Saturday, April 10, 2010

Preparing Employees to be Wealthy

Of all the companies I ever worked for, Google put the most effort into educating its employees about financial planning prior to its IPO. I was impressed by the folks brought on campus to talk to us. These included Burton Malkiel, Bill Sharpe, and Robert Shiller. If after this world-class education in financial planning, investing, and basic economics, you couldn't figure out what to do with your money, it wasn't Google's fault for not providing opportunities to learn!

Google also organized financial fairs, where the big name financial firms, local financial advisors, brokerages, and even Vanguard would show up and talk to you one on one to try to sell you on their services, if that's what you felt you need. I didn't go, since I pretty much have my strategy all laid out, but I know others did make use of those services. Over the months coming up to the IPO, I saw more than one high level engineer/old-timer schedule meetings with these crooks financial professionals.

One of my friends did attend, however, and told me this story:
So I was at the Morgan Stanley booth, and O. came up and started talking to the MS rep. As you know, O. is very financially sophisticated, and started asking all these complicated questions about forward-contracts, asset allocation, options, and hedging strategies. You could see the rep's eyes get bigger and bigger. He clearly decided that O. was a potential big huge customer, and put lots of effort into selling him. Then C. came in (C was a serious old-timer with a huge amount of stock), and asked a couple of naive-sounding questions. You could see the rep getting irritated that this guy who by the looks of him wasn't in the same class as O. did was wasting his time and replied very curtly and tried to get rid of C.

At that point I couldn't help myself and laughed very hard. As with everything else, appearances are deceiving, and the sales rep had no way of knowing who the big fish was. Here in the valley, judging people's net-worths by their appearance or mode of dress is a serious mistake.
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