Business Day rarely gets as much response as it did from my recent column on financial advisers. It characterised this cohort as loud-mouthed, beer-swilling extroverts who were not bright. It is a stereotype that derives from my early years covering the industry. It was a time when the majority of personal investments were wrapped in insurance policies. And as the saying went, “insurance was sold and not bought”.

The life offices were honest in those days — they called the sales process “distribution”, not “advice”. The pinnacle of achievement wasn’t the investment returns of clients but the volume of policies sold. The top prize was to join the “Million Dollar Round Table”, giving agents and brokers the chance to go to the annual conference in somewhere fun such as Las Vegas or New Orleans. The conference was a big party. Forget hearing about useful topics such as improving your client’s asset allocation. Instead it was a slew of motivational speakers coming up with inspirati...

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