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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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CEO of Advice IQ Challenges Author Helaine Olen to Publicly Debate Her “Bleak Picture” of Financial Advisors

Nicholas Stuller, CEO of AIQ, the parent of financial website AdviceIQ, has issued a vehement response to Helaine Olen’s new book, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. LINK TO BLOG POST. The book largely excoriates the industry and its advisors with what Stuller calls “overwrought eagerness to paint a bleak picture.”

Among the problems that Stuller sees in Olen’s analysis:

Exaggerated Problems. One is investment dinners, hosted by brokers eager to sign up prospects for variable annuities. In reality, Stuller points out, advisors largely avoid this tactic and get clients by word of mouth.

The book says six million people attended the meal pitches over three years. That means two million per year at, say, 50 attendees per session. Assuming only one advisor was at these events (likely several attended), that means 40,000 advisors were involved yearly. That figure represents a mere 2% of total advisors, who number around two million (including brokers, fee-only advisors, insurance agents, and bank trust officers).

Incorrect Assertions. Repeatedly, the book contends that financial types pledge lavish returns on investments if only John Q. Public signs up. A typical Olen assertion: “Investing is risky and there are no guarantees. This is not something very many people will tell you.” Especially since the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002, advisors are wary to the point of what Stuller describes as “near-paranoia” about explaining that a financial plan or transaction is not a guarantee.

“Ms. Olen’s book contains many assertions that are either unsupported or incorrect -- too many for comfort or credibility,” said Mr. Stuller.

He is particularly troubled by her lack of understanding of advisors: what they do, how they work, and just how rare (fortunately) the Madoffs of the world are. An analysis done byAdviceIQ.com finds only 7% of all advisors have a regulatory complaint -- a lower rate of incidence than either doctors or lawyers have.

Mr. Stuller is inviting Ms. Olen to a public debate designed to set the record straight and Reuters has offered to host the debate and webcast it live on the Reuters Insider and Reuters.com.

“My call for a public debate with Ms. Olen is intended to make sure individual investors have all the facts about the financial advisor industry,” said Mr. Stuller. “I firmly believe Ms. Olen concocts a cartoonish world that omits important facts and distorts reality and the public deserves to hear the truth and see the proof about the financial services industry.”

About AIQ, Inc:

AIQ, Inc. publishes the popular Meridian-IQ suite of Financial Advisor directories, licensed by over 330 major fund companies, broker-dealers and insurance companies for industry research and marketing purposes. AIQ is led by a veteran Wall Street team who are subject matter experts on retail financial advisors and investing. Its consumer-facing product, www.AdviceIQ.com, combines daily personal financial journalism with listings and rankings of pre-vetted Advisors that are certified to have passed AdviceIQ’s proprietary Regulatory Compliance Review (RCR™), the strictest industry regulatory due diligence.

RCR™ attests to the quality of an advisor’s compliance history. This due diligence encompasses the entire disciplinary and complaint history of all four major U.S. regulators: Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), State regulators who license Investment Advisor Representatives and State Insurance Commissioners. Investment firms pay an annual subscription fee to have each financial advisor undergo the RCR™ screening. Only advisors who successfully pass the vetting process may have their profiles posted on www.adviceiq.com. RCR™ prevents advisors with serious infractions from appearing in the published listings and rankings. It also excludes advisors censured by one regulator, who then move to another financial services industry and would otherwise escape scrutiny. AdviceIQ gives investors access to trustworthy advisors who can help them take charge of their wealth and financial planning.

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