Michael Kitces, Nerd Who Does It All: The 2014 IA 25 Profile

Staying ahead of the curve is key to Kitces’ success

Michael Kitces is staying busy to stay ahead of the curve. Michael Kitces is staying busy to stay ahead of the curve.

One has to wonder how Michael Kitces does it: the advisor, blogger, Twitterphile, industry speaker and NextGen founder is constantly evolving and taking on new challenges not only so that he stays ahead of the curve, but so that his peers can do so as well.

“It’s just the way I am—I’m hard-wired to look a couple of years down the road,” Kitces told IA in an interview.

Indeed, helping advisors “stay ahead” is really the catalyst for Kitces reviving his popular Nerd’s Eye View blog, available via Kitces.com, about three years ago. After launching the blog in 2008, Kitces admitted that for a while there was “no readership and no momentum,” but in the fall of 2010, “I reinvented myself and got active on social media and have been running the blog ever since.”

Since then, he said, his blog, website and Twitter following has experienced “incredible growth.” Kitces.com gets 50,000 unique visits per month, and he has more than 13,000 Twitter followers.

Kitces also likes to help advisors stay ahead of trends by speaking at industry events—he spoke at a whopping 70 or more conferences in 2013 and said his calendar for this year is filling up “rapidly.”

One recent trend that Kitces alerted advisors to via his blog is what he calls “the crisis of differentiation.” Said Kitces to IA: “It wasn’t all that long ago that comprehensive financial planning made you unique; that’s not true anymore.” Just being a “comprehensive financial advisor is not enough,” he said, and advisors must find out what differentiates them and build toward a niche.

Just being a holder of the CFP credential isn’t enough anymore either, he said. Getting your CFP is “a starting point; you have to specialize now after you get your CFP”—what he calls the “post-CFP” education—to truly demonstrate expertise and differentiate.

Advisors, Kitces said, are “slowly getting” the fact that they have to define their uniqueness “because of more competition and slow growth rates.”

On his blog, Kitces wrote that there’s a growing range of post-CFP educational programs available, albeit an advisor must navigate the “’alphabet soup’ of available programs.” However, he wrote, “from designations designed to deepen subject matter expertise, to those built outright to support a stand-alone niche unto itself, there are a large number of choices available to those who have completed CFP certification and are now asking: ‘What’s next?’”

A founder of NextGen, Kitces will officially be “kicked out” of NextGen this year when he turns 37. “I pounded the table saying we should have an age limit,” he recalled. NextGen continues to “survive and grow” in large part because “we forced the leadership to be young and to rotate.”

But Kitces isn’t leaving the younger advisors—or clients—behind. In early April, he launched with Alan Moore the XY Planning Network, a platform dedicated to helping young planners build a fee-only business targeting Gen X and Gen Y clients.

Members of the XY Planning Network, which Kitces said now includes 20 founding members, will offer fee-only financial planning services on an “affordable” monthly retainer, and may choose to offer investment management services but without what Kitces calls “cumbersome asset minimums.”

Members, who “must offer monthly retainers and be willing to work with clients virtually,” should be “live and active” on the network by June 1, he said.

Most in the Gen X and Gen Y generation “certainly aren’t going to meet someone’s asset management minimums; they live on cash flow and live from month to month, so we’re trying to meet people where they are,” Kitces said.

He added that he’s “always found that most financial advisors work with clients within 10 years of their own age,” who are within their “interest group.”

“The monthly model can open the door for a viable business providing a continuous, ongoing financial planning relationship, in a manner similar to the AUM model but without the asset minimums that are simply inaccessible to the majority of Gen X and Y consumers,” Kitces said.

The XY Planning Network will also provide members with a community based “brain trust” to learn from other members’ experiences.

Private forums containing video chat and text messaging systems, along with virtual and live events, will provide a community for these young professionals who want to serve their peers. 

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