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1 August 2013 CFA Institute Journal Review

Satisfaction and Financial Predation: A Large Group Study Revealing Their Mathematical Link (Digest Summary)

  1. Louis A. Lemos

Neither wealthy organizations nor intelligent individuals are immune to the devastating effects of financial predators. Financial predators build blind trust by instilling a high level of satisfaction. Satisfaction and predatory behavior are mathematically related, which provides a tool for understanding how financial predators seize their clients’ or employers’ wealth.

What’s Inside?

Satisfaction and predation (predatory behavior) are intimately linked. The author demonstrates the relationship between these two constructs by way of a mathematical model. Financial predators find success by giving their victims a sense of gain (e.g., through exceptional and consistent investment returns), creating satisfaction, and encouraging blind trust. As trust increases, the defenses of the clients or organizations are lowered. The financial predator then has the opportunity to take advantage of the victims and cause financial harm.

How Is This Research Useful to Practitioners?

Financial predators attack the wealth of others by creating satisfaction that weakens the normal vigilance that clients or organizations use to protect their interests. Such predatory behavior is hidden by the satisfaction the predator engenders in the victims. The author’s main finding is that satisfaction is an investor’s worst enemy because once the investor is satisfied, he or she stops questioning financial decisions and thus is vulnerable to abuse.

This finding suggests that although the accumulation of wealth and the subsequent satisfaction are important aspects of investing, they can be dangerous because investors are least protected when they are the most satisfied. This observation is contrary to the conventional view that wealth maximization should be the primary goal. The author proposes that even when experiencing financial gain and satisfaction, investors must be vigilant at all times.

Practitioners should note that even sophisticated organizations and individuals are vulnerable to exploitation by financial predators, who are somewhat assisted by the cultural tendency that favors profit maximization, risk taking, and unrestricted wealth maximization. Additionally, financial predators often use such behavioral tactics as dressing well and being friendly, cooperative, and obedient to put people at ease. The manipulation skills of predators make it necessary for organizations and clients to remain alert at all times.

How Did the Author Conduct This Research?

The author analyzes information from two databases and uses references to behavioral neuroscience to understand such key concepts as predation, satisfaction, and anger. Financial predation is defined as the act of taking advantage of a client or organization to serve one’s own interests. Predation is measured with a questionnaire the author developed for a previous study. A database of 834 participants is used to show the general pattern that correlates satisfaction and predation.

The mathematical relationship between predation and satisfaction allows the author to construct a framework to demonstrate how financial predators achieve their goal of confiscating the wealth of others. The framework includes predatory and budget curves. To hide the predatory curve, the financial predator is thought to “show off” another curve—the satisfaction curve.

Assuming that dissatisfaction, which can turn into anger, results from an unexpected loss, the author demonstrates that anger and satisfaction are related. He plots the predation curve and satisfaction curve on the same graph. Using a database of 36 individuals whose data were collected after they were robbed of their life savings by a financial predator, the author shows that anger and unexpected loss are related. Likewise, based on research that involves car dealerships and 184 individuals, he demonstrates that receiving an expected gain leads to satisfaction.

The author provides substantial evidence to support his theory that predation and satisfaction are connected and that satisfaction is related to trust. A potential limitation of the study, identified by the author, is that a direct link between predation and satisfaction cannot be established because the databases used do not include such a measure.

Abstractor’s Viewpoint

Recent history is riddled with examples of financial predators who have taken advantage of clients or organizations to serve their own interests. Although the author does not provide a direct link between predation and satisfaction, I believe he does point in the right direction. His research should serve as a warning that individuals and firms are vulnerable to financial predators, many of whom are adept at manipulation and emphasize steady, long-term satisfaction. Individuals and firms would be wise to recognize that they may be working with or employing financial predators who could potentially cause unexpected financial harm, so significant vigilance is warranted.

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