I’m in the process of changing financial advisors, ending a 15 year relationship that has been all good, but which is likely to change for the worse because of recent departures of key people. It’s called “business risk”. The market hasn’t changed. I haven’t changed. But the advisory firm has. Hence an ending, and for me, a new beginning with a different group. The process isn’t complicated, although there are a lot of steps. One of those steps is saying to the old team, “I don’t want to work with you any more.” There are varying ways to present that news, but at the end of the day, that’s the blunt message.
I’m struck by the fact that business relationships are often not just business. We get to know something about the lives of our doctor, our dentist, our Pilates teacher, the building maintenance guy, the people we depend on to diagnose problems with our car. A deeper bond might come when you’ve had a small business, as Jerry and I did, and your attorney looms large in keeping you out of trouble, especially in a field as litigious as financial services. If you have money to invest, your advisory team has to ask some pretty personal questions about your values, your goals, how you want to leave things. All of those create more than purely business connections. I have straightforward business connections on LinkedIn, people who are connected to people I also know, and with whom I’ve expressed a willingness to link profiles. But my financial services team isn’t like that. I’ve had dinner with them and their spouses. I know their children. I know, because I know the industry, how fast their business has grown, and what that signifies, or doesn’t, for their place in the competitive landscape. I know a lot about the forces, like downward pressure on fees, that gnaw away at their business every day that they open the doors.
So it was hard for me to say “We’re done”, and it was hard for them to hear it. Everyone on all sides is being very professional, offering respect for the decision and promising cooperation. But there is disappointment, a feeling on my old team’s part of being let down by my walking away. I’m sorry about that, and it isn’t my intention — but I have to acknowledge the human part of ending a business relationship, not just the logistics of the transfer.