Ex-Stock Broker: I Realized That Most Of What I Did Was Bad For Clients–So I Quit

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Many of those who work on Wall Street go through a process in which they gradually learn that what is perceived as "smart investing" is often unbelievably dumb.

Specifically, they learn that many of the recommendations that Wall Street makes--and the transactions that Wall Street gets paid to facilitate--are not in their clients' best interests.

And once they learn that, they face a choice between two options:

  1. Continue to make the same bad recommendations and trades.

  2. Change the way they do business, often in exchange for a lower initial salary.

One of those who changed is Josh Brown, a former stock broker who now writes a well-read financial blog called The Reformed Broker.

He worked for 10 years in the retail broker industry during both boom and bust markets. When times are good and people are making money, the inherent conflicts in the business are "masked," he says. But when the tide goes out, you find out who is swimming naked, Brown says, quoting Warren Buffett.

"As a retail broker, your job is to buy things with your clients money. That's it. When you are not doing that they pull the money," Brown tells The Daily Ticker in the accompanying interview. When times were bad and equities were not a good investment, he was forced to continue to buying, choosing the stocks that were the lesser of all evils.

After the market crash of 2008, he realized that he was hurting clients by selling them stocks he didn't think they should buy. Brown abandoned being a "broker" and became a financial adviser at Fusion Analytics. In this new job, Brown says, his interests and his client interests are more closely aligned.

Most people don't recognize that there's even a difference between a "stock broker" and a "financial adviser," but there is. And for clients, it's a critically important difference.

Stock brokers generally work for brokerage firms and do not have to recommend trades that they think are in their clients' best interests. Rather, they just have to recommend securities that are "suitable" (a much lower standard). Financial advisers, meanwhile, have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their clients. Even though this standard is often violated (by financial advisers who don't understand the importance of low fees to investment returns, for example), it's a much higher standard. And, all else being equal, no one looking for sound financial advice should ever work with a stock broker over a financial adviser.