One of the more unique players in the transition-to-fee field is Focus Point Solutions, a firm run by Brent Hicks in Portland, Oregon. Founded in 1991 to provide fee-based financial planning to retail clients, the firm has turned much of its attention toward helping other firms transition to fees. While it would be hard to live up to the firm's Web site slogan ("Are you ready to build an OUTRAGEOUSLY efficient and rewarding fee-based business?" the site shouts), the firm does provide a full-service approach to the transition process. Advisors are given step-by-step coaching through the move, and once they get there, Focus Point provides them with what Hicks calls a "turnkey virtual office system." That includes software, back-office systems, research, and, most significantly, asset management. Advisors pay for the entire package through a 30- to 35-basis-point asset management fee; advisors who want transition assistance without ongoing money management are not accepted into the program.
Hicks emphasizes that the money management services are private-labeled so that the client never sees the Focus Point name; in addition, advisors can accept or refuse Focus Point's money management recommendations. "The advisor has the investment discretion, and they make the determination as to whether or not they want to execute" any of the strategies the firm recommends, he says. Hicks says Focus Point has more than 30 advisors on board so far.