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Transcript


 

Tim Weinhold:

Well Harry, you and I have been friends for a number of years now. But thank you, for welcoming into your lovely home. It’s a treat to be here.

Harry Pearson:

This is our personal retreat, and we’re glad to have you here.

Tim Weinhold:

Well thank you. As you know, we’re especially eager to allow you, in this interview, to trace out the trajectory of your career as an advisor. Now, we’re particularly interested in that because we know some of what that trajectory looks like, but would you take us back to even before you became an advisor? How’d you start down this road?

Harry Pearson:

My dad asked me to start a branch of his business in Birmingham. I was in the plumbing business. We’d go around and we would replumb mobile homes, and Marriots and all kinds of things. I was 21, 22, 23-years-old. We had just had our third baby by the time we were 24 and making lots of money, doing lots of good things. I was getting my financial degree at UAB, finishing up school. I remember waking up one night in a cold sweat and thinking, wow, I’m making almost 200,000 as a 21, 22-year-old. I could probably be financially independent by 30, but Lord, I have no fulfillment. I’m getting no joy out of it. I can do the work, but I don’t feel satisfied and I don’t, I don’t feel like I’m in my calling.

Harry Pearson:

My parents, they actually paid their financial advisor out of Dallas to work with Laura and I to get started on basic things of college planning and setting up a cash reserve. I really appreciated the work that she did for us, getting us started. I thought, you know what? I’d like to look into that. As God would have it, I was reading the USA Today one day and there was a one page ad. It said, “If you’d like to be a financial advisor, call this number.” Now, the Lord knows I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so he needs to make it kind of big for me, so one page ad. I called the number and I went to the interview. There were 30 people in the room and literally, within the first 10 minutes, I knew that this was what I was supposed to do.

Tim Weinhold:

Take us then, if you would, through the first several years of your life as an advisor. In particular, I know that you were, at the time, pretty leery of the whole idea of whether one’s faith convictions really had some place in the investing aspect of what you did as an advisor with your clients.

Harry Pearson:

Those first three years, I’m working from 7:30 to 9:00 at night and just trying to figure out how do I go get a client? Go get one client. Then you got to figure out how to serve that one and you got to go get a second client and you got two to serve. Now I got to go get a third client. It took me about nine months to actually make a positive paycheck, but the whole time, I knew that I loved it because I was in the lives of people. They were sitting across the table from me and they were sharing with me, their deepest goals. They were sharing their pain, whether it was marriage or whether it was a kid, or whatever was going on in their life, they sat down and shared their deepest thoughts and dreams with me.

Tim Weinhold:

Which probably wasn’t really happening in the plumbing business.

Harry Pearson:

No. No, it was not. It was not. That was really my career for the first, I’d say 12 years of my career. Going and getting another client, serving what I had and building a business. And no one had ever taught me, even though I was a believer, no one had ever taught me how to integrate faith into a conversation. I tried to do that through just relationally doing it, but I never had somebody teach me a framework or give me the tools to actually apply into a financial context. I wasn’t sure how to do that, but I love the business and I love people.

Tim Weinhold:

Well, I know from things you’ve already told me that not only were you, in a sense, simply unschooled about how faith might integrate into your investment advisory work, but I think there were some ways, once you were starting to be exposed to that, that you were pretty resistant even to that, that you were worried that that may just take you down a road that you felt uncomfortable about going down. Tell us a little bit, if you will, about the angst you felt.

Harry Pearson:

I heard about a group called Kingdom Advisors and Ron Blue. I’d heard that name before and signed up for a conference, but early on in that conference, I heard about a concept called biblically responsible investing. Again, over 12 years, I’d built up a really good business. I know how to manage money. I know how to build client relationships. No one’s ever taught me how to do biblically responsible investing, and so I was skeptical. The ways that people were explaining it to me was hey, if you’re allowing your families to invest in these things, basically you’re going to hell is what it kind of felt like to me. Hearing the words biblically responsible in the same sentence, in the same phrase, made all my defensive mechanisms pop up. I kind of felt like, hold on a second, who are the dudes in the black robes, in the back room choosing what’s biblically responsible and what’s not biblically responsible?

Harry Pearson:

It feels a little bit like a marketing gimmick to me. Are we putting a verse on a peppermint and calling it a holy mint? What are we doing here? I just didn’t like the context. As God would have it in his heart, a man makes his plans, but it’s God’s purpose. It wasn’t until five conferences later that I had 40 different advisors come to a session to hear from Eventide. This sweet-faced young man steps into the room and says, “Hey. I’m from Eventide. I’m going to be doing the speaking today.” It was Jason Meyer. I was like, oh Lord. Let this be good. I’ve got these guys that came in early and let this be good. Jason gets up there and he shares these slides.

Harry Pearson:

There were 17 mugshots on the wall. He says, “This was an escort service that was busted for prostitution in New York, called High Class New York.” He hit a button and 15 mugshots go away. There’s two mugshots left. He said, “These are the two guys that put up the money to start this business. They never worked a day in the business. They never made any money in the business except being paid interest back on what they’d invested. All the other people were arrested and had jail time, but what do you think happened to these two guys?”

Harry Pearson:

I literally had no idea. He said, “Well, they were indicted alongside everyone else.” He said, “But the question I want you to think about is this. If an Earthly judge will find these two passive investors guilty of how they invested their money, how will your Heavenly Father find you on how you’ve invested his?” I remember that moment. Sitting here right now, I remember that moment. The Lord gently popped me in the mouth and got my attention. For the first time, I became clear that this was not a question of biblically responsible investing. This became a question of who is the owner? If we believe that that God is the owner of all things, then that makes us the steward of His things. If we’re the steward of His things, shouldn’t we consider aligning His assets with His principles and with companies that bless mankind instead of cause harm? That single moment changed me personally, my family personally. It changed the direction of our business, how we serve families. I had no idea what was going to take place from that moment.

Tim Weinhold:

It sounds like asking questions is really central to what you do with clients, at least in the early stages. Can you talk a little bit about the role of questions and how you have used questions as the easy pathway for you to bring a faith-based orientation to your various clients?

Harry Pearson:

I got so excited when I heard Jason speak and understanding now, oh my goodness. As a steward of stewards, I’m putting them in investments they have no idea about. They have no idea what they’re profiting from. They’re trusting me as the steward of them and those dollars. I came out of the gate with it. I was just really excited about it. I remember asking people simple questions that I thought were simple, like, “Hey. If I can help you avoid profiting from abortion and pornography, are you interested?” That’s a good direct question. The problem is I’d look at them and their hair was kind of blown back because they’re they’re like, “What are you talking about?” I began to just work to try to figure out what’s a better way to ask that?

Harry Pearson:

I got with 12 leaders and I shared from A to Z, what I was thinking. I had a couple ladies in the group say, “I’d probably encourage you not to ask that question, but what if we could soften it up a little bit?” We started working on a question and we worked and landed on this simple question. It’s a question that we ask every family now, and it’s very straightforward. It’s simply this, “Tim, what values do you have that you’d never want to violate just to make a profit?” Most people, even with that question, they’re kind of like, “What you talking about?”

Harry Pearson:

Or a better way to say it maybe is what are the things that are so important to who you are, deep at your core, that you’d never want to violate those just to make some return? It could be pornography, or it could be something that’s personal to them where there’s been some pain somewhere in their life. I’ll say, “Okay, tell me why is it important that you not profit from that?” And they tell me why. When they’re done saying all the things, I just simply ask them one question. I say, “Do you know if your current investments are aligned with what you just said was most important?” They say, “I have no idea.”

Tim Weinhold:

No idea.

Harry Pearson:

“I have no idea.” I say, “Would you like to know?” They say, “I think.” Some people say yes. Some people are like, “I think I do.” I say, “Great. We’ll take your current investments based against what you just said was most important, and we’ll see where there’s alignment and where you’re not in alignment. Where you’re not in alignment, we’re going to share some ideas about how you could get in alignment. My role is to help fill the need and give you a solution that allows that alignment, allows you to be a good steward and also allows you to make a great return for yourself and family, but also for impacting the kingdom.” That’s just been a beautiful journey the Lord’s allowed us to walk through to get to that point.

Tim Weinhold:

It sounds like those are conversations that you can have more or less equally well with people who come to you as believers and people who are not believers. It sounds like the way you’ve hit on approaching it allows you to have that conversation with pretty much everybody across the board.

Harry Pearson:

Because most advisors think, well, I don’t just serve Christian clients. I’m like, “Great. We’re not here just to serve Christian clients. We’re here to love and care for people.” What we’ve learned is that everybody has values and to a person, about half of our client base are believers and half are not believers. I have Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic. You call it, we got it. What’s been the most beautiful thing to me about this is instead of just talking about are you in a 60, 40 moderate allocation? And talk about all the risk measurements that I had to talk about before because it was what I needed to flex and get you to a place that we actually knew what we were talking about, alpha, and sharp and beta and things that kind of impress you a little bit.

Harry Pearson:

The beautiful thing now is we get to take that kind of stuff and put it on the side. It’s all getting done with excellence better than we ever did it before, but now we get to talk about you and what’s most important to you. Not how much we know, but what’s important to you. When you bring thought leadership and add value to somebody’s life, it gives you a connection that’s deeper than, hey, let me just go make you some good return in our moderate portfolio and help you get to retirement and live a life of ease and comfort.

Tim Weinhold:

What are some of the conversations you’ve had with particular people that really typify how potent this approach to, on the one hand, to the larger task of investment management with your clients is, but particularly to try and draw out from them, what they really care about and so forth? What are some of the conversations that really jump to mind?

Harry Pearson:

This is beautiful and painful to me in one way to even share the story, but one particular, I knew couple was devoted believers. I shared this question and this concept, and we walked through the pieces of it and they unpacked it all the way to do you want to learn more? And they did. When I finished, the lady looked at me. I mean, we were about family. I mean, deep love for each other as people and friends.

Harry Pearson:

She looked at me and she said, “Harry, this is what we’ve been missing. I didn’t know how to put my finger on it. We love you and your team, but there’s been a little something missing, and this is what has been missing. I was afraid I was going to have to leave you as a client because I felt like something was missing. This connects all the dots. It takes care of the short term temporal things, but it also takes care of the eternal that’s really most important to us in a way that you haven’t been able to do before.” I was like, “On the one hand, I’m super grateful that you shared that with me. On the other hand, I thought we were doing a good job,” but it was beautiful because it reminded me that no, there’s more. People are deep in their thought about purpose and how do I finish this life well? We weren’t scratching that itch for that couple, and so that was a beautiful, but painful one.

Tim Weinhold:

I suspect many of the advisors who might be watching this at some point in their own advisory lives confront the problem, which marketing people in the abstract call the problem of differentiation. I’m out there as a financial advisor and on three of the four corners around me, are other financial advisors and we all have kind of the same skillset. How do we differentiate ourselves? It sounds to me like what you’re talking about is a huge differentiator.

Harry Pearson:

The value differentiator is our role is to help you live well, finish well, and it’s all about aligning your values with your planning, investments and legacy. That’s where we stand. When people walk out, they know that we’ve had a different conversation. We talk about generosity. We talk about contentment. That’s a different conversation than how big can I grow my IRA? That’s important. We don’t want to shy away from that. We want that thing to grow as big as we can grow it, but for a different purpose. That’s the differentiation that when people walk away, they know that was different and they tell their friends about that too.

Tim Weinhold:

It reminds me of something you said to me some years back, that maybe you would just comment on now. You said, “I get to have conversations with clients that are deeper and more intimate than the conversations my pastor gets to have with his folks.” You then just jokingly said, “In fact, if my pastor got to see those conversations, he’d probably want to be a financial advisor too.” Tell me if you would, though, a little bit about your perspective of the ministry’s significance of what you do as a financial advisor.

Harry Pearson:

I get to sit with people, and I tell you, we have Kleenex in our room. It is rare where there is not tears flowing of some kind. The reason is because people are people. We all have pain of some kind and that’s because we live in a sinful world, but we also are sinful people. We desire to be all that we are supposed to be, but we just don’t live that out very well. What we get to do is have a platform that’s just called Financial Planning and Investments that allows people to sit down, shut the door, get away from the phone, get away from the noise of the world and say, “Hey. This is what’s going on in my life. This is where I have pain and this is what I’m trying to accomplish.”

Harry Pearson:

Sometimes we come to things with identity issues. We actually get caught up in thinking that the numbers that we have on our statement is our value. The ministry work that we get to do is help separate that and go, “No. You are perfectly made in God’s image. You’re an image bearer that has beauty, and creativity and greatness. You bring order, and care and love to this planet. He chose you to play a part in His story. Now, we need to live on purpose. We need to not live by chance, but on purpose. We need to be intentional. And we need to take steps to get to this place, but the accomplishment of that does not define you.” We get to initiate and facilitate that discussion, and we never tell them what we think is most important. We always facilitate pulling it out of them and they land what’s most important. Every advisor has that opportunity and privilege and many step into that.

 

Category: Financial Advising, Objections
Disclosure
  • This communication is provided for informational purposes only. Eventide Center for Faith and Investing is an educational initiative of  Eventide Asset Management, LLC (“Eventide”),  an investment adviser. Information contained herein has been obtained from third-party sources believed to be reliable.

    An employee of One Ascent has an equity interest in Eventide. This individual does not have an active role with the company; however he does receive profit sharing distributions based on his equity ownership giving him an incentive to support sales of Eventide’s investment products and services.

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