Almost 11 years ago, Steve Melen was given a 12% chance to survive after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. Surgery that removed his stomach, spleen, pancreas and a part of his esophagus followed by chemotherapy and radiation took a toll on him and his life. The Tiburon, Calif.- based advisor worked with Morgan Stanley at the time.
Melen speaks with FA-IQ about how dealing with cancer changed him as an advisor and why he is choosing to move to LPL.
Q: How did your illness impact you as an advisor?
A: I’ve been able to slow down in my older years and stop and really listen to what the needs are of each individual client. I learned this all through going through my sickness. When I got really sick, I used to have a tough time hearing people complain about the little things in their life that are worrisome to them. And when I was going through chemo and radiation and barely surviving, initially it got under my skin.
What happened in that transformation 11-12 years ago is, I started to really see that what people are expressing and their concerns, no matter how big or small they are, they’re big to them.
Q: What can advisors facing a serious medical issue do to make sure their clients are taken care of and how can firms help?
A: I would say the most important thing, really, is to just be open and honest with your position and your status.
I told my firm that I was going into surgery and I downplayed it — like it was no big deal. But I guess, looking back, it was a much bigger deal. Have open communication and allow the firm to use all the resources to help and support you.
Q: Why did you decide to move from Morgan Stanley? And why LPL?
A: I had the name of the company behind me at Morgan Stanley. I had an office — which was nice to have downtown. But the reality is, none of my clients really cared about my office.
The clients cared about me and my attention to their accounts, and my ability to access all the products and services I was able to get at other places. So, what appealed to me at LPL was to make sure I had access to products and services.
Q: Did the fact that Morgan Stanley left the Broker Protocol, and they’ve pursued some advisors that have left, weigh on your decision?
A: Yes. It’s a big concern. But pretty much every one [of my clients] has come over, but that’s all their choice. I’m not soliciting them to do it.
* This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.