Why a Good Financial Advisor is Like a Great Maître D’ ?

By Greg Fields

I’m an unapologetic “foodie”. It’s a silly sounding term, but it basically lets people know I appreciate high-level culinary execution and the personalized service that accompanies exceptional cuisine.

Now imagine this scenario. You go to a hot restaurant you’ve enjoyed several times before. The maître-d’ knows your name and personally greets you at the door. He remembers your wife’s favorite merlot and brings it without even being asked. Your server makes amazing pairing suggestions. But on this one occasion, your dish is underwhelming.

Here’s where the ratatouille meets the road.

You let the maître-d' know your meal fell short. Instead of being defensive or brushing you off, he immediately apologizes and addresses the problem. Done. Are you more apt to return to that same restaurant even though your dining experience was imperfect? Most likely. Why? Because when people listen to your concerns and make the effort to address them, you feel valued. Anyone can lay the occasional rotten egg; even a star chef.

In an ideal world, your money should be managed as if you are dining in a Top Chef-worthy eatery.

Any investment advisor with chops is essentially a financial maître-d'. He steers you toward the best food on the menu (investments) makes pairing recommendations (allocations) based on what he knows about you (risk tolerance and goals). At the same time, you understand s/he doesn’t have full control over the chef (the stock market). But the fact that s/he listens to you and checks in regularly, ensures s/he is building a relationship of trust that can survive the occasional execution hiccup.

The only way to establish a durable relationship of trust with your investment maître-d’ is to have a kitchen door that opens both ways. There are obvious trademarks of an exceptional financial professional. Ask yourself, does your advisor:

1. Spend more time getting to know you, your family and your aspirations and less time selling you extraneous items (read: “dessert”)?
2. Check in regularly, even when there’s no immediate reason to do so (“How is everything”)?
3. Meet with you on a quarterly basis to gather any new information or life changes (“We have a new item I think you’d like”)?
4. Make dynamic adjustments to your portfolio based on changes in your life? (“You’re a vegan now? Try this.”)?
5. Make his/her fees totally transparent or do you always have to awkwardly ask (“Sadly, gratuity is not included”)?

If your advisor/maître d’ hasn’t devised a regular communication flow that migrates both ways, then the answer to all these questions is probably “no”. It follows that when the relationship is tested during a market correction (bad meal), you will likely look elsewhere to invest your hard-earned cash. And who could blame you? If the results aren’t meeting your expectations, but the only person to discuss it with is the hostess on your way out the door, you’re probably in the wrong restaurant/firm. Set the table for success by seeking out an advisor who knows and values you; even if his restaurant/firm is off the beaten path and more difficult to find. Discovering something new and unique is fun! It certainly beats being at chichi establishment looking to replace you with another client before your seat even gets cold. Bon Appetit!

Greg Fields is a Financial Advisor of Santa Monica, Calif-based Gerber Kawasaki Inc., an SEC-registered investment firm with approximately $840 million in assets under management as of 3/31/19. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which course of action may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Readers shouldn’t buy any investment without doing their own research to determine if the investments are suitable for their situation. “All investments involve risk and one should consult a financial advisor before making any investments. Past performance is not indicative of future results.”