Blog - Wealth Management At Its Worst


One of the benefits of having a blog is that sometimes you can complain just a little when something doesn’t work in the manner in which you believe it should.  I believe companies providing wealth management can use an experience I had this weekend as a learning tool.  Additionally, some of the research just completed by Spectrem can be highlighted as well.

First, let’s discuss some of our findings from Spectrem’s recent wealth management research.  When affluent households were asked if the company that served as their primary financial advisor offered wealth management services, 40% of investors indicated that their primary financial advisor did work for a wealth management firm and 28% indicated their advisor did not work for a wealth management firm.  Almost a third (32%) did not know if their primary advisory firm was a wealth manager.

My husband falls within that one third that doesn’t know if his primary advisor firm offers wealth management services.  He also doesn’t really know what wealth management consists of…nor does he know what “private client services” really means.  (We discuss all of these topics and investor’s understanding of them in the new Spectrem research…but that’s not the point of this story.)  

My husband and I don’t really discuss our jobs in detail with each other but I understand what he does much more than he understands my job.  His company is a family owned business but as part of that business they control large trust funds on behalf of institutional clients.  Because of that, they work closely with a group of individuals at their bank and thus our family receives “private client services”.  

As someone who studies the wealth management industry I can tell you that my perception of “wealth management services” and “private client services” are much different than the services we receive.   Basically, I have a debit card that says “Private Client Services” on it…and my husband has a much nicer looking debit card that says the same.  Also, we get lots of notices when our accounts may have been hacked.  Because we have four college-age children with debit cards all linked to the same accounts…we get lots of hacking notices.  My perception of wealth management and/or private client services includes a lot more than just someone to talk to about my debit card but my husband doesn’t really know any better.

Last night we received a text that our account may have been hacked.  Because one of my daughter’s was at a weekend-long music festival, we blamed her first…but her card was “safely” in her pocket and wasn’t the one that had been hacked.  We figured out it was my husband’s card, which is never used for online purchases and hadn’t been used for several days until all of the purchases began showing up yesterday in slightly questionable charges in very questionable areas of Chicago.

I did what the logical person would do.  I called the phone number on the back of my debit card to report that we had indeed been hacked.  Someone answered the phone and very nicely told me she could not help me because I was part of the private client services group!  She transferred me then to another phone number where I was on hold for more than 20 minutes before I finally pushed “1” to leave my phone number and asked them to call me back.  It was after 8pm on a Sunday evening but the first person had led me to believe that someone really was working in the private client group so I kept my phone next to me.  I awaited that call until 11pm but then I finally went to bed…worried that more money would be taken out of our account before the hacker was done.

Today…Monday…someone from the private client services group did call…but they called my husband.  And while our card had been stopped as soon as the activity was noted and we had been emailed…that information had not been clearly communicated and no one had returned our call.  During normal business hours my husband was treated very well and he will have his new card in hand as of tomorrow and the charges will be reimbursed.  All of these actions are appreciated.

But here’s what I expected.  I would have called and talked to someone immediately.  I would not have been transferred and I would never have been on hold for twenty minutes.  Additionally, I placed the call and left the phone number.  Although it was my husband’s card, both of us should have been contacted the next day, not just him.  It is a joint account and I’m not just along for the ride.  The problem is that the service I received as part of the “private client group” was worse than the service I would have received as a regular retail customer.

Additionally, no one has ever reached out to offer us financial planning.  We have never been asked about consolidating other investment accounts with this provider.  My husband has asked me several times  “Shouldn’t we be getting preferred mortgage rates through this company?” While wealth managers that do not provide banking services may not offer mortgages and checking services, they must provide the other services.  Additionally, my husband is often offered tickets to events and basketball/baseball/football/hockey games…no one ever even speaks to me from our “team”.  

Spectrem’s newest research indicates that when investors think about wealth management, there are a lot of services that they would like to receive, but for the most part, they only receive a few of the various components they believe should be part of wealth management.  While many receive investment management and financial planning, they don’t have access to banking or insurance products.  In my case, we have banking services and some investment management but none of the other services that I would like to have such as financial planning.

As an investor familiar with the financial services industry, I find the terminology and promises made in marketing such as “holistic” and “comprehensive” to be rather hollow.  It’s time for the industry to really provide these services in a manner that customers expect.

© 2018 Spectrem Group