Hometown: New York City, New York Age: 23
Is Sarah Hamrick really a Wealth Management Advisor?
We were dubious about Sarah’s job title from the jump. Our initial bio on Sarah stated, “Although ABC has given Sarah the occupation of “Wealth Management Advisor,” we’re skeptical. Would you trust a 23-year-old to manage your wealth? Is she a financial prodigy?” and we got some push back for that.
To explain why we stand by our assessment, first we have to define some terms.
Wealth Management Advisor vs. Financial Advisor
A financial advisor is a salesperson that specializes in financial products. They’re a middleman who helps you decide between a 401k and an IRA and how much you should have in stocks vs. bonds for your age group. Financial advisors are compensated either via a flat fee or commission by their client and often earn additional income via kickbacks from the company whose product they’re selling. With few exceptions, financial advisors are responsible for building their own client book which is extremely difficult to do without prior connections in the industry, a large network of family and friends, or buying a book of business from somebody leaving the industry. That said, being a financial advisor would be an achievable job for a 23-year old.
A wealth management advisor on the other hand works with the financially and legally complicated portfolios of the very rich. People with multiple homes and businesses and offshore accounts and tax shelters and vanity charitable foundations are not trusting all that to a 23-year-old with six months of experience.
Like Serena Pitt, Sarah was the the beneficiary of a dubious job title upgrade in order to confer some extra gravitas upon her as a very young contestant who goes far.
So Sarah’s actually a Financial Advisor?
Well, as a reader tipped us off, technically Sarah shouldn’t be using the title “advisor” at all without the appropriate active license. We looked up her name in FINRA’s BrokerCheck, and didn’t find her listed. Some eagle-eyed readers may have noticed the typo in the tip sent to us, but we caught it. (Besides, BrokerCheck returns a list of potential name variations).
Sarah has listed a “Securities Industries Essentials” certification on her LinkedIn, but this is an entry-level program for prospective securities professionals (in this instance, a security is a tradable financial asset such as stocks, bonds, and options). This is different from the Series 7 or the Series 65 license, which is required to give clients investment advice.
This is a fairly new change to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations, as before 2020 nearly anyone could claim that they were a financial advisor. The SEC has produced a very helpful 770 page document with all the deets on the updated Regulation Best Interest. For a briefer explanation, here’s an article from Nasdaq:
“An update to the SEC’s FAQs page has made something abundantly obvious—the title of “advisor” or “adviser” is about to get a lot more contentious. As part of its new Reg BI package, the SEC is bringing in additional rules around the use of titles. Regarding “advisor”, which is completely ubiquitous, the new rules are pretty clear: you cannot call yourself an “advisor” or “adviser” unless you are registered as an investment advisor.”
We want to re-emphasize that we are not accusing Sarah of purposely misrepresenting her credentials! We believe her inflated title was a production decision. But unlike calling Susie a “Wedding Videographer,” inflating credentials is a huge deal in Sarah’s industry and production could have put her in a position that has real legal and professional implications.
What are Sarah’s financial credentials?
Sarah was part of the Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Development Program when it was dissolved last May. We don’t know whether she was able to finish the program before it shut down, but it apparently only had a 20% graduation rate and was notorious for using trainees to make cold calls, often in violation of Do Not Call List Policies.
What does Sarah do now?
Sarah’s LinkedIn indicates that she started a new job in January as an account manager for an online financial technology company. Account managers are not financial advisors, but more like sales reps who serve as liaisons between the company’s financial advisors and clients.
How did an ambitious white-collar gal like Sarah end up on The Bachelor?
Sarah’s no stranger to cutthroat looks-based competition.
She won Miss South Carolina Teen in 2015. (This is part of the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen franchise, the “little sister” organization of Miss America.) Her talent was singing and she also took home the “scholastic excellence” and “eveningwear” awards.
As Mara seems poised to find out, Sarah was not Miss Congeniality.
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