This is the story of two financial advisors, Brian and Adrian. They both took different paths to enter their career, and they are motivated by different things.

Brian had just finished his undergraduate degree in art history. He didn’t have much work experience outside of bartending for a few months in the summers, but he was ready to start a real career. Without any concrete idea what he wanted to do, he attended a career fair and dropped his resume off at several booths. He was thrilled to receive a call from a financial services company the next day. He was told that as long as he had an entrepreneurial attitude, there was a professional position open with unlimited earning potential! He had read the business section of the newspaper a few times and didn’t really understand the talk about stock indexes or investing, but he was assured that he would be trained on the job. Feeling excited, Brian decided to give it a shot. He gave up his bartending job to dedicate time to studying for the licensing exam; it meant living off of his savings for a while, but he thought it was worth it. The first few weeks consisted of sales training, different ways to build trust, and ways to smoothly handle objections. There was also time spent learning about the products that he would be selling and how he would get paid by them. Brian was taught that actively managed mutual funds were the foundation of a strong financial plan; how could investors succeed without a professional money manager in their corner? He also learned the difference between trailing commissions and the deferred sales charge. It sure was going to be difficult to build up an income from scratch with trailing commissions, the upfront pay from the DSC was the only way he would survive. Brian passed the licensing exam without issue. There was still a 90 day period of supervision by his branch manager, but he was able to start meeting clients and selling right away. One sales manager joked that his mutual funds license was a license to print money.

Brian still didn’t know much about investing or financial markets, but he trusted that the products he had been trained to sell were reasonably good investments. His personal savings had run out and he was beginning to live off of credit cards, but he was now licensed to make some quick cash. He just needed to go out and win somebody’s trust.

Adrian knew what he wanted to do with his life. He had been interested in financial markets and investing from a young age, and the idea of applying this interest to a career was very attractive. He completed an undergraduate degree in finance and accounting and was a member of the student investment club for all four years of his education. At the end of his senior year he wrote the CFA Level I exam and planned on finishing the next two levels in the next two years. Adrian had been working as a summer student in investment firms for three of the four summers while he was in school, and had made inroads with several of the portfolio managers that he had met. He had witnessed the financial crisis in 2008, and was sure that he wanted to work for a firm that would keep the best interests of their clients first. After following the media coverage of the industry, he had decided that it would be very difficult to do the best possible thing for the client if he was being paid commissions by the products he was selling. Adrian spent some time searching for the right opportunity, and eventually found a fee based firm looking for an entry level investment advisor. In order to deal with more than just mutual funds he had to pass two exams, and then there was a 90 day training period during which he was not able to advise any clients. Even once the mandated 90 days was up, he would not meet clients on his own until he had satisfied further internal proficiency requirements. Being held off from meeting clients was not a big deal though, he started receiving a salary as soon as he was hired by the firm. He was also allotted $1000 per year in education allowance to help him pursue his CFA and other designations. Adrian spent an hour a week reviewing case studies with the portfolio manger he works for, and he was present in many client meetings to gain as much experience as possible before being allowed to meet clients on his own.

Brian and Adrian work in the same city, they are both extremely approachable, well dressed, and well spoken. They both call themselves financial advisors. Which one is looking after your money?