March 12, 2002

Finance with Finesse

A San Francisco financial education company will p

If you're searching for a cost-effective way to get your name out in front of prospective new clients, you might want to look into a San Francisco-based firm called Financial Finesse (www.financialfinesse.com). How cost-effective? Actually, it's free. How and how much you bill the clients you land through Financial Finesse, should you form a relationship via a listing in the Financial Finesse Planner Network or through a company-sponsored workshop, is your own business. The company has no interest or say in the matter--advisors aren't their bread and butter.

Privately owned with 30 full-time employees, Financial Finesse, a self-defined "financial education company," is the brainchild of founder and CEO Liz Davidson. Before launching the company in 1999, Davidson had founded and managed Davidson Andrade, an investment company with over $35 million under management. Disillusionment set in when she found her clients, while capable of doling out huge sums of money, woefully uneducated regarding financial matters. She began conducting education seminars (the first called Financial Finesse) charging $15 a head, delving into the "whole dynamics of planning, not just investments." She eschewed the approach to information that is designed to sell financial services and products in favor of one that dispenses practical, unbiased knowledge and resources to help people become financially secure and independent. Toward this end, the company maintains Web sites for everything from a searchable online and wireless database and a publishing service to a radio program, a wireless financial channel, and nationwide seminars.

Financial Finesse found its niche within companies--presently 300 from the Fortune 4,000--where for a fee they offer their multi-media educational workshops and online services to company employees. Here's where you come in. Financial advisors aren't on staff at Financial Finesse, though Jennifer Hanson, Financial Finesse's director of Financial Planning, is a former CFP-toting advisor. Rather, the company leverages the skills of qualified advisors throughout the country.

Apart from the opportunity for a free advisor listing with Financial Finesse (170 are currently registered nationwide), advisors are needed to conduct the in-company workshops. As Hanson explains, all client-company employees are required to attend Financial Finesse workshops; 60% will then sign up for a private (and free) consultation from an advisor; and about 25% of that group will request further services from the advisor, for which they will pay.

Financial Finesse won't allow just anyone who claims to be a financial advisor to lead a workshop. First, the advisor must pass muster for inclusion in the advisor listing. Subsequent selection is based not so much upon background checks and industry certifications as it is intensive interviews and a live audition conducted by Financial Finesse's executive team, which Hanson leads. The overall acceptance rate is about 10%. Prospective planners can be commission- and/or fee-based, but they must have ten years working experience. Most (90%) but not all have a CFP certification.

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