Wall Street Steward Blog

Case Study: Stay Classy

Just to refresh your memory, if I write a “case study” blog, it is an event that actually happened. I do not make these up, although I might embellish a bit to make the stories more interesting. That is creative license, and believe me, as the reader, you should thank me…if I told these “to-the-detail” how they actually happened, my blog would morph into the prescribed treatment for insomnia.

This is an oldie but goodie. It happened about 2 years ago, but I was reminded of it recently and thought I should share it with all of you.

I have a large client who lives in another state, and has money with me, as well as a local advisor.  She had about $800k with me, and about $1.4M with the other advisor.

After working with me for about 3-4 months, I think she was convinced to move the entire relationship to me due to a single act of service. There were many reasons to move, don’t get me wrong…a more complete financial plan, quicker responses to her phone calls, better explanations of my recommendations, etc. However, she was hesitant to pull the trigger, until this:

“Matt, I got a notice in the mail about a class action lawsuit against WIDGET company.  I owned that stock a long time ago, and I do not remember any details about it, so I was hoping you could help me with the form.”

“Sure.  I will try.  BUT, please keep in mind that if you bought the stock at your other firm, they are unlikely to talk to me, so you will have to actually call them to get some of the required data.”

She needed date of purchase, number of shares purchased, dollar amount invested, date of sale, number of shares sold, dollar amount received at sale.

She had sold the stock in the accounts she had moved to me, but still held some shares in the account with the other advisor. I gave her the data that I had, which wasn’t much, and then she called the other advisor.

“Hi Mary, this is Jane, I was hoping you would help me fill out this class action lawsuit form so I can participate.”

“Jane, you had all of your money here, and you moved a chunk of it. That really irritated me. I am not sure why you did that. I would try to help you get this data, but I have no way to access the information. It happened a long time ago, and I have no way to get the data. Sorry.”

When the client told me this, I was livid. She dismissed the client’s request, chastised her for transferring some of her money to me, and then never even tried to help her retrieve the data she was hoping for.

What is worse is that the client was paying approximately $14,000 annually in fees to this person, and they made her feel as if she was wasting her time by asking for help.

“Ma’am. First of all, do not feel bad about calling. You pay this person 14-thousand dollars per year in fees. Your question should not be overlooked just because the advisor’s pride is bruised after you moved some of your accounts to me. Let me see what I can do.”

I opened the client files on my PC and found a statement from about a year earlier showing the data that she needed. This statement was the one she got while working with this other advisor. ON THE STATEMENT, I found the data the client needed.

“Jane, you will never believe this!  I found the data you need. It was on the statement from last year…”

She interrupted with…

“How was it on your statement if I purchased the stock at the other firm?”

“No ma’am…not my statement. The one you provided when you moved your accounts here. You have 3 accounts and only moved 2 to me, but you gave me all 3 statements last year. It was on the account you left there. I looked right on there, and found the data you need.”

“So the answer was right in front of her on the statement that her firm printed? All she had to do was look, like you did. Right?”

“Yes ma’am. Also, I am so sorry you were made to feel that way by the other advisor. I tell you what…since I have all of the data, I will complete the form for you and overnight it for you to sign. Then, you can drop it in the prepaid envelope we will send you and it will get to the attorney in plenty of time. We will track it to make sure it is received. You won’t have to do anything but sign your name.”

“Matt, I tell you what, you remember that conversation we had about possibly moving my other account to you? The $1.4 million one? I wasn’t ready to do it back then, but this whole thing has convinced me. Please go ahead and send me the papers.”

The rest is history. The 800k client became a $2.2 million client because I helped her fill out a class action lawsuit form. I filled out a form. She has yet to get a penny from the suit, but she never forgot that I helped her.

Helping with the form is the surface reason she moved her other account…but the real reason is that I cared enough about the client not to dismiss her question, and after some thought, I found the answer she needed by reading the competing firm’s statement.

I cared. That’s all.

Wonder if that same advisor has any other million dollar clients she wishes to neglect into moving their accounts to an advisor that will help them? I could sure use a few more large clients and there are still seats on my bus.