Fiduciary: What Does it Really Mean?

Even though its been a hot topic within the financial services industry the last few years, the word "fiduciary" is still foreign to many of those outside the industry.   This week's post is an anecdotal story to help people understand what it means to be a fiduciary. Enjoy!

Its not something you think about very much as an adolescent - your parents or coaches or other adults being your role model - but looking back on it, that's exactly what they were. 

Doing the little things, going above and beyond to help someone else or just doing the right thing for the right reason (even if it seemed to be an inconvenience at the time), were the actions these mentors of mine were taking on a regular basis - even though I didn't think of them as mentors at the time.

Outside the context of the financial realm, here's an example from one of those mentors - my dad - and what it really means to put someone else's interest first:

 

Living in Minnesota, hockey is a way of life: early morning practices (like 5:00 AM early), outdoor ice times (yes, a friend of mine did get frostbite) and extreme car-pooling. My dad played hockey growing up in northern Minnesota and introduced my sister and I to the game early on...and we've been skating ever since.

Northwoods - Hockey

During the high school hockey season, practices were after school and we either would head directly to the ice arena that was a few miles away or stay at school to see the trainer if we had any injuries.

Since I didn't have the need to see the trainer very often (thankfully), I thought it was strange that one of my teammates relayed a message to me that I should go see the trainer before our next practice.

A bit confused and not sure if I was in trouble or if a coach had prompted her request, I reluctantly stopped by her office to see what she wanted and as soon as I was through the door she said: 

"After the home game a couple weeks ago, someone's truck hit my parked car and the whole back-end was smashed. Your dad is so awesome and I can't thank him enough, I just wanted to tell you that." 

Yea, that statement made me more confused…

"Ummm…so your car is smashed, my dad saw who did it, and they found the person?"

"Not exactly…your dad was the one who hit my car. It caught some ice as he was backing up and slid down the parking lot. It was totally on accident." 

So it took me a while to figure out why she thought my dad was so awesome for hitting her car, but it eventually made a lot of sense after she told me the entire story.

My dad didn't know who the car belonged to and didn't trust that a note under a windshield would suffice so he waited for the car's owner to return, thinking that the ice rink would close for the night soon, which is usually handled by the rink manger/Zamboni driver.

Unbeknownst to my dad, the car's owner and the Zamboni driver had recently started to date (which to this day, I believe they are married to one another). Being that they were the last two people inside the ice arena, there apparently was no hurry to leave.

Ultimately, my dad waited until after midnight in the parking lot for her to return to her car so she could take his insurance information. She felt bad that he waited so long, he felt bad for smashing the car.

The interesting thing about this, looking back, is that I didn't really hear this part of the story from my dad - the details anyways- not because he was embarrassed but that it wasn't a big deal. What I mean by that is, doing the right thing shouldn't be a rarity - it should be expected - even if there is a short term consequence like an unexpected expense.  

 
Today (March 9th) is also his birthday - Happy Birthday Dad!

Today (March 9th) is also his birthday - Happy Birthday Dad!

Being a fiduciary is more than just a title, it’s a responsibility that can't be taken lightly. It's something that runs deeper than a menu of service options and it's something that should be ingrained in your character. A quote by John Wooden sums this up perfectly: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

So, what do you think? Feel free to comment or ask a question! 

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Corey Purkat