The Frog and the Scorpion

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

This topic is a little sensitive for most people and is often never discussed although it’s very important for all of us. You will figure the topic as we make some progress in the post.

First, a simple question.

Did you ever have a client or clients that you wish you had not signed on board?

Answer this honestly.

If your answer is NO, then pardon me for saying this but either you are lying to yourself or you have too few clients for this question to really matter.

The reality is that all firms do and even if you might not have any today, you surely are likely to have one in the future unless you understand this seriously and set a process to filter out such prospects. Even then there is no guarantee, but it certainly offers a lot of protection for your team and firm.

Second, imagine these situations.

a. A customer with a sizable portfolio of Rs. 10 Crore comes to you. He has had bad experiences working with everyone. However, he is arrogant and asks you to prove himself to you. He says “Let me test you out with some investments. I will give some money to another 2 firms as well.”

b. Another gentleman who does not listen to you or refuses to go through the process but dictates his own. He has a huge portfolio and is fancied by many banks and firms. He negotiates hard right from account minimums to service levels to everything. 

c. The third person says he values what you do but this is what we will do. I will do it your way but first we have to do it my way. You have to convince this person of everything. You end up discussing and debating for several hours.

What would you do in each of these situations? While outright rude or toxic prospects are still easier to identify, the above 3 situations are missed by many financial professionals. We might look at the assets and forget to look at the person. We think they have not experienced us. We are different. We will be able to change them.

This wishful thinking is not only naïve but super expensive and draining. You have to protect your sanity and your team from such bad clients.

All of the above cases have clear signs that you are signing up someone troublesome. You might not be able to see this if all you are thinking is “How do I get this account? Or How do I sign this person up as a client?” 

If someone has a problem working with everyone then chances are you are NEXT. 

Look for these signs:

  1. They dominate the conversation with you.
  2. They do not want to follow your process. It has to be their way.
  3. They don’t treat you like a professional. They behave like they are doing a favour by working with you.
  4. They want to second guess everything and test you with some money despite you having account minimums in place.
  5. They will keep asking for information all the time but not end up doing anything. 

So, what has this got to do with the frog and scorpion?

Aesop Fables has this insightful story that captures this situation well.

A frog and a scorpion meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.

The Frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The Frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they will both drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?

The scorpion replies without any remorse: It’s my nature.

There are some people that you will never be able to change. It’s simply in their nature. Even if you can, do you really have the time and bandwidth to go through this painful process when there are amazing clients who deserve your attention and many prospects who have to be rescued from many of the scorpions of our industry?