Written by Ben Rosholt, Wealth Advisor
This week an organization representing a very large faith-based community reached out to me requesting an interview. One of my clients had recommended me to be added to their list of “preferred providers”. The next step was to meet face-to-face and review my experience and knowledge. As a closet skeptic, I was leery about the opportunity but interested enough to agree to a meeting. Not surprising to anyone reading this, but in the time between the phone call and the meeting, I did as much research as I could about the organization. Though not rated by the BBB, I was able to find some words of praise from the mayor of one of our nation’s largest cities. Good enough to proceed with the meeting.
A few days later, Gwen showed up at my office and we sat down to chat. Immediately, something didn’t feel right. The soft-sided briefcase she was carrying was embroidered, not with the name of the institution that reached out to me, but rather with another name. While curious, as someone who is inundated with promotional material*, this in itself is not grounds for immediate dismissal. We proceeded with the interview and everything felt like it was going well. And why wouldn’t it? I also posses the designations of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ as well as Behavioral Financial Advisor™. Though it had not come up yet, one lingering question I had was if there was a cost. Indeed, there was….$199 per month. I understand that nothing in life is completely free, and there is also a higher cost for very good quality. So I am still listening, and frankly leaning towards making the commitment. Then something strange happened. She told me she needed an answer right then. “Excuse me!?!” I told her I never make important decisions in one hour. She reiterated that it was now or never. What just happened?
Contrary to what many people think, I really don’t like working out. The single reason I do it is because I LOVE cheeseburgers and pizza. I consider myself a true connoisseur of both and happy to make recommendations. So to maintain my dedication to cheeseburger and pizza research, I need to spend at least 5 hours a week on the treadmill/elliptical. During that time, I watch a lot of TED talks. If you are not familiar with TED talks, please introduce yourself. They are 10-20 minute lectures about the most random subjects. One moment you can be listening to “What do babies think?” and the next “Could your language affect your ability to save money” by my friend, Keith Chen. Keith also happens to be the person responsible for my interest in behavioral economics. But I digress.
In a strange twist of coincidence, the day before the meeting I was watching the talk “We’ve stopped trusting institutions and started trusting strangers”. The synopsis is that in a world of Airbnb and Uber, we are becoming increasingly dependent on strangers. But in that evolution, we must better address the process of transitioning from the “known” to the “unknown”. The speaker hypothesizes that this gap can be bridged by navigating the “Trust Stack”. The first layer is to accept that the new idea is safe and worth trying. The second layer is trusting the platform, system or company facilitating the exchange. Finally you must trust the other user.
Without knowing it, my interaction with Gwen led me directly up the “Trust Stack”. I trusted the idea of an organization so committed to their community that they would be selective in service providers. I trusted that the platform could work. It isn’t a revolutionary idea, just a relatively new one with this particular community. But when it came to the third layer, trusting the other user, I wasn’t comfortable. Questions kept popping up in my minds. “Why was it so important for me to make this decision today?” “Why didn’t she have an email address on her business card?” With each question, my trust stack weakened and eventually collapsed. I politely declined to participate in the service and thanked her for her time. She then pulled out her phone and dialed her manager to add additional pressure. Suspicions confirmed.
In reflecting on this situation, I can see the parallels with someone new coming to see me for the first time.
- Layer 1 – Do you trust the idea that you should be saving for your goals?
- Layer 2 – Do you trust that investments can be an aid in working towards your goals?
- Layer 3 – Do you trust that I will treat you fairly and see to it that your investments are aligned to your goals?
Some days I wonder what I have done to earn and keep your trust. It is an honor that I sometimes take for granted. But not today. Today I feel the full weight of that trust….and it feels good!
*If you want golf balls, you can find my gently-used ones strewn across the Les Bolstad Golf Course.