column detailed eight steps to take when hiring a broker.
Now it's time for the amendments.
Readers sent in their own colorfully worded suggestions. Some of the emails -- from offended brokers -- were of the "your mama is a so-and-so" variety. Others offered some constructive ideas that are worth relating.
You can't judge a broker according to the firm's size. Some excellent brokers work for smaller, lesser-known brokerage outfits.
"Your message was both muddled and false in one major area. I am specifically referring to one highly offensive section concerning career tracks, in which you all but state that unless brokers work for well-known firms they may not be reputable," writes
. "In fact, you quote an attorney who says if a broker started at
and now works for an obscure firm on the corner, that tells you something. Exactly what is it supposed to tell anyone?" asks Bequette, who says he's worked in the brokerage business for 18 years.
"I can tell you that sales practices and abuses can occur at
firm, large or small."
It's true that sales abuses aren't isolated to small firms. The point of the quote wasn't to taint small, unknown firms as breeding grounds for abuse. However, an investor who is thinking about hiring a broker who works for an unfamiliar firm should be even more diligent in finding out who runs the firm, how long it has been in business and what its financial condition is. And, as in the quote's example, if a broker left a major firm to work for an unknown entity, it wouldn't hurt to ask why.
With a larger, publicly traded firm, this information is much easier to locate. Without much effort, you can uncover details about a big firm in the press, in research reports and in the firm's own public filings with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
. With smaller firms, you might have to pick up the phone and start calling people who are current or former customers.
The Broker Selects the Client
In some cases, you don't get to choose the broker. The broker will be the one deciding if you get to become a client.
"Good brokers interview the investor, not the other way around. Why? Because there are a lot more potential investors out there than good brokers. You need us more than we need you," writes one broker, who asked to have his name withheld. "No decent broker would give some small potatoes new investor who walks in off the street the names and phone numbers of his best clients to call."
Part of that is true.
If you want to retain a truly superb broker who already has a lot of clients and lot of money under supervision, you might have a hard time hiring that broker. Actually, you might have a hard time even getting an introductory meeting.
A broker who has built a fantastic reputation and attracted a lot of money can be selective when taking on a new client. Any new customer detracts from the time the broker has to spend with other clients.
Money does, however, change everything. If you have millions to invest, you can probably hire any broker you like. Also, a younger broker who is still building a book of business will be more amenable to your requests.
A Personality Thing
A broker will also make sure that his or her style jibes with what a potential client wants, needs or expects. Some brokers don't mind high-maintenance clients who expect to receive copious research reports plus constant phone calls, while others wouldn't touch that kind of customer.
"It's really a personality thing," says one longtime broker.
Nonetheless, a broker should be more than willing to let you speak to a few existing clients if you're thinking about hiring that professional. If a broker refuses that simple request, brandishing some lame excuse about people being too busy, take your money elsewhere.
wants to know if two brokers are better than one.
"I am in the position of selling my business for $1 million and know almost nothing about finance or investing. My father has a broker with
and I was considering using him to invest the money. But what do you think about the idea of splitting the money and giving half to this broker and half say to the broker down the street?" Grold asks.
You might have an easier time managing your affairs if you can find one broker who suits all your needs, but there are occasions when you might want two professionals working for you rather than one.
One broker, for example, may specialize in tech stocks while another might have finesse with bonds. If that's the way you want to apportion your money, in that case, two brokers might be better than one.
You might try giving a portion of your money to one broker to see what he can do with it before handing over every last cent you have.
Dear Dagen aims to provide general fund information. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell funds or other securities.