Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How to bubble-wrap, scale and grow your financial advisory business. Practice management tips and advice from a long-time industry coach


In mid-November 2016, just a few days before Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to “talk turkey” with practice management expert, Nicole Newlin, president of Efficient Advisors, a turnkey asset management platform for independent financial advisors. Click here to listen to the audio recording.

A transcript of the interview is posted below.

Marie Swift: Well hello and welcome back to Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry. This is your host today, Marie Swift. I'm joined today by Nicole Newlin who is President of Efficient Advisors. Nicole began her financial services career at First Union Securities and later in her role as VP at Wachovia Securities she crafted the vision and oversaw the implementation plan for all technology advisor education across the private client group and independent channels.

Prior to joining Efficient Advisors in 2016, Nicole was a partner at Pathfinders Strategic Solutions, a coaching and consulting firm. There she worked with financial advisors to build specific targeted plans for their practices that focused on business development, marketing, client experience, and staff development. Prior to Pathfinders she served in executive roles at both Symmetry Partners and Loring Ward. Today Nicole leads the charge at Efficient Advisors, a turnkey asset management firm that is commitment to bringing proven principles and fresh thinking to the professional management of your client’s wealth.

You can learn more about Nicole and Efficient Advisors at: www.EfficientAdvisors.com. So Nicole, welcome and thanks for being here.


NIcole Newlin:
Thanks Marie.

Swift:  Nicole you've been working with independent financial advisors for many years now and I'm just wondering from where you sit today, what are some of the greatest challenges and opportunities for RIAs and dually-registered advisors?

BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR FINANCIAL ADVISORS TODAY

Newlin: Well, think there are three – which may not come as a surprise but because they are the same three perhaps we need to work harder at supporting our independent advisors.

One, of course, is compliance – managing that and dealing with even a tougher regulatory requirement. I'd say the second has to do with fee compression – something that everyone is dealing with in some fashion. And third, the oldie but goodie still remains: “how do I manage my business, offer superior client service and at the same time run it effectively as I market and grow the firm?” – so sort of the infrastructure. Those three items always seem to be rearing their head in some way, shape or form.

Swift: Yes, I agree with you. Could you please drill down a little bit into each of those? Let's start with number one – the tougher compliance and regulatory landscape.

Newlin: Just yesterday I was talking with an advisor; we talking about cyber security. He mentioned he compared cyber security to compliance because he doesn't know what he doesn't know and he thinks he's doing everything right and hope he is until the day comes. We talked a little bit about that and part of what he's been doing and also what our firm does to really to provide more education and interpreting the new rules that have come down the pike – bringing in expertise. We have quite a few ERISA attorneys with whom we partner closely. We've worked a lot around the DOL rule, giving advisory firms support in that fashion. So part of it, I think, is understanding and then interpreting – and then, on the flip side, getting the advisor into an action plan.

For instance, providing them the right verbiage, let's say in a client agreement, so that they've buttoned up and crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's.  We've helped advisors review their agreements, run them past folks to say, “you're meeting the fiduciary” or “here are some things you need to adjust.” Some advisors – and I think this is not a bad idea at all – are starting to contemplate this question: “do I want to be an IAR? If I'm really focused in on one investment philosophy and one methodology then maybe I should outsource that to a third-party provider who supports an IAR program. Maybe I want to get out of this whole being on call as the regulatory expert and instead let my third-party manage that for me because I can still brand myself as my own firm but I have compliance support.”

Then there are others that are looking at technology and tools that kind of take some of the steps out of the process so that the advisor doesn’t have to interpret every single component but instead the advisor can work with the client or prospective client in a digital fashion that makes it a little easier to get the right investment solution.

Swift: One of the things I have here in my notes to ask you about, Nicole, is around the Smart 401k program.

SMART 401K PROGRAM

Newlin: Yes. One of the tools and resources that our firm has worked pretty diligently on is around a 401k solution. We have a Smart 401k program that is built to meet the fiduciary standard. That's been the mode of operation of Efficient Advisors since its inception in 2009 – we try to anticipate advisors’ needs and create solutions before they are commonly in rogue. What I really think is interesting about the Smart 401k dashboard is it helps advisors who are working with qualified plans to not only outsource the 338 responsibilities to Efficient but we give them a four-step process that actually makes it actionable. There is the “plan finder” feature that allows the advisor to research the plan and gather the data they need. There is the “diagnostic step” that really allows them to benchmark a retirement plan against others that they may be competing against. There is a whole “efficiency analysis” as well that really allows them to look at the plan specifications and determine where they can make improvements and then the proposal builder. Now they can go to that business owner / plan provider and say, “here, I can take the worry out of what you are doing day-to-day, I can compliance off of your shoulders. I can do it at a lower cost; it's a level-fee solution. It's totally transparent.” And when the advisor walks away they, too, can now know they have a 338 provider that is supporting them. And even through the process of working with that particular perspective client, we work closely with the advisor too, so they know they are staying within the right guardrails.

So programs like that I think are really important, especially in this regulatory world knowing that advisors, need to “bubble wrap” themselves – this isn't my term, I'm stealing it from someone else, but I think is a great way to describe the Smart 401k program we have.

BUBBLE-WRAPPING THE ADVISOR

One other tool I'll mention as a potentially “bubble wrap solution” is an IRA Rollover tool that we are working on – it puts everything online and helps from the advisor’s perspective. It's really that end-client making some of the decisions and a very protective rollover program that takes commission-based scenarios into a program with a level fee. It's something we are in the midst of now and are hoping to roll out in a couple of months. I think those are the things providers who work with financial advisors should be offering and always thinking about so advisors out there know they have places they can get compliance and regulatory help.

Swift: Let's talk a little bit about your second item, the fee compression, particularly dealing with small accounts and managing clients service levels especially for the smaller investor and this whole thing we call “the rise of the robo advisor.”

Newlin: The robo advisor is interesting to me and, and my personal opinion is that there is a place for the robo advisor. I think it depends on the client-base you’re looking to work or need to work with. I would argue that there are other ways to outsource a lot of the heavy lifting that goes on with any client of any account size, or needs / desires to get an advisor’s support. I've always said if an advisor is spending a bunch of time digging through paperwork, or doing a bunch of research or on the phone talking with a custodian or what have you about where an account is, or even if they have their staff spending a bunch of time doing that instead of doing proactive calls out to their clients, then they are missing opportunities and they are spending a bunch of time in a place where they don't need to be spending it.

To me, if you are considering outsourcing some of that heavy lifting to a TAMP or an asset management firm or a third-party provider when it comes to putting together the portfolios, then I think you are actually using your time more wisely and can be spending it with the client doing the things you need. Maybe the robo advisor isn’t quite as necessary if you have a good third-party provider like Efficient Advisor. The time you may be spending with that smaller client, for instance, the grandson of the larger client that you need to spend time with, may seem ok to you because its building the relationship with an important existing client. You are not doing all the other account management and marketing things I just described.

Then I think that helps with the fee aspect of it. Tamps and third-parties often, if they are doing their job right, can get pricing that a smaller shop or even an independent IRA can't get. I would expect any of that lower cost saving. That should be provided to the advisor. So for instance at Efficient, we've looked how we run our back office. We thought a lot about how we manage our portfolios, we've looked at the pricing we've received from our custodians and vendors and in turn we run a lean shop so in turn we can provide the best pricing possible. Often times we're providing great service at the lowest price compared to a lot of competitors. To me, if I'm an advisor out there, and I can have all of this back office outsourced at a much lower rate, get all the tools, get all of this back office support, now my fees can come down. I can spend my dollars if I want on different kinds of staff instead of staff that's moving paper around.

Swift: You make some really good points there Nicole. The bottom line for me is that outsourcing to a TAMP should really give an advisor that scale in staffing and pricing. It's just not all about technology. It's about the right partnerships.

Newlin: Oh absolutely! In fact, I was spending some time with an office, a larger RIA that has multiple locations that is trying to make that decision about moving away from just being the RIA they are today with a large operational staff and how can they utilize Efficient Advisors as their outsource solution. At first, and rightly so, there was some fear among the operations team. “I'm going to lose my job” or “what does this mean for me?” And my challenge to the principal was if these folks are great at what they do, well, then just think—you want to keep them, right? You're going to be saving costs in the long-run with a lot of the ways Efficient Advisor is going to make you more efficient. Maybe some of these folks in turn can be the outreach folks you've always wanted. The client service representative you've always needed. All the marketing you wished your folks could do, they can now do.

So there are a number of ways you can streamline a team. It doesn't always have to be people are leaving because you are using a TAMP, it could be just repurposing them into much more critical roles.

Swift: Yes, that is really important because as you and I well know many of the advisory firms were built to be family owned and operated. They are staffed by people the principal knows and loves—nobody wants to cut employees, especially family members. So there is an emotional component too and I think your point about repurposing those people and streamlining the team could be very important and help with the profitability and help that firm grow.

Let's talk about your third point, about the client service and keeping the business running effectively as the firm tries to market and grow.

Newlin: It speaks to a lot of what we've covered in terms of outsourcing. But I think the bottom line, really, for advisors and their teams, is it’s really really hard to try to run your business and be strategic about your business and then at the same time have some sort of personal life and feel like you are in the role and always running the firm of which you've always dreamt. I've mentioned this before to a lot of advisors: the E-Myth, the book that I absolutely love and read every single year. Advisors that haven't read it, I really encourage you to read it because it's such a good reminder of why you're the entrepreneur that you are and why you set out to do this. It talks a lot about how you are managing your time. Are you being a technician instead of being the entrepreneur? Are you being the manager and not using the people you have effectively? I think it speaks to that whole, you know what I mentioned, that oldie but goodie: how do I manage my team and run the business effectively?

I think it really boils down to three points. It's looking at your firm structurally, strategically, and personally. These aren't new ideas Marie, I think everybody intuitively knows it but I think what advisors forgot is there is a lot of help out there to step in and give them some guidance. When I say structurally, I do mean staff and partners. Are you using a CRM? Sometimes I go into advisors offices and (I'm sure we all do it) there are sticky notes all over the place and paper everywhere and nine times out of ten times there is a CRM but no one is using it, or it’s garbage in, garbage out. Well if you are with a broker/dealer go to them or go to a CRM provider or find a consultant to come in and fix that for you. Anyone listening to this, if you need help I can give you some ideas who to call. People can come in and get you set up so quickly and effectively.

Strategically it goes back to what we were talking about before with looking at your business and asking yourself are you sitting here all day putting together portfolios or are you out meeting new clients? Or are you out strengthening those relationships? How many client events are you having? Are you really setting up those types of opportunities to deepen that connection?

The personally piece is taking a moment to ask yourself if you are happy with how you are spending your time and if you are being effective? I think there are all kinds of help out there. There are online assessments that don’t cost a dime that you can ask questions of yourself. But sometimes you just need to sit down with your team and ask them how they think its going or what could be improved upon or maybe ask your spouse or someone in your life what their impression is of you, when you go off to work and when you come back? All of these things are really telling. I think you need to get help to take a look at how your business is running? I don't think any of us can do it on our own. I think that's the tough thing.

I would reiterate that a good partner, a broker/dealer, a TAMP, a third-party or whomever, I would expect them at whatever cost they are to you to be offering good solid practice management support. It's their responsibility, in my perspective, to support you as much as possible—so reach out to those third-parties or custodians and so forth and ask them what they can do to help you and what support they can provide. Because we all see the studies, and there was even that Schwab Advisor Services independent study that came out a little bit ago talking about how IRAs are spending their time. So these entities are obviously surveying and asking lots of questions of advisors so there is no reason advisors can't ask for support back.

Swift: Nicole before we move on, can you repeat the name of the book? I didn't catch the title?

Newlin: It's the E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

Swift: Nicole you make a really good point about practice management and expecting your third-party providers to provide that for you or at least offers some ideas there. Could you talk to us a little bit about what you offer not for just your own advisor clients but for the advisor profession in general?

Newlin: Sure. For our advisors, we do a lot of writing for them as well as creating materials they can then utilize with their clients. We pick every month. So for instance, last month we were focusing on cyber security. A typical routine for an advisor of ours is that they would receive something we call Advisor Insight which is about a couple pages long. Last month I wrote about the cyber security topic with tips, suggestions, where to go for help, etc., and always the offer to call me if they want to talk further. Coupled with that, we write an Investor Connection piece, which is something about the same topic that the advisor can then re-brand and send out to their clients. And then we always have a webinar on the same topic as well in that month, whether it's me or different experts we are bringing along. Then each week we have an Investor Connection, which goes out on various topics of what's going on in the world that the advisor can re-brand as well.

But personally, having been a consultant in the past with my own practice management firm for 4 years, and knowing the value and importance of that, I work pretty hard on spreading the message to all advisors in the profession not just those working with Efficient. So a lot of times the same Advisor Insights I write, I might expand on them. I've written for other publications, for instance, the Journal of Financial Planning and InvestmentNews, and we are working on an upcoming webinar for ThinkAdvisor on cyber security. We've done some work on outsourcing and surveys, so really anything that my team and I can to help and be of assistance. I still have advisors that are not at Efficient that I coached for years that I still talk to, offer advice, and connect them. I think that's one of the best things we can do in our industry is when you can find someone to connect you to someone with an expertise I think it's your duty to connect those folks. I've done that for many many people. I think that's how we should all be operating.

Swift: Any final words of wisdom for our listeners?

Newlin: I would just say that while we are all competitive we are all on the same team as well. We are all trying to do what's best for our clients and also grow our businesses at the same time. I would just encourage more conversation, more roundtables, and more discussion of advisors. At the Efficient Advisor conference this year we had an advisor panel discussion and all I heard back from the rest of the advisors was we should do more, we should do more—and we should. There are so many ways we could be sharing intel together. There are plenty of clients out there, and if you have a great value proposition, a little competition never hurts anybody. But there is sure a lot we could be doing to help each other maneuver through these challenges that we all facing.

Swift: Amen to that. In conclusion, I want to say thank you, Nicole. This has been a great conversation. I always learn so much in talking with you. Listeners, my big take-away here is that working with the right priced TAMP is a great way for smart advisors to scale and grow. Nicole, I will be joining you for some of your webinars because I want to continue that conversation.

In closing that website is www.Efficientadvisors.com. Thank you so much Nicole and hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

Newlin: Thank you Marie have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2016

THE DOL FIDUCIARY RULE IS HERE TO STAY. SO SAYS RIXTREMA’S DANIEL SATCHKOV. HERE’S WHY.



On November 11, 2016, just three days after the shock of the U.S. Presidential Election results were settling in, I had the opportunity to discuss with Daniel Satchkov, president of RiXtrema, the future of the DOL fiduciary rule and possible outcomes for the financial services industry. Click here to listen to the audio conversation.

A transcript of the interview is posted below.

MARIE SWIFT: Hello and welcome to Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry. This is your host, Marie Swift. I'm joined today by Daniel Satchkov. Daniel is the President of RiXtrema, a company that is known for providing DOL fiduciary software solutions to the financial services world. Daniel, welcome.

DANIEL SATCHKOV: Thank you, Marie.

SWIFT: Here we are three days after the Presidential election and all the things that are happening in the US. There is a lot of speculation about the DOL fiduciary rule. What do you think the election means for the DOL fiduciary rule?

Daniel Satchkov of RiXtremaSATCHKOV: That's a $100 million dollar question actually. Probably a few billion dollar question because so much spending has already been done around the rule and obviously we all know that one of Trump’s advisors, I don't know if he has an official role of an advisor, but the Head of SkyBridge Capital, Anthony Scaramucci, has stated he "hopes" that Trump will repeal or remove that rule completely. If you do a Google search you find a lot of articles on the fact that the DOL rule is likely going to be gutted or totally finished under the Trump administration. Now my opinion, and this is actually very close to a very good column that was written by Bob Powell, I think it was on MarketWatch.com, I do not think that the DOL fiduciary rule is finished under President Trump. There are many reasons.

[Click here to read Robert Powell’s excellent article on MarketWatch: The Fiduciary Rule Won't Change Under President Trump]

First, Trump himself has never stated any opposition to the DOL fiduciary rule. He talked about Obamacare a lot. But he hasn't talked about the DOL fiduciary rule and in fact today he announced his plan for his first 100 days the office – his first priorities. Among those priorities we see building “the wall” that he talked about during the campaign; we see repealing Dodd-Frank which I didn't think would be one of his top priorities right off the bat, but apparently it is. Apparently he's going to repeal Dodd-Frank. This is really important. There is no mention of the DOL rule right there and the DOL rule is actually a law. It's been a law since June of 2016, and I believe and it fully goes into effect April 2017. There is not enough time to stop it from going to effect. Does Trump really want to spend his political capital to remove that law when he is trying to do so many other things such as removing Obamacare and repealing Dodd-Frank? I really don't think he can fight all of those battles. And on top of that, he's positioned himself as defender of the little guy, whether it's true or not, and for him to take so many steps that are favorable to the large banks and large Wall Street institutions in the eyes of his voters, well, I think it would be suicide to repeal Dodd-Frank and at the same time kill or gut DOL fiduciary rule. I'm more inclined to believe what Bob Powell wrote, that he may use it as a bargaining chip, but it doesn't look at all like that's one of his main targets.

CHALLENGES IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY

SWIFT: These are very challenging times for the financial services industry. We had a lot of challenges before the Trump election and the leadership changes in Congress. So, how are you seeing things from where you sit at RiXtrema? I know you've been an observer and a participant in the industry for a long time. How do these challenges land for you?

SATCHKOV: Well I think one of the biggest challenges, if not the biggest of the whole industry, is trust. This trust was undermined following the 2008 crisis and it really hasn't returned. I think the DOL fiduciary rule is actually a net-positive for the industry. In general I myself am against regulation. I think it has to be proven to be necessary. But in this case, the DOL fiduciary rule actually helps the financial sector by establishing more trust. I think this trust starts with transparent communication. That is a huge issue in the industry. How do we communicate the fees to investors? How do we communicate how they actually get charged? Right now, it is very confusing for consumers. The types of disclosures they get – and the type of advice they get – can be very conflicted, very confusing, and ultimately quite unfair.

We just did a major research study where RiXtrema studied 9,000 retirement plans in the US. We actually took their holdings and ran some sophisticated quantitative models to see if those plan line ups were too expensive. We can use quantitative models to actually create a similarly line up from less expensive funds. What we found is just basic algorithms and basic transparency only the retirement plan industry, I'm not talking about IRAs, that part of the industry could save well in excess $12 billion per year for retirees.

The fact is, there so much money wasted in the industry – this means that there is not enough transparency in what is really going on. I think that's the main issue facing the financial sector and firms individually. I think the DOL rule actually helps in that regard. It sets the standard for transparency. It sets some fairly straight-forward rules for disclosing fees, for disclosing conflicts of interest within the best interest contract exemption, and so on and so forth.

In my worldview, the DOL rule is not a problem for the sector. The problem is lack of trust and unclear communication and the DOL rule is kind of an attempt to solve that.

SWIFT: So how can advisors and financial services firms address this problem? How do they build that trust and transparency?

SATCHKOV: I think in today's day-and-age, it all starts with technology – and technology has gotten less and less expensive. So without spending huge amounts of money, firms should think about how they present their data. The time of long winded confusing disclosures are gone. Now it's like a prisoner’s dilemma. Nobody is going to do it first because it's now profitable to do it but because of the fiduciary rule. I think it's a great push in that direction to bring everyone to a level playing field and start disclosing things in a clear matter. It lays the groundwork. And a lot of technology firms, ours included, are working to provide solutions. We at RiXtrema actually have a solution that has been already used by investors – it provides simple and clear reporting, something highly visual, something that isn't confusing, that doesn't have a lot of text or a lot of data tables. Our solution presents something that is like an app, something that people can read and understand about what they are actually spending in their retirement accounts.

This is what advisors and financial services firms should be doing around the DOL rule. It's documenting the client's best interest – that's a requirement in any rollover situation. The requirements for disclosure in the 401(k) space should be improved but ultimately with the DOL fiduciary rule it requires the firm document the best interest of the investor under a rollover. It also requires advisors to stick to reasonable fees. What does “reasonable” mean? Advisors or financial institutions should really think about data and benchmarking. We live in an age of big data. So you can gather large data sets and compare yourself to others and have adequate benchmarking to show that you are actually doing good things in terms of portfolio construction and that you are charging reasonable fees.

RIXTREMA SOLUTIONS FOR DOL FIDUCIARY RULE

SWIFT: Can you talk a little bit about the solutions that you have created and developed at RiXtrema?

SATCHKOV: We released a tool just over three weeks ago called IRAFiduciaryOptimizer. That tool does a number of things and it's based on some of the quantitatiive methodology we've built for large institutions that we've been doing for years. We build customized stress-testing and risk models, but it also has a lot of new components geared towards this new age of transparency. It satisfies DOL fiduciary rule requirements in that it creates clear, simple, visual reports to document the best interest of the investor in a rollover transaction or in any kind of transaction really. It also uses some of the benchmarking data that we've curated.

We've also used some technology breakthroughs to gather a database of advisory fees based on the Form ADV that advisors file with the SEC. There is something called Part 2 to that Form ADV where there is a lot of textural information. Again, that disclosure is not as good as it should be but we've used some advanced technology to extract the necessary information out of it to help financial institutions and advisors measure the reasonableness of their fees, benchmark, and so on. So beyond documenting client's best interest, the defending reasonable fees are a big aspect of the IRAFiduciaryOptimizer.

The third important thing we are doing is building a solution that is modular and integrated with other types of solutions. That's also a challenge in the industry right now. Technology is developing very quickly but what’s needed are solutions that are modular and open based around API. We built IRAFiduciaryOptimizer with that in mind, and we are working with some large organizations right now to actually embed it in a customized manner into their workflow. Pretty much you can think of these different applications like pieces of a puzzle that you can just put together. The puzzle is in gathering information and data in different ways depending on how you want to put it together – if that makes sense.

RESOURCES FOR THE FIDUCIARY ADVISOR

SWIFT:  It does make sense. I know you are always writing and speaking in the industry and I'm fascinated to know your thoughts on this Daniel. Don't you have some webinars and videos that would be helpful for our listeners? Could you talk a little bit about resources that you offer?

SATCHKOV:  Yes, on our website we have a ton of videos. It's www.Rixtrema.com. We are actually preparing a number of webinars, unfortunately I don't have dates for you today but we hope to release dates soon.

One webinar I’d like to spotlight: We are preparing a webinar with a partnership with a company called Larkspur Data. This is a very important piece of the IRAFiduciaryOptimizer DOL software solution. Larkspur Data has been around for a longtime and they run over a million retirement plans, pretty much every plan in the US. They have fee data and other various data sets that advisors can use when they run reports for investors. Quite frequently investors cannot really get the adequate disclosure from their planned sponsor about the fees that they pay. Now under the DOL fiduciary rule they are supposed to get it. The plan sponsor has that obligation but frequently the disclosure doesn't come.

The DOL recently released an FAQ where they explicitly said if advisors have proven they were trying to get this data and couldn't, then they can use the other types of data from benchmarking or data curated from reporting. So the Larkspur database is a huge value added to our system where advisors, let's say the prospect comes to them from a retirement plan XYZ, if they don't have the fee data through Larkspur already, they can just pull that into our application with just a couple of clicks. So we are going to be doing a webinar on that right after Thanksgiving.

SWIFT: As always Daniel I really appreciate your comments today. Listeners, you can learn more about Daniel and the good work they are doing at RiXtrema at www.RiXtrema.com. Thanks again and have a great day.

SATCHKOV: Thanks for having me, as always, Marie.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Technology, Business Growth and DOL: New Insights from Industry Insightfuls


These three subject matter experts spent some time conversing with me about the challenges and opportunities they see in the financial services profession. It is a real honor to speak with tenured professionals such as Brian Stimpfl, Mark Klein and financial advisor Tony D’Amico, who impressed me with his passion, perspective and purpose. Please take the time to listen to these three audio interviews – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

In this trilogy:
Industry veteran Brian Stimpfl (www.Advisor.Scottrade.com) talks about the digitalization of financial services and what advisors should be thinking about now.

Recovering ERISA attorney Mark Klein (www.TheAdvisorLab.com) tells us how to use the new DOL fiduciary rule to win new business.
Download link | Stream online

Independent financial advisor Tony D’Amico (www.TheFidatoGroup.com) shares how he built his “elite advisory firm” from scratch and what’s next on his roadmap.

Take a few minutes and listen now!

As seen in NAPFA Advisor magazine
September 2016 print edition
 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Three great new audio interviews you won’t want to miss on the Best Practices blog

If you are serious about building a great financial services firm in today’s fast-paced digital environment, listening to these informative conversations can help. I am always looking for the best and brightest people in the profession to share their insights and advice. These three conversations are sure to spark an idea or two.

In this trilogy:

Fintech veteran Rich Cancro (www.Vanare.com) talks about the digital advice revolution and how financial firms can stay relevant, attract new business and become more profitable. Download link | Stream online

Marketing and branding expert Sean Farrow (www.HorizonInvestments.com) tells us how to think about branding and why it is more important than ever for financial advisors to have a good marketing / brand strategy. Download link | Stream online

Software innovator William Meyer (www.IncomeSolver.com) shares how advisors can help their clients get and keep more retirement income through an optimized claiming and withdrawal strategy. Download link | Stream online

Take a few minutes and listen now!

As seen in NAPFA Advisor magazine
June 2016 print edition



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Here’s Why Fiduciary Advisors Should be Cheering the Robbins / Mallouk Announcement

Brooke Southall at RIABiz.com asked me to send him some comments on the “Mallouk mega deal” a couple weeks ago. Brooke’s article published the next day – you can read it here: Tiger By the Tail: What to Make of Peter Mallouk's Deal with Tony Robbins and Where the Unlikely Pairing Might Go from Here.

Here are my comments in their entirety:

I have to admit that at first I scratched my head when I read that Tony Robbins had joined Creative Planning's board of directors and assumed the role of Chief of Investor Psychology at the firm. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that of course Robbins could leverage his Six Human Needs principles to help advisors do a better job working with their clients.

One of the biggest complaints clients have is they do not feel their financial advisors really listen to or care about them. So any advisor who is fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of Robbin’s training and advice will surely be in a better position to not only attract new clients but to retain the ones they have and, more importantly, move clients from being simply content to being totally enthralled by their client experience.

It was also great to see Peter Mallouk’s post on LinkedIn about the firm’s decision to as of April 1st 2016 start giving 100% of the profits derived from its private client insurance practice, which includes all term and permanent life insurance, disability insurance and long term care insurance, to charity. He acknowledged “the perception and reality of conflict” that has until now existed and said that the firm felt so strongly about removing it that 100% of the profits going will now be going to charities. 

While some in the financial advisory world will throw darts at this partnership (after all, haters will always hate), it is hard to argue with the star power in this constellation.
A quick look at the Creative Planning Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/creativeplanninginc/) reveals a stunning array of recent media attention – Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Street, Bloomberg, and more. Robbins and Mallouk must have had a blast on their New York Media Tour in early April. And you can’t put a price tag on the 13-minute video in which Robbins and Mallouk talk about the Four Deadly Horsemen (https://vimeo.com/160298589) that investors must avoid – that video clip alone is priceless.
The icing on the cake is that Robbin’s new edition of his New York Times best selling book, Money: Master the Game, which was just released in paperback form, features fresh insights from Mallouk. I doubt that it’s a coincidence that the paperback was timed to come out in tandem with the Creative Planning announcement – and it was total synchronicity that the DOL finally signed into law the new fiduciary rule at approximately the same time as the Robbins / Mallouk fiduciary PR blitz.
But here’s the bottom line: The Robbins / Mallouk announcement and public awareness campaign provides benefits for the entire fiduciary advisor community.
While the business benefits for Robbins, Mallouk and Gupta are clearly evident, they appear to be doing it for the right reasons – and all true fiduciaries should be cheering from the sidelines. Better yet, fiduciary advisors everywhere should see this as a great wave to ride.

My advice: Put some extra energy in now to ramp up your consumer education efforts. Amplify your own voice and applaud your fiduciary peers while working to enhance your own unique value proposition.

April is Financial Literacy month and with all the DOL news coverage it’s the perfect time to join the fiduciary chorus.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Insights from Financial Services Consultants You Won't Want to Miss

These three subject matter experts shared some pretty awesome insights and observations with me last month. They all talk about where they see challenges and opportunities within the financial services profession.

Stop what you're doing now and listen to one or more of these audio clips. You'll be glad you did.

Khalid Usmani on marketing your financial advisory services in a noisy digital world Download link | Stream online

Vikas Oswal on managing client emotions and expectations in turbulent investment times Download link | Stream online

Neal Quon
on selecting the right technology and creating a solid spending plan for your financial services firm
Download link | Stream online

As seen in NAPFA Advisor magazine
April 2016 print edition



Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Digitization of Financial Planning - March 1 Webinar with Neal Quon and Abby Schneiderman

Join Everplans co-founder Abby Schneiderman on March 1, 2016 at 4PM EDT as she explores the "digitalization" of financial planning with Neal Quon co-Founder of QuonWarrene. 


This brief and informative discussion will focus on the digitalization of planning and how Everplans can position you to take full advantage of the new paradigm. Abby will demonstrate the ins and outs of Everplans Professional and provide creative ways financial professionals can incorporate the Everplans platform into client relationships.

This live webinar is a perfect opportunity to ask questions and get answers from fintech expert Neal Quon. You'll also get to see a demo of the Everplans Professional platform and get a sneak preview of upcoming features and benefits.

Date:  March 1, 2016 
Time: 4:00 PM EDT 
  • Learn how to bridge the generational gap in planning using technology
  • Learn how to expand your role as a financial pro through comprehensive planning
  • Learn how to manage your clients' planning from a new collaborative perspective
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how Everplans can help you enhance your practiceRegister today! 

Can't attend the live webinar on March 1? 

  • Watch www.Everplans.com/professional for a link to the recording. Review the other ideas and blog posts while there -- and request a demo if this digital end-of-life planning tool and secure cloud-based platform looks good to you.
  • Watch this Bloomberg News video in which Abby shares insights with the general public about the need to plan now for the digital afterlife.  
Click to watch video now