How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Oliver Stone and Launch a Bomb Career in Finance
By Greg Fields
In an irony of ironies, I came of age among a family of stockbrokers in New York. But when I moved to California, I went to work for the Wall Street hater-of-haters, Oliver Stone. Fresh out of graduate school training with a CIA economist, my first job was as a Script Analyst for Stone’s production company in Santa Monica. And this was in the pre #metoo era of Hollywood. A time when histrionic movie executives heaved full bottles of Fiji water at assistants for screwing up an appointment in their Outlook calendar. Years later, I still work in Santa Monica. But now I work in finance. Today, I am an investment advisor.
Feel free to scratch your head.
How I averted a Star Trek-esque meltdown in spite of combining matter and anti-matter from opposing career extremes is a tale in maturity and a triumph of common sense. Amidst a holiday season that appeals to our best altruistic instincts and genuine goodwill towards wo/men, I’ve come to a profound conclusion. If you want to effect real change, you don’t have to become a political activist. If you want to have a positive social impact, you don’t need to have found a non-profit. You don’t even have to become a Secret Santa. In fact, I discovered that if you want to create deeply meaningful human relationships; if you seek to profoundly improve the lives of others, and if you want to surround yourself with fun, interesting colleagues, the noblest and quasi-altruistic career choice for you can be found in…wait for it…finance!
Gen X-ers were raised to recoil at a mere mention of the phrase “Wall Street”. Stone’s odious trader/raider Gordon Gecko was the 1980s cinematic excoriation of all thing’s money. That famous phrase, “greed is good” became a protest epithet for Wall Street one-percenters mooching off the hog of Reaganomics’ regulatory relaxations. With Wall Street, Stone started a trend. In a twist on Dante’s Inferno, money managers replaced non-Christians as Hollywood’s villains du jour. American Psycho, The Big Short and Wolf of Wall Street all presented sociopathic, yet fastidious white men who became lobotomized dough slaves. You’d have to bend all the way back to It’s a Wonderful Life’s Jimmy Stewart to find a leading man whose mere contact with stacks of Benjamins did NOT corrupt him into a greedy Grinch.
Both depictions of finance are technically “true”; but at the moment, one is clearly in ascent over the other. Large broker/dealers – the Merrills, JP Morgans and Morgan Stanleys of the world – are the spawn of the Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: transactional; self-serving and just generally not great for investors. A new advisory model – the Registered Investment Advisor - (Spoiler Alert: I work for one) germinated and spread from the smoldering wreckage of the 2008 financial meltdown. These firms tend to be smaller and their advisors younger. Services are more bespoke and personalized. RIAs are not slaves of banks that force advisors to sell inferior in-house investment products. And most importantly, many of their ranks (including Gerber Kawasaki) are fiduciaries, which means they are legally bound to put clients’ interests before their own. Kind of like George’s Baily’s Building and Loan from It’s a Wonderful Life. See what I did there?
There are now over 63,000 RIA advisors; a figure that has grown 21% over the last 5 years according to Investment News. By comparison, you can fire a cannon across the floor of a Morgan Stanley office these days without hitting anything or anyone with a pulse. Ranks at the big brokerage houses are thinning faster than heads of gray hair among their aging advisors.
I worked for big broker/dealers but ultimately chose the RIA channel because I like to think I’m more George Bailey than Gordon Gecko. I’ve always desired to connect with people beyond the superficial. Working as a creative allowed me to share some of my inner-most thoughts and opinions, but I was never “in the room” with my audience. I never knew exactly who I was talking to. That’s because there was always a medium – a movie screen, a Facebook page or television screen between me and that person I hoped to speak to. Today, being present with the actual person who is seeking my guidance and advice for the most intimate aspect of their life (outside of their health) is the definition of up close and personal. If you are doing it right, providing financial advice to others is a crushing responsibility that you can’t wait to take on every single day. For me at least, It’s A Wonderful Life.
Greg Fields is a Financial Advisor of Santa Monica, Calif-based Gerber Kawasaki Inc., an SEC-registered investment firm with approximately $1 billion in assets under management as of 11/27/19. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which course of action may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor. No strategy assures the success or protects against loss. Readers shouldn’t buy any investment without doing their own research to determine if the investments are suitable for their situation. “All investments involve risk and one should consult a financial advisor before making any investments. Past performance is not indicative of future results.”