One popular myth surrounding the origin of Valentine’s Day is of an Italian Christian named St. Valentine. Valentinus, as he was known, ignored a decree from Emperor Claudius II that there should be no marriage ceremonies. He secretly wed couples until he was caught, imprisoned and sentenced to death.
To add even more romance around the history of Valentinus, a story sprang up that, whilst in jail, he cured the jailer’s daughter of blindness and the pair soon fell madly in love with each other. Then, on the day of his execution which happened to be February 14th, he sent her a card expressing his love and signing off with “From your Valentine”.
It is in the spirit of the martyred St. Valentine that we express our love for, well, ourselves. After all, who better to love?!
It’s been a while since we wrote a blatantly self-serving opus so we figured there’s no better time for a tongue-in-cheek self-love fest.
To be accurate, we’re expressing our love not so much for ourselves as we are for our friends in the financial services industry who continue to drive clients right into our arms. We’re talking about the expensive and biased product-pushers who continually put their interests ahead of their clients.
Target #1 for our love would be our friends at Ameriprise Financial or, as they would like to be known, the next generation of American Express Personal Financial Advisors. They’re not unique in their conflicts but they do make for a wonderful target. Do you really believe they have your best interests in mind? Does any firm selling product or answering to shareholders have your best interest in mind?
Here’s a snippet from Ameriprise’s “Investor’s Guide to Purchasing Mutual Funds” which you can find right on their website:
“While our advisors may sell, and you are free to choose, funds from the more than 200 fund families we offer, certain aspects of our relationship with the Select Group, Associate Group, and Other Fund Group firms create conflicts of interest or incentives for Ameriprise Financial Services to promote, and for an advisor to recommend, one fund over another fund. Generally, we have a greater incentive to sell Select Group funds than other funds. As further described below, these conflicts and incentives arise from the marketing and sales support provided to our financial advisors by fund families, revenue sharing payments we receive, our other relationships with fund families, the transaction charges financial advisors pay, and our interest in the sale of RiverSource Investments family of funds.”
Yikes! We don’t remember seeing anything in their TV commercials about their conflicts of interest. Why don’t they promote this? We do however remember commercials full of songs from the Beatles and hang gliding Baby Boomers. Are they trying to sell a lifestyle and mindset to hide their true intentions? There’s nothing wrong with making a buck but why must it be at the client’s expense?
Target #2 for our love would be the bloated Wall St. brokerages. A recent media report suggests that their clients are footing the bill for ridiculous and expensive perks. For example, Wall Street’s open wallet policy is paying summer interns upwards of $15,000. They’re getting wined, dined, stuffed full of $400 dinners and lounging at the finest hotels. While most companies won’t discuss specifics, recruiters for Merrill Lynch say the firm covers all expenses including travel, lodging, meals and companionship of a “significant other”. We find it hard to believe that their clients would be excited to learn that their above average fee is buying more than just below average performance and service – they’re also buying fun and leisurely summer vacations for prospective employees.
We’re just having a bit of good-natured fun. There are clearly some excellent people at these firms doing great work for their clients. We just think that a conflict-free and reasonably priced approach is what serves clients best.
That is our pledge to you. For those of you who have worked with us through the years, we thank you for your business and support. We hope to have provided you with the best possible objective advice for a very reasonable price. For those of you who haven’t worked with us, give us a call and let us show you what we can do for you.
And with that we bid farewell for now.
“From Your Valentine”
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We’ll write to you again soon. Keep visiting our site for frequent updates. Keep those comments coming. We love hearing from you.