I know now". So, if you're out of college and getting your adult life into high gear, give me a call so I can help you save yourself from a lot of trial and error.