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Putting up a false front

Written By: Tiang Chuan on May 9, 2009 No Comment

She rented private properties and dressed to the nines to give the impression that she was a big-time player in the oil trading and shipping industries.” writes the first paragraph of the article “$1.4m scam: Thrice-convicted cheat gets 12 years” in the May 9th issue of The straits Times. Yet another investment scam. Yet more people losing their life savings. Yet I am blogging about it.

Despite homo-sapiens being the dominant species on planet Earth due to our supposedly superior brain capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving, we can be of little difference to other ‘inferior’ species when it comes to seeing through a false front.

Many scammers and cheats would dress themselves up or decorate their offices in a lavish way to make their victims believe that they are making good money. Sunshine Empire, the MLM company in a alleged investment scam, had a lavishly decorated office in HDB hub and members who drive big continental cars. Pasupathi Bavani Ammal, the woman sentenced in the investment scam above, rented private apartments and dressed well.

It seems like appearance alone can play a big part in convincing someone to part with his life savings. Many legitimate business also has luxurious offices in prime districts to impress their clients. Big and beautiful offices does not mean that they operate scams. On the other hand, such decor also does not mean that they are superior to others with modest decor. It just means that they have spent more and probably need more to maintain their offices.

In the financial advisory field, it is not difficult to find big corporations with lavish offices complemented with immaculately dressed advisers, consultants or relationship managers. Does it mean that quality or superior advice or products are given? I don’t think so. On the other hand, this does not mean that sub-standard service is given either.

There is no relationship between appearance and quality. However, consumers often equate between the two.

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