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Monday, March 05, 2018

Fundsters, Help Bash Myths About Advisors

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

A veteran wealth management industry data executive is trying to take down advisor myths, and he wants help from fundsters.

Nick Stuller, former chief of AIQ and Discovery Data, is still looking for people to interview for his first book, the upcoming The Truth Shall Set Your Wallet Free: Secrets To Finding the Perfect Financial Advisor. He's interested in chatting with executives in asset management, FA-friendly technology or vendor executives, and even FAs themselves. For those who do talk to him soon, he says, "odds are extremely high" that their interviews would make it into the book.

"The grand overarching theme is bash the myth that you need to be rich to get an advisor," Stuller tells MFWire. "It's been a myth for a very long time ... I think that's put off a lot of people from seeking financial advice."

Stuller aims to create "an objective textbook on how a consumer goes about finding advice," while also educating consumers about why having an FA is worthwhile. Yet he expects the book to be useful for FAs and asset managers, too. He pictures an FA buying a few copies and conducting a seminar at their local library or bookstore, using the book to educate local consumers about financial advice and about finding and interviewing an advisor.

"This could be a terrific value-add program," Stuller says. "I'm definitely going to be reaching out to institutions in the industry."

The inspiration for the book, Stuller says, comes his increasing concern "about how much overly negative press financial advisors get."

"People read all this negative press, and they never read the flip side of that story," Stuller says, adding that only 35 to 50 percent of Americans (researchers' estimates vary) have FAs and that only "a relatively small number" of FAs are bad apples. "The consumer's only hearing one narrative, and they're not getting financial help."

So for the last several years, Stuller says, he's made a hobby about asking anyone he meets (including many random strangers) whether or not they have an FA and what they think of FAs.

"The vast majority of people just have no idea, and they should know," Stuller says.

Stuller offers consumers a unique perspective on this issue, he says. He is not a journalist looking in from outside the industry who wants to attack advisors. (Stuller uses the book to "take a little bit of a swing at media and the regulators", he says, with one chapter on each.) He has lots of experience on the data and compliance sides of the wealth management industry. And, though he was a broker in the 1980s, he is not a financial advisor himself, freeing him of perceived bias consumers may see in FAs who write about the business.

An alumnus of SUNY, Stuller most recently led advisor-watching data specialist AIQ (including Meridian-IQ and AdviceIQ until it was acquired two years ago by a similar shop, private-equity-backed Discovery, which he led before joining AIQ). Stuller was a founding employee at Discovery (then called Financial Information Group) in 2002, and prior to that he worked at NRS and at Waterhouse Securities (now TD Ameritrade).

The book was purchased by Post Hill Press (who distributes through Simon & Schuster), after Stuller found an agent. Stuller aims to finish the manuscript within two months, and the final hardcover version will be about 250 pages or so, he estimates. And though Stuller has "some things on the proverbial whiteboard" that he might work on next in the industry, he might stick with being an author, too.

"As long as the book is successful it won't be my last time because I do enjoy it," Stuller says. 

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