Thursday, 7 June 2012

How to spot a Dinosaur.

by Tony Vidler.

I have wondered if, with all the changes in financial services over recent years, any of the dinosaurs survived our own dramatic financial ice age.  "Surely not", I thought.
But they ARE still out there!

Over a period of some 6 months I have observed a dinosaur up close as I attempted to change its DNA to ensure its survival after the big thaw of the current Ice Age.  Despite (logically) knowing that it was a virtually impossible task, as scientific intervention doesn't change the DNA of the living creature and nor is the creature able to change its own essential nature in its own lifetime, you fool yourself into thinking it just might be possible.  I was plain silly, what can I say?  Mea Culpa!

I did however learn a lot about the topic though from close observation, and there are some lessons here for everyone who ever has anything at all to do with financial services.  We shall begin by identifying the stock standard carnivorous dinosaur (and bear in mind everything I know about dinosaurs has been learned from watching all the Jurassic Park movies - twice.  I am therefore something of an authority on this topic!)  The dinosaur I refer to has the following characteristics:

  • it is programmed internally to hunt for every meal.  That is its base instinct.
  • it simply eats whatever it kills.  It is not a particularly discerning diner, as long as it gets meat.
  • if it cannot catch and kill new prey, it will resort to cannibalism and attack its own kind
  • it cannot be tamed or domesticated.  It will always be a wild creature that will turn on any other.
  • it has a poorly developed mind.  Logic, rational thought, understanding of consequences are non-existent.
  • it has very basic emotional development.  The entire set of emotions consist of "happy" ("have just killed and eaten something"), & "angry" ("have not killed and eaten something").
  • it is noisy and attempts to impose its presence with sheer volume.  Of the roaring kind.
  • it stomps about crushing things underfoot willy-nilly. It's environment exists solely for its own benefit in its mind.
Comparing this to the small and dying breed of Financial Adviser Dinosaurs (FAD's) - of the sort I inspected closely for a little while - you find distinct parallels.  I provide this list of identifying traits as a matter of public service.
  • The FAD has no concept of investing in future food sources
  • The FAD lives sale to sale.  Often it spends its commission twice - the day a sale is "made", and then again the day they actually get paid for the sale they made.
  • The FAD has no target market (preferred prey?).  If it is still breathing it is prey.
  • The FAD will cannibalize its own business for another sale.
  • The FAD cannot be improved through regulation and rules.  Like a leash, they are effective only when directly applied to the beast in question and under the watchful eye of a handler.  The leash in itself does not change the animals behavior.
  • The FAD has no technical qualifications at all.  Nor does it really want any.
  • The FAD operates at the barest minimum legal standard, hovering just on the barely legal side of business. Mostly.
  • The FAD has no aspirations for self-improvement, professional development or for achieving any of the higher purposes in life.  The mindset is consistently narcissistic - focused only on what makes them feel good in the moment.
  • The FAD has limited emotional development.  Whilst they cover the stock standards set of human emotions, they have not quite evolved to the point of having innate sense of fairness or justice, and the emotional set does not include "guilt".
  • The FAD is consistently upbeat and positive and talking enthusiastically - about themselves - to any audience.  A mirror is of course an audience to a FAD.
  • The FAD is not interested in creating legacies or thinking of tomorrow.  Bulldozing is a method of movement for the FAD.
Now I really should stress that these FAD's are increasingly difficult to find, there are less and less by the week.  Speaking personally, as a person who has watched Jurassic park movies from under the blankets the first time around, it is not a good thing having dinosaurs roaming freely amongst humans and their pets.  Fortunately for us, there is little doubt that the dinosaurs are totally hopeless at breeding and raising the young - in a purely commercial sense that is.  

They simply cannot build successful businesses with their inherent characteristics, and nor can they congregate successfully for commercial gain with other dinosaurs - or even other non-dinosaur-creatures.  That base instinct of killing to eat, combined with nonchalant cannibalism whenever hunger demands it, puts paid to their commercial prospects.

Regardless of your place in the financial services life - be it a consumer, potential business partner or ally, consultant or coach, or just someone with a spare seat at a conference - it is worth being able to identify a FAD as quickly as possible.

Should you hear one coming (and you usually do hear them first), then spot the predatory look as they size you up as a potential meal while they bulldoze their way into your conversation/life/spare seat, then run.  Quickly.  It is the only safe course of action.

The good news though is that these dinosaurs are dying out.  And if you can stay out of their kill-zone, they will die out even quicker.

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