I thought Hamid’s story offered clues.
Rahul saw himself as a simple man.He thought marriage was about responsibility and commitments. His wife did not think so. She always told him that he was meant for greater joy and accomplishment. She identified his inherent kindness and pointed out how his generosity of spirit made so many around him happy. She was able to show how the money from the Middle East was bringing exploiters into his life, trying to make him invest in bad businesses. She told him he was larger and better than he thought he was. Hamid soon grew into that role, and remained somewhat oblivious to it, even as I noticed his qualities. Do advisers see investors as capable of bigger things? Do they inspire investors to achieve bigger than they imagine?
How do they deal with disappointment?
When we spoke about the new age taxis like Uber and Ola, Rahul’s view was that adding value to customers has to be spontaneous. He saw the mobile apps and GPS as simple enablers. “Do you pay me for the good road, Madam?“ he asked me innocuously . Unless one enjoys making life better in every small way for another, there can really be no value add, according to him. He found that I forgot to carry an umbrella the first day, and ensured there was one in the car the next day . He noticed that I worked on my laptop and asked me if I like to charge it at the restaurant we had stopped by to eat.Nothing intrusive, but always attentive.A person who derives joy from being helpful, is a natural coach who does not work with a list of things pre-defined to delight customers. Do advisers have a deep sense of value addition? Are they too bogged down in their own woes to remain cheerful, trusting and attentive? Rahul’s mother was jealous of his wife. He was torn between the two. The mother asserted her position as the elder in the family , and disapproved the bonding between Hamid and his wife. Rahul slowly disallowed his mother’s influence on him. He told me that after he stepped out and experienced the world, he was able to perceive insecurities and needy behaviour. It became clear that holding a position is one thing; being able to influence someone’s behaviour is another.What are the influences on advisers? Are behaviours dictated by regulation, incentives and margins? What defines and influences interactions with investors?
Are behaviours of producers too clever and tactful to elicit the right behaviour from distributors and advisers?
Hamid did not care too much about money . His wife took care of it. She managed to save enough to buy themselves a small house in Mumbai, and two portions of that have been let out. The rent is adequate to meet the family’s need, taking the pressure off Hamid’s shoulders. For the longest time, Hamid looked at the family in India as his wife’s responsibility. It seemed that as long as he earned, he was doing his bit. What his wife did over time was remarkable. She roped Hamid into family decisions and made them all his. She kept him involved.When their son turned 14, it became clear to Hamid that ensuring that the boy studied beyond Class 10 was his responsibility. One has to own and commit to goals, to be able to work towards it. We speak so much about financial goals in investing. How committed are investors to these goals? How much of responsibility are they able to take? Are advisers playing the role Hamid’s wife played?
As I put together these pieces from Hamid’s life, it was clear that his wife played the role of his mentor coach. She showed him he was capable of much more, ensured that she stepped in whenever she saw the need, influenced him to think about his role in his family, and held him accountable for their well-being beyond mere monetary satisfaction. Hamid and his wife did not let the challenges bog them down.
In the financial services business, it is common to fix the blame elsewhere.The producers are selling the wrong product. Regulators are not providing incentives. Investors are not willing to pay. The business model is wrong. The best minds are not coming in. There is confusion between advice and distribution. But beyond these cribs are millions of investors who need someone to help them with their financial lives. To tell them that they can be better off than they are. To help them fix small issues that can make a big difference. To put them on the path of disciplined investing for long-term goals. To get them to see that financial goals are theirs to fund and achieve. Hamid was telling me that in the din about passing exams, education has been lost. Perhaps in the din about earning, joy of helping others has been lost.