I’ll take relationship over bottom line any day! I wish I could take full credit for the title.
A friend of mine, who was the VP of Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company, expressed this point after I told her the story I’m about to tell you:
Mom’s financial adviser who has handled her accounts for over 35 years called to say that his company (which I won’t name but whose initials are ML) would no longer manage accounts smaller than a certain amount. Mother’s remaining savings are below that level. Unbeknownst to us, he had grandfathered her account 5 years ago. But if Linda and I would contribute to Mother’s portfolio to the tune of $120,000 ML would be glad to keep us as clients. We would have to make other arrangements with a different brokerage house if the answer was no!!! Time limit for getting out, “Three months should be sufficient.”
The Zitron/Bailey girls hit the roof. Unfortunately for ML, they did not know they were dealing with two people who had been in the customer service business (archaic words to be sure) for many years. If we were going down, we were going down swinging!
We first called the ML office in Alexandria to verify the ‘rule’ told to us by Mother’s adviser. Yes, it was the rule but there was an alternative available which no one bothered to explain.
The more we thought about it the angrier we got. The decision was made to discontinue our relationship with ML period.
I called the financial adviser to formally express our displeasure as to how everything went down. His response: “This is the USA and a free enterprise system and a corporation has the right to make any rules they choose to compete.” He’s right. Years of relationship building meant nothing. It was all about their bottom line.
Shortly after that conversation, I received a call from his boss. “Why are you calling me?” I asked. “The limit your financial adviser gave you as to how much money we would manage in a portfolio has doubled since his initial conversation with you. We believe that your Mother would be better served at an institution that is closer to you.” “Do you know where I live?” I said. “Somewhere in Florida, I imagine.” ” I live in Virginia. My financial adviser is located in Dallas Texas. And as quickly as I can, my mother’s adviser will be located in Dallas Texas too.” I hung up on him.
Together Linda and I called ML’s customer relations line and asked to be put through to the President’s office or to his Executive Assistant. We know from our days at AT&T and Lucent Technologies that filing a formal complaint starting at the President’s level was serious business. “Oh yes Mrs. Zitron and Mrs. Bailey,” the customer service rep said, “we take these sort of complaints very, very seriously. You will be contacted within 48 hours by a special representative.” At least that felt good!
HAVE YOU HEARD FROM THEM? NEITHER HAVE WE!! That was 2 weeks ago.
What has happened to customer relationships and loyalty? Are we the only generation that expects to be treated with respect and dignity? Please say it isn’t so.
As far as Linda and I are concerned the above scenario smacked of discrimination and a slight form of elder abuse. I’m telling everyone I know about what happened, including Michelle Singletary at http://www.washingtonpost.com
After all was said and done I began to think of the ‘what ifs’.
My 97 year old Mom had no one to help her navigate this process?
Linda and I were not named on her accounts?
Mother had not named us power of attorney?
I, or Linda, did not have a relationship with another financial institution?
Fortunately my adviser is an independent financial adviser and broker. He makes his own rules. Of course he would take Mom’s account. He helped restore our faith that maybe the bottom line to some businesses is not as important as the relationships they build.
I am asking all of you to please ask your own WHAT IFs…and take any necessary steps that will always keep you and your family empowered over any corporation who is looking strictly at it’s bottom line.