It's not all about 'marble palaces'
Comment of the Day

April 20 2010

Commentary by David Fuller

It's not all about 'marble palaces'

My thanks to a subscriber for this interesting column by Jonathan Davis who is writing a book about Sir John Templeton. The column above was written for the Financial Times and here is the latter section
Further down the checklist Templeton comments that "it is human to be subconsciously influenced by appearances. Those banks which inhabit marble palaces usually attract the most customers .?.?.?The feeling of optimism and prosperity is contagious. The counsellor whose manner and words reflect uncertainty or disappointment will quickly give the same feeling to the client; and the counsellor whose manner and words reflect confidence and prosperity will quickly give the feeling of confidence to the client".

The irony is that while himself a pillar of personal probity, with a loyal and satisfied fee-based clientele, in putting down these thoughts more than half a century ago Templeton was foreshadowing both good and bad aspects of the future growth of the private banking/wealth management industry. (He was to sell his advisory business ten years later in order to concentrate on the more rewarding and less time-intensive business of managing funds).

Many clients of advisory firms will, alas, be familiar with "the marble palaces" and the displays of optimism that Templeton identified. Increasingly, however, what they struggle to find is a level of personal service and conflict-free fiduciary commitment that was once the hallmark of the best in an era when investment advice was regarded as a profession, not a business. The feeder funds and intermediaries who channelled money to Bernie Madoff, one might say, learned many of the items on Templeton's checklist all too well. This only goes to underscore that without a moral compass and professional integrity, not to mention suitably aligned incentives, in the wrong hands even the exemplary intentions of a John Templeton can all too easily mutate into something worse.

David Fuller's view Assuming a reasonable amount of financial perspicacity, the best rule is to put the clients first. The sensible ones will recognise this and usually be satisfied.

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