The entertainment approach to private banking.

You must have heard the debate about how to classify a handful of companies: Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and even Amazon. Are they tech companies or at least in part entertainment enterprises? Who knows? In the same vein, are private bankers in the business of helping people with their finances or entertaining them? Who cares?

Here’s why you should care. A statistic no one publishes relates to how many trees does a private banker’s presentation kill. Not a trivial number, for sure. And professional printers have told me off the record they are sure the length of presentation booklets is directly proportional to the number of colors employed and the variety of shapes encountered throughout (one of them whispered “… and its uselessness”). Funny, since colors and shapes could help immensely in understanding processes and unusual concepts. Instead, a pack of aspirins won’t suffice in killing your headache after you actually stare at a page or two for long enough. And then they wonder about the popularity of yoga, tai chi and sundry martial arts; the latter should really worry bankers. But they are a tough-skinned lot. 

It is essential to understand a point. Investing is not complicated. To be sure, it does require knowledge, but not a degree in quantum physics. It does need patience, discipline and a compartmentalization of your finances – so that you separate money into what you need for living expenses and into what you want to invest for the long term. And yes, you may want to beef up a bit on investment vehicles and on your ability to withstand sudden and unpleasant moments (or find someone who can help you do that). 

But when you ask relatively simple questions (“how am I doing?”, “where am I invested?”, or the like), you don’t deserve – whatever your juvenile criminal record indicates – to be put through an hour of detailed tables and graphs, some of which require a degree in three-dimensional visual sciences to understand. Beware of the banker who just got an upgraded version of PowerPoint. Beware even more of a banker with an upgraded PowerPoint AND a company policy of using only shades of gray in their graphs (more colors and shapes induce headaches; shades of gray engender crossed eyes). And REALLY beware the banker with a laptop and a pre-loaded video with the chairman’s annual sales pep talk in full screen (I kid you not: I was there for this one). Luck may have forsaken you for good if you also land with one of the many presenters who feel obligated to cover most of the pages. No way of stopping in midstream with an “I got it, Frank, thanks”, or another simple subtle hint. “OK Bob, but there’s one more slide on page 252 which shows that….”. Half an hour later and with a sore thumb…

You deserve better; actually, I do too. People deserve a simple and clear-cut time during presentations and portfolio reviews, not a mind-boggling trip to kaleidoscopic hell. 

Roberto Plaja

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