After graduating college with a degree in economics and a minor in computer science, I spent the early part of my career building business analytics applications for Fortune 100 companies. I eventually took a position at corporate headquarters of one of the largest financial institutions in the country. As somebody who had been investing in the stock market since my freshman year of high school, the opportunity to work for a huge fund company was an exciting one. Although it was a good experience, I couldn’t help but feel like something about the business was a bit off.
Was the goal to sell products, gather assets or help people? Could it be all of those things? Should doing what is best for the business take priority over what is best for the investor? I wish I could say these questions had easy answers, but they didn’t. The industry facade was very different than its internals. The perception was that business objectives aligned with investor objectives but that simply wasn’t true. These issues were industry-wide and a few stood out as particularly problematic.
The first issue was the disconnect between the goals of investors and the goals of the businesses serving them. While the majority of investors are concerned with earning returns on their investments over long time horizons, the investment industry is focused on the marketability of short-term performance metrics. As an economics major, I understood the power of incentives. In this industry, intense profit motive was incentivizing advisors and fund managers to prioritize short-term results over long-term sustainability. This comes despite the fact that overwhelming evidence has proven myopic investing is terrible at delivering returns to investors.
Secondly, and perhaps most concerning was how investors were being charged for services. Powerful economies of scale within the industry that should be reserved for the investors putting their capital at risk, instead deliver massive profits to advisors and fund companies by way of asset-based fees. Under this arrangement, investors are asked to pay advisors a percentage of their assets each year. This seemingly small charge results in fees wildly out of proportion with the services rendered and creates an unspoken conflict of interest that industry insiders are uncomfortable addressing.
And finally, because business profitability was largely driven by assets under management, huge segments of the population were being ignored. Despite a clear need for financial guidance, young families and professionals can rarely compete with the financial profiles of older, wealthier investors. These younger generations are viewed as unprofitable and not worth doing business with.
The sad thing was, even if traditional firms acknowledge these issues, most are trapped by their bloated operating structures and change simply is not feasible. Further complicating the problem are lucrative incentive arrangements that give entrenched advisors little desire to evolve.
The easiest way for me to fix what was broken, was to start from the ground up. In 2014, Ariadne was born with a clean slate and unchained from traditional advisory practices. Ariadne is a client-centric financial planning and investment management practice based on what is sensible, not what is traditional. I strongly believe that the best way to serve clients is by treating them fairly and ensuring my motivations for running a business do not conflict with their goals as investors. Years from now I will not measure my success by assets gathered or products sold, but rather by the number of people and families I am fortunate enough to help along the way.
I look forward to growing alongside my clients and helping them achieve the things that matter most.