Case Closed?

I have been one of the 5 million people who have been fascinated by Serial, the phenomenal podcast that captured the imagination of America.

If you haven’t heard of Serial, you should download it now, listen to all 12 episodes and then read this post. Go ahead we will wait for you.

Many Lessons

In listening to the podcast over the past few months, I came away with three thoughts that are especially relevant to wealth managers, their clients and our communication gap with millineals.

First, Serial reinforces the power of storytelling — the oldest form of communication known to humankind.

Sarah Koeing, the narrator, is a master storyteller. She draws you in with meticulous detail. She grabs and holds your attention. In the process, she challenges your thinking.

The best wealth advisors do the same. They make clients think. They quickly separate the easy issues from the complex, and then hone in on the areas that are most important.

Almost always, that kind of deliberation leads to the big questions in life that have no pat answers: How do I want to spend my time? How do I achieve fulfillment? How do I pass on wealth to my children? Why is money important to me?

A Breakthrough For the Medium

The second takeaway from Serial is the new power of the podcast.

Why did so many people download and listen to the podcast? Serial’s popularity is a merger of two different streams of modern life — an explosion of content and an overwhelming desire to improve the drudgery of commuting.

In today’s digital age, people aren’t stuck with radio or television. With mobile devices, they can take content anywhere. Long drives are now an opportunity for personal enrichment.

Serial capitalized on both trends, and podcast consumption may change forever. Podcasts are no longer an artisian media format. They’re mainstream and should be utilized by wealth management firms to faciliate dialogue with clients and the next generation.

Moreover, Serial wasn’t run-and-gun content like the 30-second commercials or magazine ads touting the magic of a retirement solution or a new ETF that old school firms use. In fact, it is long-form communication and the antithesis of the text message — the modern bane of discourse.

In our text-happy world, real conversation has become difficult. Yet, I can tell you that in Sanctuary’s offices, Serial provoked ongoing conversations among team members that we might not have had otherwise.

The Dilemma of Opposing Ideas

Finally, Serial reminds us that life is not black-and white. It is often about reaching a conclusion based on contradictory information.

The author F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Serial is all about opposing ideas and nuanced thinking. In the course of 12 episodes, Sarah Koeing wants to believe there will be a clear resolution to the 15-year-old murder, but it doesn’t turn out that way.

Wealth management is a lot like the ending to Serial. There is often a lack of clarity. Models and strategies can never be valid 100% of the time. That’s why managing wealth is an art, not a science.

Wealth management, like life, is messy.

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Serial gives us one final gift. Social media can be a very useful communication tool and more than a vehicle for selfies or pictures of airplane wings. Used effectively, social media can facilitate meaningful dialogue and insight about human behavior between generations that “don’t get it”.