At the recent Morningstar Conference in Chicago I ran into a number of attendees that simply refused to be called “wholesalers”.
In fact some were downright insistent that the moniker did not belong to them – especially since their RIA clients apparently did not care for the word, according to some.
As I looked through the various business cards collected I saw all versions of alternate terminology.
And now the ‘What should we call wholesalers when we don’t want to call them wholesalers?” riddle has been solved.
Not sure if you happened to have seen or heard about a story that ran in Money Management Executive about comments made at the ICI General membership Meeting held in May.
William F. Glavin Jr., chairman, president and CEO, of Oppenheimer Funds said growth in the rest of the world would outpace that of the U.S. for the next two decades.
And he introduced the concept of “schmoozing geeks” or “schmeeks” as a new form of wholesale distributor.
These are individuals who can strike up relationships, but also can be smart about capital markets, first, then categories of products and then Oppenheimer Funds’ products, in those categories.
“It’s much more of a data analysis and communications” role now, he said. Not purely relationships.
“The whole game is getting raised now,” he said, as products get more esoteric. “It’s not about who you know and who you played golf with last week.”
We found an earlier reference to the phrase in a 2/08 Investment News article The ‘Schmeek’ Shall Inherit The Wholesaling World.
While we have long been proponents of wholesalers needing to become far better students of the business and much more than the pretty face of the product, we were not aware of this new(er) phrase!
While there might be future mileage to get from this wholesaler descriptor, a quick check of Urban Dictionary suggests it be used with caution:
Verb; To Smoke.
Dude, lets ride and schmeek real quick, I need a buzz.
Who has an alternate replacement term?
From a readers email we received:
I enjoy your articles and typically get the updates from the LinkedIn Group weekly digests. Just wanted to chime in on the Schmeek term. When I was hired on the desk at RiverSource Investments (now Columbia) in March of 2008, this was a fairly common term in our division and was even discussed during the interview process. We (our division of internal wholesalers) held Monday morning capital market meetings and talked about how to incorporate these topics/discussions in our daily phone conversations and product updates, etc. If Mr. Glavin is just getting wind of this – he is about 3+ years behind (or maybe it takes that long to get from the field or desk of a large fund company all the way to the president). There are several companies which exemplify the term Schmeek (I am sure there are many within most organizations), but I know that both Goldman Sachs Mutual Funds and Calamos Investments build their training and interview processes around this Schmeek philosophy… I am sure others do as well.
I agree though – if a wholesaler can have a serious conversation about correlation, specific industries or companies (that happen to be in certain portfolios), etc., and obviously about practice management, they will then get to talk more about their product and how it may fit within these conversations… Consultant would be a better word then Schmeek. But that is overused and doesn’t have a financial slant to it. Wholesalers basically have to be product managers – or at least close and maybe bring one along once in a while.
Here are a few attempts at new terms/descriptions to replace wholesalers – some are serious and some are fun albeit still true…
• Allocation Consultant
• Financial Markets Historian
• Seminar/Workshop/Guest Speaker Host
• Morningstar extractor (other words after M* could be = apologist, ‘explainer’, defector… depending how you feel about them or how you use it)
• Alpha Generator
• Alpha Centric Solutions provider
I could keep going, but will save you the pain.
Thanks for getting me thinking.
So true … we have to bring more than just product.
Answer the why question … why should they care?
Andrew Bewley says
Rob, this appears to be a problem firms have been wrestling with for some time.
I joined Credit Suisse Asset Management in early 2001, and I believe they came up with the perfect moniker for our job:
Senior Investment Specialist
Internals were referred to as an “Investment Specialist” to differentiate from the externals, but both were expected to project an image of knowledge not just about product, but economics, markets, practice management, and even investor psychology. The idea was that we came in with a breadth of intelligence superior to the common “wholesaler.” Did it work? For the most part, I would say it did.
Now, 10 years later, I still conduct myself the same, even though my title is simply “Regional Director.” I still sit down with my clients with the idea of getting to know them, their practice, their client base, and how we can best fit into their business model.
Still amazed after all these years that advisors are at first taken aback when I sit down with them for the first time. “Don’t you want to tell me about your product?” is always the first question out of their mouths as I take the time to get to know them and their business.
Thanks for visiting, commenting, and getting it!