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Harry Katz: Is our job a science or an art?

We should never lose sight of the fact we all run a business, not a public service


Although I started in this business in 1984 I have always considered myself an outsider. My admission I am the parasite has not always gone down well but that has been viewed from the standpoint of my erstwhile career in manufacturing. On a Friday I could see I had produced something that did not exist on a Monday. We cannot say that in our business but it is still a very fascinating and engaging one. There are some great people in it who do sterling work for clients. Whether you make widgets or Rolls Royces, the end result is that everybody makes money. That is the purpose of getting out of bed on a Monday. 

We all try and ensure the money our clients entrust to us is protected, safeguarded and, if at all possible, made to grow. In many cases, this causes our hair to change colour – or even fall out. It has to be said that, as advisers, we are not always helped by those producing the products and services we intermediate.

It is also a unique industry in that there are still people, who despite over 20 years of regulation, start with the attitude “I can do that” before realising that indeed they cannot. That is not to say there are some absolutely excellent people but the foregoing is exactly why we have had the layers upon layers of regulation we have had to endure. 

Is our job as financial advisers a science or an art? You can be highly qualified but that does not give you the commerciality often needed to ensure the most advantageous outcome for your client. Furthermore, there are many people who spent years as an employee that suddenly decide they are going to run their own business. One wonders what makes them think they are suited or even able to do this? 

One of the most common comments made by potential or existing clients to those advisers who manage investments is: “if he is so good why isn’t he better off than me?” Indeed I have often thought the very same thing myself. There seems to be far too many men of straw and I have never understood the outcry against the capital adequacy requirements, initially at £10,000 and now somewhat more. Yes, for larger terms it is probably an imposition but it should not be insurmountable for small firms.

My space is limited, so my final thought is for those who consider themselves to be crusaders – or as I put it social workers. We should never lose sight of the fact we all run a business, not a public service. Are those who continually refer to the “advice gap” short of clients?

After 25 years of running my own business I can now say in hindsight thank goodness I have made a profit in every single one of those years. I might not have made as much money as Trevor Deaves, Roger Levitt or Ivan Massow but at least I survived and made – for me – a reasonable living. I hope some of these comments might help others to do likewise.

Harry Katz is a freelance consultant trading as HA7 Consulting


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There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. With a picture like that, Harry, it’s certainly not art.

  2. Good article. I have encountered too many companies (and been employed by a couple) who forget the point that its useful to actually make a profit year-on-year, or even to bank more cash than one has to pay out (‘Cash is King’ et cetera).

    Purely as an aside, a little unfair to put Ivan Massow in the same bracket and Messrs Deeves and Levitt. At least one of the latter two deserved a prison sentence.

  3. We deal with a wide spectrum of personalities, hopes, wants, aspirations and emotions, much of which is illogical and therefore difficult for science to deal with.

    Science can help you with the mechanics of investing money for example, but relating to individual clients is an art, which can only be learned by putting their interests first.

  4. More artisans than artists I would say. And more number crunchers than scientists. But the good ones have the ability to listen, articulate and inspire.

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