The Critical Importance of Evidence-Based Persuasion

November 4, 2014

by Dan Solin

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I often start my talks to groups of advisors by asking how many of them believe in evidence-based investing. All hands go up. I then ask how many believe in evidence-based methods of persuading prospects to become clients.

This question elicits blank stares.

The disconnect between the rigorous, peer-reviewed data we require before making investment recommendations and the lack of comparable data when converting prospects into clients  is an anomaly worthy of discussion.

You should know first that I have an unabashed passion for the work I am so privileged to do. Before becoming an advisor, I spent many years as an attorney representing investors whose savings were decimated due to the misconduct of their “market beating” brokers and advisors. For many of my clients, there was no effective redress. Some went from being solidly middle-class to working minimum-wage jobs. Others became acutely depressed, even suicidal, and totally dysfunctional. I saw many couples divorce, children forced to drop out of college and other emotional ravages of economic ruin.

Because of these experiences, I gave up my law practice and became an investment advisor. I was — and still am — convinced there is only one intelligent, responsible and evidence-based way to invest. It requires abandoning the notion that there are market inefficiencies to identify and exploit. Specifically, investors need to accept that stock picking, market timing and attempting to prospectively select outperforming mutual fund managers is a zero-sum game. Rex Sinquefield, the co-founder and former board member of Dimensional Fund Advisors, aptly stated: “So who still believes markets don’t work? Apparently it is only the North Koreans, the Cubans and the active managers.”

I counsel my clients to invest in a globally diversified portfolio of low management fee index funds, exchange-traded funds or passively managed mutual funds in a suitable asset allocation. The only trading is periodic rebalancing, unless a client’s risk profile changes and their asset allocation requires adjustment.

I can understand why evidence-based advisors find their work so rewarding. Every client who becomes a convert to this investment philosophy is one less victim for the securities industry, which is shamelessly geared toward transferring the wealth of its clients into its own pockets.

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