PM: Human touch is industry’s saviour

CEO of Glidepath Portfolio Services on how psychology inspires and shapes his approach to wealth management

PM: Human touch is industry’s saviour

It’s rare – and maybe unique – for an advisor to highlight the likes of dopamine and oxytocin as crucial elements to their investment strategy.

So let WP introduce CEO Ron Fox, a portfolio manager and psychology major, whose professional passion revolves around the human role in dispensing financial advice.

While an enthusiastic embracer of technology - Fox’s firm, Glidepath Portfolio Services, is preparing to launch probability monitoring technology in April - he is adamant that it's the human touch in wealth management that's the “saviour” of the industry.

He said: “We can be supported by technology in wonderful ways but it’s still accountability structure and human psychology that supports the value of human advice; empowered by human tech but not replaced by it.”

Fox makes no bones about coming full circle from his student days and applying his knowledge of serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins to his practice. He believes that while technology has changed, our brains and instincts have not altered much in 100,000 years and that we are still seeking out the personal “serotonin joys” of being protected and getting the dopamine satisfaction of achieving goals.

Fox admits Glidepath’s tagline of “Delivering confidence with comfort and care” initially sounds like fluff. Broken down, though, and it represents the marriage of his psychological and investment principles, giving the clients confidence you can manage their money through volatility outside the comfort zone.

He said: “Then it’s about what do I need this money for and when? And what is the probability for me being able to still use that money for what I earmarked it for? It’s two concepts: managing comfort through volatility management, and then assessing the probability of achieving the goals and how things get hairy outside of that.”

Our happiness chemicals can be applied to retirement planning, ensuring clients, often 45 years and up, have a sense of purpose. Fox said people often require an advisor to provide clarity around investment accounts that will fit their goals.

“It tells them what we need to do at what time to keep on track and keep their house in order,” he said. “That ties in with the emotional feeling of being cared for and also being led. The care comes from someone listening to you. What’s important to you about money and why? What does money mean to you in your life? Often it turns into a financial marriage counselling session where you help people understand what money does for each of them in their lives.”

He added that while the new wave of robo advisors may suit some people, the ability of an advisor to help with the nuances of life is vital.

“Planning is about so much more than just financial management and monitoring - you can always log off the avatar!"

Glidepath was started in 2016 and Fox called it a marriage of CFP professionals and CFA portfolio managers supported by a collaborative system. The financial planner, he added, is the family doctor of finance while the PM is a specialist surgeon. His model allows planners not to have to manage investments, otherwise he joked it would be like asking your family doctor “to also do your nose and throat surgery”.

He said: “Investment management is a very specific monitoring and implementation skill but the real value the client gets is by calling up the financial planner who they’ve gone through an exercise with – especially as baby boomers are now into the decumulation stage – so at least we have a platform for solving issues for clients.”

Fox said his practice focuses on an area he feels often gets ignored by the industry: the decumulation stage. So many people are banging the drum about accumulation they forget what he believes is the most important part of people’s lives.

He said it’s the questions of will I have enough money? Can I spend on what we want to spend? Clients may have done a great job accumulating and made a fortune from their house in downtown Toronto but how much of a house can they get in East Willoughby without compromising their lifestyle spending plan?

He said: “It’s an area that’s arguably the third most important of people’s lives, after your family and health. As much as certain platforms and things can help people get a better understanding, when you bring in people’s context and situations, the variability of cash flow needs and family situations mean it becomes complex very quickly. When that happens, that’s when people seek the help of a professional.”

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