Class Pass


Advice for Those Attempting to Scale Life's Golden Walls

By Anthony Rhodes

Having the ability to create wealth can be quite empowering. So much, in fact, that many financial advisors set account minimums for their services, so as to ensure ample compensation for the highly prized expertise for which they provide. The creation of this golden wall can have astounding psychological effects. Consumers have been conditioned to equate prices with levels of quality, so establishing a barrier to entry taps into their tribal desires to become, or remain associated within the membership of a particular social class, one which separates them from the ordinary riffraff who couldn't afford to hire such elevated levels of professionalism. 

This conditioning is not lost on the advisors themselves, and in some cases, is even used to their advantage. Being granted entry into the club of the elite can be the prize within itself to some, and the questions of performance relegated to secondary status, lest membership within such circles become immediately revoked.

This can become particularly worrisome for those individuals not normally accustomed to these Wall Street traditions, and having to navigate this minefield without prior understanding of its terrain. Low to middle class individuals who immediately come into large sums of money, may logically seek to hire advisors from the largest firms to handle their financial affairs, only to painfully discover that their fortunes will never afford them the access which is absolutely reserved for the financial elite.

Green Can't Make Your Blood Blue

Traditional Wall Street firms have a long legacy of providing services to the upper crust of society. These relationships have been established and cultivated over decades, and form the very foundation under which the company's great successes have been built upon. Underscoring this reality would be a tremendous error, and one which is often made by those unaware of its lineage or history. Some advisors within these firms may be more than happy to open accounts with outsiders who meet the monetary requirements which their status demands, but will often stop short of providing them with the perks and benefits which their legacy clients have come to expect, and dutifully receive.

That New Money Smell

Birds of a feather flock together, and those without such plumage are immediately recognized. This is never more true than at prestigious Wall Street firms. Advisors and clients within these hallowed halls generally share similar backgrounds and social circles, and these connections foster the friendships and relationships which serve to cement the hierarchical pecking order whenever IPO's and other company offerings are disseminated. An outsider being granted positioning within this system is highly unlikely, regardless of the capital which he or she brings to the firm. One may receive a round lot (100 shares) or so of a prized IPO, but the lion's portion of these shares will generally be reserved for those to whom the firm has established, long-standing relationships.

Demanding prices for one's services is not at issue regarding this post. As a staunch capitalist myself, I would never begrudge an individual of his or her rights to profit off of their expertise, and to willingly set such fees in amounts which one's clients are willing to pay for them. It is, in the end, yet another cautionary tale of class, and how its influence can effect our decision making, and exploit our cravings to seek acceptance from those whom we feel represents an ideal image of who and what we'd like to be. Even if that representation conceals an ugly reality which remains just hidden from view.

(Anthony Rhodes is the President and owner of wealth management firm The Planning Perspective Do not reproduce without permission.)