Your reputation is everything

I have been practicing in the employee benefits world for almost 26 years and the beauty of it is that you learn something new every day. The laws and regulations change, attitudes change, and the business is constantly in a state of flux.

Sometimes I am amazed by what I see and some of those things are from first-hand experience. The only thing that I always know about being in this business is that since it’s so tightly knit and people know everyone, your reputation is more important than anything.

This business requires a lot of trust and a lot of faith. Whether it’s working with other professionals or whether it’s using a plan custodian or third-party administrator to handle your money, trust is also an important tool.

We can all talk about fees, how some businesses operate, and whether a bundled product is a good idea for a 401(k) plan, but your reputation means everything.

I remember a person who was in this business for 25 years. While he might have been a miserable person he helped build a large retirement plan business from nothing. How he built is up for debate, but he had a reputation as being very successful in the retirement plan business. After I left, a few years later, he had to retire in disgrace because of the way he conducted his business. So in an instant of greed, a reputation was lost. A reputation that will not be repaired as long as he is banned from ever operating a retirement plan-related business. Despite the way he may have wowed some clients and some business partners, he is a ruined man in the business because he put greed in front of his clients.

We can all debate our views in any forum we choose, but if we have a reputation in this business for cheating clients or doing something improper, we are going to have that scarlet letter in the retirement plan business and you learn very hard that people never forget a poor reputation in this business.

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