From the July 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

The wealth management conundrum

Comprehensive wealth management -- an industry buzzphrase that's nearly impossible to define. As more boomers retire, more broker/dealers are looking to offer packaged wealth management solutions to reps, with a goal of attracting and retaining high-net-worth clients. But with an infinite number of income streams and investment choices, wealth management means different things to different people. It's a broad topic, to say the least. Can wealth management even be effectively packaged? Or, are broker/dealers simply repackaging their existing offerings?

We turned to three top advisors for help. All three currently use their firm's wealth management platforms to reach high-net-worth clients. We asked how it's affected their business, whether their clients are better served and what role their broker/dealers play in the process. Their answers might surprise you.

Advisor: Bernard Wolfe
Firm: Bernard R. Wolfe & Associates
Broker/dealer: NFP Securities Corporation

"NFP has platforms that have allowed me to step up to the big leagues."

Bernie Wolfe certainly knows of what he speaks. He came to the financial advisor business after five years as goaltender for the Washington Capitals. Now, with 30 years in the business and $350 million in assets under management, he's found the broker/dealer partner that fits his winning ways.

"I probably would not have this ability if I was by myself," he says. "NFP introduced good opportunities that my clients would have difficulty finding elsewhere."

NFP's relationships with separately managed account provider AssetMark, as well as Goldman Sachs, Wilshire and UBS Global Management, give Wolfe the tools he needs to properly service his clients, some with a net worth as high as $25 million.

"To go to Wilshire, believe it or not, their minimum investments are $1 billion -- that's billion with a 'B.' But through NFP, they've agreed to be strategists for as little as $50,000 -- as long as they never have to deal with our clients. So my clients have proprietary models, in the same way as if they had $10 million or $20 million. But every aspect of the service of the customer falls to me, and that's what I really love. Because what I'm best at is servicing the relationships. That's what's good about the variety NFP offers. Nothing is shoved down our throats."

Advisor: John Ledford
Firm: Ledford Financial
Broker/dealer: Commonwealth Financial Network

Commonwealth is known for its high-end technology, but John Ledford isn't all that impressed.

"The key to Commonwealth, in terms of their wealth management systems, is the personnel," says the president of Orlando, Fla.-based Ledford Financial. "You've got these different platforms all with differing levels of interconnectivity, but more importantly, you've got someone you can connect with on the telephone."

According to Ledford, the broker/dealer has done a great job of illustrating the complex, and sometimes overwhelming, nature of the process through its Wealth Map, a brochure of interconnected parts that details every area of wealth management.

"The reality is most people don't need all those things. But because you're coming at the process holistically, from a marketing standpoint, it gives you talking points that differentiate you from your competition."

Ledford credits Commonwealth with integrating nontraditional products such as private placement real estate development projects and oil and gas investments into their platform in the past several years, which he says are of interest to higher-net-worth crowds.

And the company is great about helping reps foster a team approach with lawyers, CPAs and others, with fee-sharing and licensing programs.

Advisor: Chad Coe
Firm: Coe Financial Group
Broker/dealer: First Allied Securities Inc.

After only two years in the wirehouse world, Chad Coe was ready for a change.

"I had a month when I earned $15,000, and I received a check for only $2,000," he says.

"I didn't get paid my bonus because of a technicality. It was really all about them."

So Coe signed on with First Allied, a relationship that's worked for eight years.

"First Allied has made it so that I can be comprehensive. We can deal with multimillionaires. I just brought on a doctor through the firm's prospecting system with a net worth of $35 million. First Allied now has the tools in-house to help me work with a client of that sophistication level."

The firm's technology "is better than cutting edge. The word I would use is over-the-top" and Coe describes the marketing material as "great."

In addition, the firm offers turnkey wealth management seminars tailored specifically to high-end audiences. Coe developed one presentation for doctors and another for private equity clients. Bullet points include "How to maximize 2001 tax legislation to put away more than $2 million in pension plan assets" and "How to benefit from the Nobel Prize-winning strategy for investment diversification."

"Sophisticated people understand things like that," he says. "They know you're not just to giving them the mutual fund of the day."

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