Bill Gross Suggests Our Flaws Instill a Sense of Trust

Bill Gross, founder of PIMCO, is widely regarded as a trusted voice on the bond market. He’s part of a league of legendary investors that all financial advisors aspire to be. Question is, what can financial advisors do to experience success like Bill Gross? What should advisors learn from the way he does business?

“The Gross Recipe”

Propinquity Advisors recently wrote this post about Bill Gross and what makes him successful. Clearly, one thing that stands out is how Bill has incorporated his persona with his business. He is human. For example, every month he releases an “Investment Outlook” essay, giving his take on current market trends. These essays are more than opinion pieces. They often include an anecdote, linking the financial markets with a particular interest or a story from his own personal life.

One that caught my attention was an essay comparing the bond markets with his time in the Navy. Bill has done this for over 30 years, and it has had some key implications for his business…

“It is largely humanity, in all its flaws, that instills a sense of trust and commitment”

Investors trust Bill Gross because they learn about his life through his publications. He shows the human behind the business and behind the money. This instils a sense of personal connection between him and his investors, despite having thousands of them across the world.

“It is one thing to be good at what you do, it is quite another to be differentiability good.”

Bill Gross’s success as a “thought leader” is not only due to his financial success.

Embedding his persona and opinion into every publication allows him to stand out amongst the sea of market commentaries. These days there are thousands of places to get information and opinion on the financial markets. It’s not enough to regurgitate the news, there must be personality.

It may not be easy at first…

I know firsthand that portraying a persona can be easier said than done.  I’m what they call a “cross-culture kid”. The question, “where are you from?” is always a difficult question for me. Whilst most people can answer the question with a few words, I require an entire paragraph. I like to think that I’m British. I have a British education, British relatives and a slight British accent to prove it. However, I actually grew up in Singapore with my Singaporean relatives.

It created two personas: in school I would be a British boy furiously arguing why Manchester United is the best team in England, but in local food courts and around my family I would switch to a Singaporean accent to avoid being labelled as a “foreigner”. Neither of these personas were fake, it was just two sides of my upbringing. Because of this, identity is an issue I’ve grappled with for a long time, and to some extent I still question it today. Ultimately my experience in Singapore forced me to take a deep look at my identity and how I display my “persona”. Case in point, I know it may not feel easy to identify your persona at first.

But it’s worth the effort.

It’s worth the effort. Copying Bill Gross by creating a consistent, honest, interesting public persona can help you build trust, brand and a following. You must define your identity as a financial advisor and display your persona to your clients. Here are some questions to ask about your business, when developing your persona:

  • Who are my clients? What is their lifestyle?
  • What issues or topics matter to my clients?
  • What type of person would my clients trust their money to?
  • What is the value my clients get for working with me?

And here are some questions to pause and ask about yourself:

  • What interests and opinions define me as a person?
  • Why did I become a financial advisor?
  • What differentiates me from other financial advisors?
  • Which of my life events can my clients relate to?
  • What is the best way to communicate my persona to my clients?

How do these answers shed light on your natural persona? Overall, remember to be open and honest when leveraging your persona. This is the key to “humanizing” your business. Your personality will make you stand out from the competition. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ve done something amazing like Bill Gross. Simple anecdotes (like the one I shared) can go a long way in your business.







Jason Williams Jason is an aspiring finance professional, working towards a BSBA in Finance. Currently an Intern at Blueleaf, Jason’s interest in the financial industry comes from a strong ability in analyzing and planning for the future, as well as a general appreciation of how markets work. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn!
  • anonymous

    Incorporating persona in newsletters / blogs / etc. seems to be more art than science. Frankly, I think Gross has mixed politics into his commentaries more often than anyone should.
    Advisors that lean more independent to conservative should likely think long and hard before criticizing political. I was a faithful democrat in the 90’s, (today passionate independent) and in my twenty plus years of writing commentary I discovered that conservatives take policy criticism differently, for most it’s like water off the back of a duck. Liberals on the other hand are very defensive and can react “strangely”, and advisors who want to keep their liberal client base need to appreciate the behavioral difference. Best advice may be to avoid politics all together.
    Conveying persona can be tricky – you really need to know how to convey your true personality, and you need to know your audience. Mr. Gross gets away with comments that some (dare say many) advisors cannot, the reaction you get from sending the very same type of commentary may be much different than the reaction BG gets.

    • Jason Williams

      I agree that Bill Gross has gotten away with speaking his mind on some controversial issues. The thing is Bill Gross has grown to become a large personality in the financial industry and once you’re at that position, there’s very little that you “can’t say”. For advisors, you don’t need to be controversial to convey your brand. It’s simply important to show that you are human with a personality.
      Blogging with a personality is indeed an art form and can take time to master. The simplest way to start establishing a professional persona is through an “about me” page on your website. Looking at financial advisors’ websites, the ones that stood out for me were the ones with a clever, personalized “about me” page. The simple details about hobbies, children, lifestyle, etc, can really humanize your business persona.