Time for a Transition (VIII): How to Grab a Niche Market

How one RIA team in Sacramento, Calif., built its business by targeting employees of telecommunications and utility companies.

Change is in the air.

In prior articles, I discussed changing affiliations (is now the time to go independent or find a new broker/dealer?) and growth through a merger or acquisition (is it time to buy or sell part of your practice?).

Now is also a great time to consider ways to expand your existing practice. One way to expand your existing practice is to target a market, which is what financial advisor Sammie Gatti did in Dallas by going after women working for Texas Instruments.

Here's another great example of how fellow advisors are gaining market share and thriving in challenging times.

MARKETING TO UTILITY EMPLOYEES

Scott Hanson and Pat McClain, co-founders of Hanson McClain Advisors, an RIA firm headquartered in Sacramento, Calif., have built their business by targeting employees of telecommunications and utilities companies.

The Hanson McClain approach is to develop relationships with employees and help them make decisions about their retirement plan investments and other personal financial affairs throughout the pre-retirement years.

While there may be incidental opportunities to help clients with product purchases along the way (e.g., insurance policies, mutual funds for IRA accounts, etc.), most of their pre-retirement counsel is provided at no cost to the employee.

They use a number of turnkey tools, such as their two-part IPRO "Independent Personal Retirement Overview" form, to collect information and efficiently deliver personalized advice.

This strategy has really paid off for them.

As a result of building this pre-retirement relationship, it's a natural transition for these employees to invest their rollover money - usually a significant amount - with Hanson McClain once they retire. Their marketing approach has been so successful that the two advisors founded the Hanson McClain Retirement Network to systematically bring their expertise and techniques to other advisors who join their network.

Sales through Hanson McClain, a registered broker/dealer (member FINRA/SIPC), is approximately $8 million a year, with another $5 million in revenue coming from the Hanson McClain Retirement Network.

Hanson McClain Advisors currently assists in the advisement of $1 billion for more than 2,500 households. They expect a huge inflow of clients as the recession subsides and are on track to bring in another $100 million this year.

"We've been in business since 1993 and chart all our numbers," says co-CEO Pat McClain, CPF, who along with partner Scott Hanson, CFP, has built the firm from the ground up.

"I can tell you what happened after the last recession in 2002," McClain explains. "In terms of new assets coming in, we did take a hit in 2003, but we've been trending upwards ever since. The end of 2008 and first part of 2009 were down, but we're back on track. We continue to do what we've always done, building relationships and being there when clients need us."

"For some time now, we have been placing full page ads in our local news paper, "The Sacramento Bee," adds Scott Hanson. "We are so sure that the market is ready for our message - and is seriously looking for professional help - that we doubled our ad spending in October 2009."

Hanson and McClain are always tweaking their plans and thinking of new ways to serve the community. In December 2009, they opened a new division, Hanson McClain Financial Services, that caters to clients with between $50,000 and $250,000 (their RIA Hanson McClain Advisors has a $250,000 minimum).

Clients who come through the new division will benefit from the strength of the Hanson McClain systems, but they won't receive the same amount of attention and comprehensive planning that clients in the larger firm receive.

They've housed the new entity in a separate location and have staffed it with an advisor and service person who do not work with existing Hanson McClain clients. Most of the prospective clients coming to the smaller firm are a result of the weekly radio show that Hanson and McClain have been hosting for over 14 years.

As innovators and pioneers, Hanson and McClain have long been revered by their peers in the industry. "Investment Advisor" magazine, as sister publication of "Research" magazine, featured them on the cover of the January 2010 issue. If their story intrigues you, read more about them here.

Hanson and McClain urge advisors who are sitting on the sidelines to get out there and market like crazy. "Now is the time to see and be seen," Hansson says. "Make your presence known in the right circles and good things will come."

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Marie Swift is president and CEO of Impact Communications, Inc. Read her "Best Practices in the Financial Services" blog at www.marie-swift.blogspot.com. Follow @marieswift on www.Twitter.com.

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