Formulas for success
The top CPA financial planners use a range of strategies to keep their practices strong
BY DANIEL HOOD
Let’s be cLear: There is no formula for success.
No single approach will guarantee that financial planners
and their clients achieve their goals, and no magical strategy
will solve all the issues they face.
Instead, there are countless formulas, each tailored to
the individual issue at hand, whether it’s saving for college,
properly balancing a portfolio, handling volatility in regulation and the markets, or keeping clients sane and safe as they
pursue their goals, while building a strong, successful and,
perhaps most important, flexible practice.
as part of our annual ranking of the top Firms by aUM,
we asked these Wealth Magnets — by definition, some of
the most successful cPa financial planners in the field — to
identify the top issues they’re currently facing, and then to
share the formulas they’re applying to solve them.
clients often think they know the formula for success: whatever the market did yesterday.
“every time the market rebounds, clients tend to want
market-like returns, without remembering what investment
strategies used during downturns did for their long-term
performance,” noted Theresa stuteville, director of compliance at Dallas-based Howard Financial services.
Many of our Wealth Magnets named keeping clients calm
in the face of a weak economy and market volatility, and
making sure they stick to their long-term financial plan, as
their top issue. It’s a problem made worse by the ubiquity
and relentlessly short-term focus of the financial media.
to keep clients confident and on-track, Dubuque, Iowa-based Honkamp Krueger Financial services redirects the
conversation. “We steer the agenda and content of client
review meetings to long-term planning and goal-monitor-ing discussions and scenario-planning, and away from investment performance, market movements and short-term
economic concerns,” said chief executive John Darrah.
Finding new ways to educate clients is critical at savant
capital Management, in rockford, Ill., according to partner
richard bennett: “We continue to communicate with our
clients in a proactive manner via new distribution channels,
such as Webex and e-mail. We also try to communicate our
investment decisions and analysis more completely so the
clients are comfortable.”
RISKS AND REGULATIONS
The Wealth Magnets cited two areas of uncertainty as major
issues: the ever-changing regulatory landscape, and volatile
markets. Many are keeping a close eye on legislative developments and tax and estate law changes, seeking updates
from professional associations, as well as education and research providers. and some have begun developing proactive strategies to manage the effects of regulatory change.
Noting major uncertainty surrounding the eventual ef-
fects of the recent health care legislation, Lars Landrie, a
partner at Moss adams Wealth advisors in seattle, said,
“What we are doing is to break out health-care costs as a
separate goal expense into retirement, and increasing this
cost much higher than normal inflation, so that we can ac-
count for it in a more reasonable way.”
Share of AUM
Percentage of total $65 billion
managed by the Wealth Magnets
stays on top of the latest compliance requirements,” said
director of business development Kevin tichnell. “The presi-
dent and ccO meet regularly, and we also include her in all
of our regular staff meetings so she remains an integral part
of our daily professional activities.”
Market volatility has prompted many planners to make
changes in portfolio structure and investment strategy —
with almost all taking their own individual approach — but
it has also led many of the Wealth Magnets to expand their
scenario-building capabilities, so they can help clients pre-
pare for what the future may bring. The approach at GHP
Investment advisors in Denver, for instance, is to “create
more scenarios and show clients alternative paths to re-
tirement and investing,” according to financial planning
manager carin Wagner.
and at Dallas-based beaird Harris Wealth Management,
“We use our WealthGuide Planning Process to stress-test
their portfolio and proactively prepare a strategy for dealing
with poor market returns,” said president Pat beaird.
While keeping clients in line and dealing with regulatory and
market changes are perpetual issues for the Wealth Magnets,
a relatively new issue emerged from this year’s survey: the
search for talent.
FIND YOUR FORMULA
success may come in many forms, and from many formulas,
but for the Wealth Magnets, it has definitely come. almost
all reported increases in assets under management, and are
busy sharpening their individual formulas to ensure their
“I think the future for cPa financial planners is extraordi-
narily bright,” said steven Klane, president of Klane Wealth
Management, in st. Paul, Minn. “Most clients are served by
stock and mutual fund pickers. a cPa financial planner who
can offer investment, retirement, income tax and estate tax
advice provides substantially more value than most financial
planners. When you add the fiduciary relationship advan-
tage, cPa planners will continue to experience higher rates
of growth than non-cPa planners.”
His firm places a strong focus on continuing education to
make sure clients can rely on them for “outstanding” advice,
he said, adding, “trust is earned by providing consistent,
practical solutions for clients’ issues and problems.”
If there were a single formula for success, that just might
be it. at