Many advisors these days are focused on building and growing their businesses by going one stop beyond doing a better job of what they’ve always done. Many producers I know not only are constantly and consistently working on what they do well and trying to improve it, but they are also evaluating potential new facets of the business that may make sense for them and their clients. One such area of expansion for many advisors today is the wealth management area.
In recent interviews with Barbara Pietrangelo, CFP, CLU, ChFC, RFC, CLTC, LUTCF, of Prudential Financial in Ada, Mich. (shown at right), and Randy L. Scritchfield, CFP, LUTCF, president of the Montgomery Financial Group, Inc., in Damascus, Md., I explored wealth management and the opportunities for advisors. These two experienced advisors were kind enough to share their thoughts regarding their experiences with their own firms as well as what they see happening on a broader basis throughout wealth management.
Entering wealth management
I opened the conversation by asking how each of them entered the wealth management business. “My business is a financial planning model,” Pietrangelo said, “so we look at all aspects of the client's situation to see how all the pieces fit together. Many clients don't have an investment background or know how to turn assets into income. As clients are moving closer to retirement, wealth management is a critical piece.”
Scritchfield described his approach as an evolution. “Entering wealth management,” he said, “became a natural evolution of ‘growing with my clients.’ As my clients, who are mostly Baby Boomers, grew in their careers or businesses, they built assets that they needed me to help them with. It was just a function of providing my clients with what they needed, as I’ve always tried to do.”
As the advisor takes on a role that includes wealth management, credibility has to be crucial. I asked these two how they built the credibility that enabled them to expand their business approach. Scritchfield said, “I built credibility in two fundamental ways. One was the use of unique products and asset allocation strategies that withstood the challenge of different markets. And perhaps more importantly, when there were rough markets and bad news, I stayed in touch with my clients. This helped me both reinforce the trust they had already placed in me and helped me in that they started to bring to me both additional assets and referrals.”
For Pietrangelo, the issue of credibility is basic to her business. “Our business is about relationships and trust. Clients tell us their goals, dreams, and concerns. They understand that we are here to help them with the big picture. Wealth management is an important piece of this.”
Importance of designations
For many advisors in many different markets, there are questions regarding the importance of specific designations and courses of study. I asked about designations and education programs in the wealth management arena. “Professional designations are very important,” Pietrangelo told me. “I currently have six designations, and am working on a seventh. My CFP, CLU, and ChFC designations have all added to my credibility. It is also important to attend seminars and study groups to stay on top of this ever-changing business.”
For Scritchfield, the CFP designation was important as well. “Obtaining my CFP certification has been very helpful to me, and was especially so in the mid-1980s, giving me both the knowledge and confidence to better serve my clients.”
Set yourself apart
Good advisors tend to go where the money is, and that accounts for the high level of competition in the wealth management area. I asked these two advisors how, in light of the intense competition, they set themselves apart.
“We provide a personal touch,” Scritchfield said. “We are willing to spend more time with clients than some other advisors, often without regard to the account size.”
For Pietrangelo, service is the key to competing. “We feel we set ourselves apart by providing excellent service to our clients,” she said. “We meet regularly with clients so we can better understand their changing needs. We hold educational events for our clients. I truly believe it's the little details that make a difference to clients.”
Working with a team
Many wealthy clients tend to have a “team” of advisors – like attorneys, accountants, etc. – to direct them, and I was curious about how these top-notch wealth managers handle that situation. Do they feel it’s important to be the manager or director of that team? And if so, how do they position themselves to take on that role?
Pietrangelo told me, “Often we are the catalyst for meeting with the other advisors. You have to earn the ‘lead’ position when dealing with other advisors. Clients and advisors know we are here to work as a team and to work for the client's greatest good.”
Scritchfield sees it a little bit differently. “It is not necessarily ‘mandatory’ that I direct the team, but it’s mandatory that someone does. I convey that principle to my clients, which often, of course, leads to me becoming the ‘lead dog.’”
New thread: Key Challenges for Wealth Managers
Next page: Challenges and opportunities for advisors
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