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Advisor Expectations/Experiences

edited May 26 in Other Investing
Just wanted to get this learned community’s input on our situation.

A couple years ago, due to a number of fortuitous events, Mrs. Ruffles acquired a significant amount of cash that she parked at Fido for convenience’s sake. Due to the overheated markets, she’s been reluctant to invest it for fear of incurring a substantial loss. A much more significant amount of funds is fully invested in her retirement accounts here and elsewhere. Her salary more than covers her annual expenses.

When she first acquired her cash, she was in touch with her Fido advisor but decided it was better to do nothing than rush into something. The advisor recently reached out to her so we had a teleconference with him. We thought he might have some ideas but he kept expecting us to drive the conversation.

I mentioned that it wasn’t imperative to invest all the cash right away due to her other investments and that, if she were to invest, our concerns included downside protection and tax minimization. He mentioned dollar cost averaging, Fido’s wealth management service and separately managed accounts, outside advisors Fido works with, and tax-loss harvesting.

It was all very generic so I asked that he forward us more details on some of the strategies he mentioned. In response, he emailed us links to the website pages on wealth management services, managed accounts, and planning services - nothing I hadn’t seen before. To say the least, we were both underwhelmed.

I responded asking for more details (performance, risk, costs, etc.) on the strategies he mentioned so that we could make some informed decisions. After two days, crickets - not even a simple acknowledgement.

Am I expecting too much or should this be in the advisor’s wheelhouse? What have others experienced in working with advisors at Fido and other brokers?

Comments

  • This is such a tough question to answer given the gracious but limited info provided. There are so many variables to consider. It's interesting that Mrs. acquired a significant amount recently but is afraid to "risk" this even though a more significant amount is already invested in retirement accounts. One would think that if it was a large amount but an amount much less than already invested - one would be less fearful on the risk part. The bigger question IMHO is what is happening in the next 5-10 years. Is there an expectation to draw from the retirement accounts? When you say "parked" - do you mean in a money market or an S&P 500 Index account? If you explained that tax minimization and downside protection was most important to you (curious) - then it makes sense that tax loss harvesting and dca would be entertained.

    All that said, your advisor should consider your entire portfolio and make recommendations on this new $ given the whole strategy/plan. They should provide you with an in depth "education" of WHY... so that you may make an informed decision. They should educate you so that you are well informed to decide. They should not tell you what you should do. I have had very positive experiences with Fid advisors over the years. But, like Dentists and Doctors, all have a different manner... you just have to find the right one that is a partner and explains and is patient. If someone sends you web links without a thoughtful conversation/explanation etc. - then you must move on to another advisor. IMHO. Hope this is helpful.
  • edited May 26
    MrRuffles said:

    Just wanted to get this learned community’s input on our situation.

    A couple years ago, due to a number of fortuitous events, Mrs. Ruffles acquired a significant amount of cash that she parked at Fido for convenience’s sake. Due to the overheated markets, she’s been reluctant to invest it for fear of incurring a substantial loss. A much more significant amount of funds is fully invested in her retirement accounts here and elsewhere. Her salary more than covers her annual expenses.

    When she first acquired her cash, she was in touch with her Fido advisor but decided it was better to do nothing than rush into something. The advisor recently reached out to her so we had a teleconference with him. We thought he might have some ideas but he kept expecting us to drive the conversation.

    I mentioned that it wasn’t imperative to invest all the cash right away due to her other investments and that, if she were to invest, our concerns included downside protection and tax minimization. He mentioned dollar cost averaging, Fido’s wealth management service and separately managed accounts, outside advisors Fido works with, and tax-loss harvesting.

    It was all very generic so I asked that he forward us more details on some of the strategies he mentioned. In response, he emailed us links to the website pages on wealth management services, managed accounts, and planning services - nothing I hadn’t seen before. To say the least, we were both underwhelmed.

    I responded asking for more details (performance, risk, costs, etc.) on the strategies he mentioned so that we could make some informed decisions. After two days, crickets - not even a simple acknowledgement.

    Am I expecting too much or should this be in the advisor’s wheelhouse? What have others experienced in working with advisors at Fido and other brokers?

    *************
    Somehow, over the years, I'd already half-way expected the kind of "service" you've received. A ONE-TIME in-person visit to a brick-and-mortar office with a BofA-Merrill Lynch guy was very helpful to me in evaluating my holdings at the time, many yeas ago. Since my friend was this guy's client, my friend asked if the fellow couldn't find time to see me for an hour. He did it for me at no charge. He was attentive, sharp, listened a good deal. But my pot was not very big. He offered to take on the job of managing my investments via one of his associates in the office. But only if I could get it up to $100k. I was not far away from that figure, back then. He offered to follow up with fund recommendations, and he did, via email. He wanted to run them past me, and I could see that they would have been fitting, but not my choices..... I guess I just needed to keep the control. I use some personal filters that others just would never bother with. So, the meeting was valuable, confirming that I had not already run my money off a cliff into oblivion, and so staying the course was in order. I was very grateful to him for his time, and told him so. .....I DO think that not rushing to do something, anything--- is a GREAT idea. And yes, I'd have expected more. But then, always and immediately, I must remind myself these days that wherever I turn, substantive communication is never the goal. Otherwise, we'd not always hear a RECORDING telling us our call is important. And people who are supposed to be of service to us would actually be able to think and communicate, not just send hyperlinks to webpages. .....Just this morning, I played my part, attempting to get in touch with those for whom actual communication is not a priority. But of course, what can you expect from their end? They've shown their hand already. I don't really matter to them. No one does, unless you happen to get lucky and catch the call at THEIR convenience.
  • @Crash
    Just this morning, I played my part, attempting to get in touch with those for whom actual communication is not a priority. But of course, what can you expect from their end? They've shown their hand already. I don't really matter to them. No one does, unless you happen to get lucky and catch the call at THEIR convenience.
    An investment house? Tis a service for this community if you offer comment about a problem with an investment house.
  • edited May 26
    catch22 said:

    @Crash

    Just this morning, I played my part, attempting to get in touch with those for whom actual communication is not a priority. But of course, what can you expect from their end? They've shown their hand already. I don't really matter to them. No one does, unless you happen to get lucky and catch the call at THEIR convenience.
    An investment house? Tis a service for this community if you offer comment about a problem with an investment house.
    Looks like you're wanting the job of trolling me. I don't need that shit. Condescending junk. You don't like what I have to say? Leave it alone. Anyhow, I'm still with TRP. Have been watching and reading about hank's experiences. Sounds VERY not good. My own experience lately has been awful, too. The wait on the phone is nuts. There is a dedicated brokerage number I have from them. I'm calling about my brokerage account, so I use it. Then I'm told that I'll be transferred to that department. Crap. Then there's a long wait. Then it's a toss-up as to whether I get an agent who knows what's what. So, ya: my negative experience with TRP brokerage is part of a larger picture, as described above. In fact, it's just a small piece of a UNIVERSAL picture. Which was my point. Ignore it if you want.
  • "she was in touch with her Fido advisor ... He mentioned dollar cost averaging, Fido’s wealth management service and separately managed accounts, outside advisors Fido works with, and tax-loss harvesting. It was all very generic ..."

    There's a popular perception that people you talk with for free are "advisors". Even with a large amount of assets at an institution, that's rarely the case. The people one talks with, e.g. "Private Client Advisors", are sales people. They're there to match you with for-pay services, and to give you warm fuzzy feelings about keeping your money with them. As you observed, it is all very generic.

    On Fidelity's site I can no longer readily find the phrase "Private Client Advisor" or much of anything that suggests one's free investment "team" or lead provides advice.

    For the most part the only place you'll find "advisor" mentioned is in the context of pay for service. See this Fidelity page on "How we can work together". No mention of advisor under DIY or its pure robo offering (Fidelity Go).

    When you get to the next fee level (Fidelity® Personalized Planning & Advice), you find "1-on-1 financial coaching calls with Fidelity advisors". Wealth Management, the next fee level up, brings you "a dedicated Fidelity advisor". And finally for those with over $2M at Fidelity and willing to pay for the services, there's Private Wealth Management, with "a dedicated Wealth Management Advisor and team of specialists".

    "Am I expecting too much...?"
    Yes.

    Years ago, Vanguard would provide customers with enough AUM a free financial plan prepared by a CFP. That's been gone for years. These days, TANSTAAFL.

  • @msf You are correct. I “assumed” the interaction was with his/her adviser they selected or was assigned to their portfolio. If it was a generic phone call to the brokerage, one cannot expect advisor advice. If your portfolio is self managed, you will and should receive excellent customer service. You will have great tools at your disposal - but you will not receive advice unless you pay a fee. I’ve found that consistent.
  • @msf You are correct. I “assumed” the interaction was with his/her adviser they selected or was assigned to their portfolio. If it was a generic phone call to the brokerage, one cannot expect advisor advice. If your portfolio is self managed, you will and should receive excellent customer service. You will have great tools at your disposal - but you will not receive advice unless you pay a fee. I’ve found that consistent.

    It was most definitely not a generic phone call, it was the advisor who is assigned to her account - he reached out to us to see if he could help and his name and picture pop up as her advisor when logged in. And his email seems to indicate that he leads a team of some sort.

    I didn’t expect him to provide specific investment advice as I see him as just a go-between. But I do expect him to ask questions and provide information to guide our exploration of Fidelity services. It benefits us and it benefits him in the long run.

    When he mentions certain services, including the ones @msf mentions, I expected that he could provide me with more information on them than just sending me the website links. I was expecting at least some sort of fact sheet on the various options he mentioned including information on salient aspects of their underlying investment strategies (he frequently referred to outside management companies Fido works with) or at least a personal referral to internal Fido contacts who could help.

    At the very least, I expect a response to my email asking for more information, even if it was to say that he was unable to provide what I asked for.
  • msf
    edited May 27
    It was most definitely not a generic phone call, it was the advisor who is assigned to her account
    Not generic? Well isn't that special:-)

    he reached out to us to see if he could help and his name and picture pop up as her advisor when logged in. And his email seems to indicate that he leads a team of some sort.

    Similar story here. A team member of the "advisor" I was assigned six months ago left me a message last week asking if I'd like to talk with the lead. I left a return message declining. I wasn't interested in another "getting to know you" conversation.

    When you get to a certain level at brokerage firms, they assign an "advisor", a team, or both to keep you feeling comfortable. Customer relationship management.

    But I do expect him to ask questions and provide information to guide our exploration of Fidelity services. It benefits us and it benefits him in the long run.


    That sounds like a description of a good salesman.

    I expected that he could provide me with more information on them than just sending me the website links. I was expecting at least some sort of fact sheet on the various options he mentioned including information on salient aspects of their underlying investment strategies (he frequently referred to outside management companies Fido works with)

    It's a heavily regulated and litigious industry. All their material has been reviewed by lawyers and they risk exposure if they go off script. While there's always the possibility of being introduced to services or products of which I am unaware, I have no expectation of being provided Information I couldn't find and read on my own.

    At the very least, I expect a response to my email asking for more information, even if it was to say that he was unable to provide what I asked for.

    That lack of response sounds like a description of a poor salesman.
  • OMG, reading what you've just shared leaves me so very discouraged. Almost despairing. So THIS is the level of expectations. Jayzuz. @msf
  • Over the years the responses of the "discount" brokers have gotten more and more generic. This is especially true at Vanguard where 15 years ago I had one specific person who I got to know well. However, Vanguard replaced him twice without notifying me, and now I just get a "team" that is faceless. Their website is more and more difficult to use for self directed investments. They clearly want everyone to use their funds in cookie cutter allocations. I do not know what you would get if you signed up for "management services" for a fee.

    My advisor at Schwab is still there and a nice guy who helps with stuff, although I am not on a fee basis with him. Still even there I am usually shunted off to an unknown in Orlando

    My parents used a full service broker at Morgan Stanley who I have gotten to know well. He will still sell you stocks on a large commission ( $150 to$200) but really would rather sign you up for their manged portfolios ( chosen by a committee) at 1% a year, and then review it with you a couple of times a year. I notice he is rarely in the office after 3 PM.

    Even people at firms with minimum account requirements of $5,000,000, tell me they have had portfolios changed from individual stocks chosen by their manager, to cookie cutter allocations, chosen by a committee.

    On the other hand my sister has had her new broker at Morgan Stanley walk though all of her accounts with her, help her combine them all into one with her new inheritance, and then will sit down with her to go over her options. I do not think this broker is a novice, and I assume she is running a fair amount of money overall, but the fact she will go to such lengths for a new client is impressive.

    I guess like most professions, there are many people who try hard to do a good job, although the structure of the industry is working against them.
  • +1 sma3
  • edited May 28
    Crash said:

    ”OMG, reading what you've just shared leaves me so very discouraged. Almost despairing. So THIS is the level of expectations. Jayzuz.” @msf

    @Crash - That’s too long. “So THIS is the level”. (Period)

    I’ve been wondering why the Fido phone reps I’ve spoken with over the past week all sounded like tape recorders, making it hard to ask questions. Thanks @msf for answering that one.

    Speaking of service, I can remember when a uniformed attendant at filling stations came out and filled your tank, washed your windshield, checked the oil level and maybe the tire pressure if you asked. Suspect the ending of that era likely signaled the impending demise of any level of service or convenience.

    Thanks @MrRuffles and everybody for this fascinating thread.

    image
  • msf
    edited May 28
    A somewhat dated piece from The Finance Buff, reiterating what I wrote above - you're not getting advice from these assigned reps or assigned teams.
    https://thefinancebuff.com/vanguard-fidelity-large-account.html
    don’t mistake the Flagship rep [now the Flagship "team"] for an advisor. The Flagship rep is still in the customer service role. If you need advice, ask the Flagship rep to arrange a meeting with an advisor.
    And from a related Finance Buff piece:
    Customer service reps are in an execution role. If you want to do X, they will do X for you. ... Ask them whether they offer X or how to do X at that institution. Research and decide on your own whether you can or should do X.
    https://thefinancebuff.com/customer-service-questions.html

    At the end of the day, they're just doing what salespeople are supposed to do: present product and services, walk the customer through the process of getting those services, and above all Keep the Customer Satisfied. How well they do that is another question.


    I do not know what you would get if you signed up for "management services" for a fee.

    I do. I have a relative who had an Investment Advisory Program account (wrap fee, discretionary) with TIAA for a few years, and moved it to Vanguard PAS (also wrap fee, discretionary) upon my recommendation.

    At TIAA (with a much higher fee) this person worked with an individual adviser. Based on the relative's assets and future plans, the adviser worked up a plan for investing, for managing a mix of IRAs, taxable accounts, inherited assets, etc., for drawing how much from which accounts in what sequence, etc. A good customer-facing adviser.

    Actual investment decisions and execution were handed off to a back end team that traded mutual funds and ETFs somewhat frenetically. So much so that they "harvested" a loss in the taxable account that they irretrievably washed out with a replacement purchase in an IRA. The antithesis of personalization.

    In contrast, Vanguard PAS preserves non-Vanguard assets if they have high unrealized gains, and it offers some flexibility in keeping them regardless. The market swoon was an opportunity to move some of those into Vanguard funds without taking a tax hit. That's when the portfolio became somewhat more "cookie-cutter". The service even allows a fair amount of tweaking by the customer (e.g. expressing a preference for actively managed funds or more corporate bonds or ...), but then why have a discretionary account?

    They review and discuss the portfolio with the customer quarterly and on-demand as the customer's needs change. They keep customers informed of any upcoming changes in the program. When my relative's adviser decided to take another position within Vanguard (it was something he was interested in doing and the opportunity opened up), he contacted my relative.

    If you're interested in what you would get if you signed up for "management services" for a fee, it's all laid out in detail in the Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Brochure
    https://personal.vanguard.com/pdf/vpabroc.pdf
  • Thank you for sharing your experience with Vanguard Personal Services. They has been on top of my list if we decide that additional help is needed sometime in the future. Our parents had less rewarding experience with large brokerages - expensive and poor performance (consistently lagged the market!).
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