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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Blowing your own Horn

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Zelda Fitzgerald, speaking of the power of advertising, said she came to believe that “one can learn to play the piano by mail and mud will give you a perfect complexion.” Advertising, public relations, and other selling tools can make believers out of independent financial advisors, too, by delivering on the promise to bring them sundry new clients. But few take advantage of marketing’s willful resolve. In today’s bear market, rationalizations of why many planners don’t self-promote, some of them historically valid, are being rapidly eclipsed by compelling reasons why the time has come that they should.

Misperceptions to the contrary, a lot of marketing techniques can be practiced on a shoestring, including the use of so-called guerrilla tactics. And on the drawing boards of some proactive planners are proposals for cooperatives that would utilize shared resources to promote the virtues of fee advisory services in a manner loud enough to be heard above the din of big-budget wirehouses. Independent advisors, especially long- established ones who embrace the status quo, are not likely to go out of business if they refuse to energetically sell themselves (though some industry watchers predict their impending extinction), but they may end up selling themselves short. Richard Sincere, who runs a Boston-based distribution firm serving the independent RIA, puts it this way: “If you stand on the sidelines, the world won’t fall apart on you, but you’re going to lose in the long run because someone else will be more successful.”

When Al Coles of Financial Design Associates, Inc. in Stinson Beach, California, says of his peers, “nobody is doing anything,” it’s not that he or like-minded planners deem self-promotion superfluous to their practices. Rather, they view it as a vital component of their business plans that is stymied by money and time. What happens with many small advisory firms like his own, Coles admits, is that they “get a little marketing thing together” and begin signing on new clients, only to find themselves so busy servicing these clients that any marketing effort falls by the wayside. “Then we lose some clients and have to get marketing up and going again,” says Coles, adding: “This is insane.”

Sincere agrees. But based on his experiences with RIAs, he doesn’t buy the advisors’ lament about money and time. “Quite frankly, that’s an excuse not to do anything,” he says. He thinks advisors need to take a day out of the week or month to focus on the marketing side of their business. “Turn off the phones and think through it alone or with your staff: What are we going to do to build our business?” The biggest mistake advisors make, he believes, is not formulating a strategic marketing plan. “Instead of rushing in and saying, I’m going to do PR, radio, or whatever, figure out what you’re going to try to accomplish in the first place. Don’t start with tactics; know what image and what message you want to send out; know what you’re strong at and what you’re weak at.”

Unfortunately, says Sincere, advisors often don’t know themselves any better than they know their clients. Advisors haven’t bothered to analyze who are their good, mediocre, and poor clients. “Who adds value? Who do they want to work with for the long term, not just because they’re bringing in a lot of revenue, but because they’re easy to work with and will be there for the business going forward?”

Not for Sale

Advisors don’t dodge self-promotion simply because direct mail and radio and television spots are costly. Rather, it’s usually because they’ve never had to, having relied solely on word of mouth to more than fill their client rosters. Lou Stanasolovich of Legend Financial Advisors in Pittsburgh cautions advisors who totally eschew self-promotion in favor of referrals, saying that “as time goes on, it’s nice to have referrals, but the reality is that people refer clients like themselves, and that may not always work out for you.” Nonetheless, referrals, from both other planners and clients, have long been independent planning firms’ best new-client resource. As Steve Moeller, Investment Advisor’s marketing columnist and president of American Business Visions in Tustin, California, contends: “Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing there is on the planet.”

No one would agree more than Lisette Smith of Smith Rapacz Comprehensive Financial Planning in Boston. But, as she discovered, referrals aren’t always forever. Smith reports that already the volume of professional referrals is down from when she and a partner launched their practice in June 2000. She reasons that some planners who had raised their minimums during the height of the financial boom are now willing to work with clients whom they had formerly referred out to firms such as her own.

Utilizing referrals doesn’t necessarily mean running a passive business, however, especially if the referrals are cultivated more than counted on.

“When people say they don’t do anything and rely on referrals, that’s never a 100% true statement,” says planner Mike Knesh of Hauppauge, New York. Steve Kanaly of Kanaly Trust Company, Houston, Texas, and newly elected head of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, reports that a general rule of thumb in regard to NAPFA members who successfully serve wealthy clients is that these advisors receive about one referral per client per year.

Yes, referrals can require work, something that even presently referral-rich advisors should take more to heart, Kanaly believes. “It’s a mindset to ask for business, and it’s something that some of us have never had to think about before.”

Moeller agrees, maintaining that advisors, buried as they are in service work, aren’t even looking at the referral issue correctly to begin with. “It’s not about referrals,” he says. “It’s about being referable.” The epiphany comes when an advisor realizes that clients are referring friends not to help the advisor, but to help the friends. “You need to be the type of advisor that inspires clients to think their friends will benefit more than you, and to tell these friends they’re missing out if they’re not working with you,” Moeller argues. “It’s an important mental shift, and a lot harder, but effortless when you get there.”

For some planners, the present bear market has actually increased their referral business. Bernie Kiely of Kiely Capital Management, Inc. in Morristown, New Jersey, reports that he is receiving a lot of calls from victims of corporate downsizing in the Garden State who are now in search of financial advice. “My name is at the top of their list because they have heard of me,” he explains. Scott Leonard of Leonard Capital Management, El Segundo, California, a strict practitioner of the art of asset allocation, says that in the past year or so his planning approach has made “true believers” of his existing clients. At the end of S&P’s greatest run in history, his clients’ hotshot, do-it-yourself friends were suddenly looking for someone to hold their hands.

As an aside, Leonard posits the notion that had the market not swung south, he might even have lost clients, never mind landed new ones. As an asset allocator, clients might have begun to wonder why they were paying him to underperform the market. “When large-cap growth stocks were doing really well, especially relative to value or small-cap or international stocks, clients were starting to say, ‘I realize diversification makes sense and I understand why we’re doing it, but come on! Why am I only getting 15% when the

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
With direct mail you pay for more than what you get, right? Not according to Response Mail Express, a division of Direct Mail Express in Tampa, Florida. RME sells a financial seminar package designed with a financial planner’s prospects (e.g., senior citizens, pre-retirees, and potential investors) and “behavior” in mind. The company claims that over 2,000 financial planners have successfully used RME’s program nationwide, enjoying higher-than-average results.

RME sees its product as an antidote to the common problem advisors have of too few leads or prospects, an over-dependence on referrals, and weak attempts to market themselves. The company points out as well that the majority of advisors design a direct mail piece they think will work, not one pre-tested to elicit “the proper emotional response.”

According to RME’s strategic marketing director, John McCloskey, the turnkey program, which is now in its eighth year, was adopted from a highly successful automobile program, and then applied to financial advisors.

A 5,000-piece invitation mailing will typically generate 120 to 250 qualified responses, or in this case reservations for a social dinner event at an upscale restaurant of the advisor’s choosing (RME research shows, by the way, that Tuesday and Thursday evenings are the best nights to hold these dinners.). “Our expertise is driving large amounts of qualified attendance to your seminars,” explains McCloskey. “We don’t get involved in what you say or do; that’s up to you.”

RME notes that it handles 95% of the logistics and other work involved in the mailings. The program includes a mailing list created using advisor criteria concerning prospect age, income, and Zip code. Mailings are said usually to generate between a 2.5% to 5% response and cost “as low as” $30 to $35 per lead. By comparison, McCloskey says, the per-lead cost of newspaper ads is about $240.

A typical RME promotion runs $0.65 per invitation based on an average mailing of 5,000, for a total cost of $3,250. Factoring in seminar meals (a national average of $10-$20 per attendee), the advisor will spend between $5,000 and $6,000 on this option.

Actual conversions from prospects to clients are a “numbers game,” says McCloskey. A typical advisor (not using RME) will lure 30 seminar attendees; a normal 30% conversion rate will result in 10 actual appointments, with three being the average to sign on as new clients. Since the average RME seminar will draw 150 seminar attendees, the advisor has a good chance of signing on 45 new clients, McCloskey reasons.

Response Mail Express can be reached at 800-795-2773; or on the Web at

Another marketing product worth listening to and looking at (literally) is iMediaPro, a self-described “multimedia business card” that evolved from the Audio Business Card introduced 14 years ago. ImediaPro (the “I” stands for the power of one) is designed with a financial advisor’s “demanding, computer-savvy” (and high-net-worth) clientele in mind. Delivered in the form of a CD and/or DVD in conjunction with a new interactive Web site, the product, released in March, was created by Stephen W. Anderson’s company, Cold Call Cowboy Productions, based in Palm Desert, California. As Anderson explains it, with audio, video, animation, text, graphics, and images, the advisor can impact prospects with multimedia features that otherwise would not be available to them. Calls regarding cost were not returned by press time.

For more information on the iMediaPro Personal Marketing System call 800-226-9269, or visit the Web site at –Cort Smith

market’s getting 32% and my neighbor at the cocktail party says he’s getting 50%?’” During the peak of the market boom, Leonard was getting few referrals at all. Now recent retirees, reeling from the battering their portfolios have endured and now forced to consider going back to work, are knocking on his door and seeking his help.

Not My Thing

Virtues of referrals notwithstanding, some planners actually have a problem with them in certain circumstances, and for reasons having to do more with personality types than logistics. For example, Leonard doesn’t have a problem getting referrals, but he does have a problem asking for them. “I don’t want my client afraid to take my phone call because I’m going to end the phone conversation with, ‘Who can you refer me to today?’” he says. “I’m soft on the sales side.”

Being strong on the sales side, oddly enough, though it may aid in garnering referrals, can be an impediment to a planner’s self-promotion efforts (or an aid in ignoring them), especially when sales is a cornerstone of a planner’s experience and skills. Like many advisors, Financial Design Associates’ Al Coles came to independent financial planning from a sales environment (he was trained at Merrill Lynch). As a fledgling advisor he knew he was “pretty good at sales but didn’t have a clue about marketing,” which meant he could sell to clients if he could find the right ones to listen to him. “We moved from sales to offering advice, and in doing so we had to increase our competence and get more degrees. And we did, and got better,” he explains. “But now we have to move from a sales mentality of getting clients to a marketing mentality–and there’s a lot more to it than I thought.” Books on marketing would point him in the right direction without telling him exactly how to get there. “Where’s the infrastructure? Where are the tools? Who can I get in to do this with?” he’d ask.

Then there’s the matter of aptitude. Most planners come to the profession lacking marketing skills. Bernie Kiely is quick to admit that his background as a CPA was of little help in finding new clients. “CPAs don’t have any self-promotional flair at all,” he says, adding that in terms of building an accounting firm, it didn’t much matter: “You start an accounting business and one client tells another.” But as an advisor, it matters greatly, he says.

Excuses, Excuses

Prevailing wisdom has it that with the present lackluster economy and an enemy at the gate in the form of media-armed wirehouses, there’s never been a better time for independent planners to strike with a marketing plan–as individuals or en masse. But as we’ve seen, planners have not been especially proactive in this regard, treating marketing as an afterthought and giving scant thought to branding. Mark Hurley and June Slowik, who spearheaded the controversial 1999 and 2000 Undiscovered Managers research reports on the future of the financial advisory business, attribute this blas? attitude to “a benign operating environment [that] has lulled industry members into a false sense of security and harmony.” A 1999 report on RIAs by Cerulli Associates in Boston states that financial advisors typically do not use direct mail campaigns and spend little on marketing collateral, with the exception of very large practices ($300 million-plus in assets under management). Cerulli adds that advisors who do have marketing materials (which Cerulli says tend to be “very brief and non-inclusive”) generally use them simply to inform referrals or potential clients of their qualifications.

There’s an old proverb that says a good scare is worth more than good advice. To those who would listen, Hurley and Slowik warn that those advisory businesses that continue to focus solely on improving the quality of their advice instead of capturing new clients “will likely no longer exist.” But if a planner can’t, for whatever reason, rely on referrals and lacks the ability, financial and otherwise, to do a professional marketing job, how will he spread his own good word and avoid crippling his career or letting it fall into oblivion?

Going Guerrilla

Selling oneself doesn’t have to be expensive, Sincere maintains, if the advisor is willing to spend some time engaging in what he calls guerrilla or grassroots tactics. It doesn’t cost thousands to support your local community, or attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, or create some upscale direct mail letters. “Hire a freelance writer to write your letters for you at $50 per hour,” he says, “and suddenly you’re in business for less than $600.” Sincere is also big on barter. “Go to the local printer and trade your financial planning expertise for his services in the form of letter printing and brochures. Look for people to have strategic alliances with, and make a deal so both of you win.” Web sites can also work inexpensive wonders. “A good Web site will help justify who you are, and to not take advantage of this is a big mistake,” he says, adding that many advisor sites are woefully unprofessional.

“Marketing is like trying to turn this gigantic millstone,” offers Kiely. “It’s so hard to get going, but once it starts moving, it moves on its own.” Kiely, like many successful planners, doesn’t launch direct mail programs or print or TV ad campaigns. He tried direct mail and concluded that it works better for the commission planner who can share expenses with, for example, a mutual fund company, but that for a fee-only planner such as himself it is simply too expensive. Holding seminars works better for commission planners for the same reason, he discovered, and for the fact that if an advisor is not a good public speaker, a mutual fund rep usually can be counted on to “do the talking without upstaging the planner.” Instead, Kiely relies on public relations, which he finds low in cost and high in results. “I will do whatever I can to get my name in the press,” he says.

Kiely’s marketing efforts began the day he decided to make Worth magazine’s best-advisor list (which he did), as an antidote to his dissatisfaction with the rate at which his small firm was growing. From then on his brand of self-promotion became integrated seamlessly into the day-to-day operation of his business. “Those of us who have active marketing programs almost do it subconsciously,” he says, in a manner that belies the effort he puts into it.

Kiely’s guerrilla tactics–and the foundation of his advice to new planners–include these: Call the personal finance editor at your local paper; tell him who you are and what you do. “The editor may call you from time to time, throw you a bone, ask you questions, put your name in the paper. Then you cut that out and send it to everybody who you think should know.” Kiely did this with the New Jersey Law Journal, which continues to contact him “when they need a hole to be filled.” He encourages advisors to get involved with local organizations and seek leadership positions. Kiely joined his local CPA society and now chairs its financial planning committee. And be persistent, he says. Regarding the Worth list, he thought, “Gee, it comes out every year and they don’t even know I’m alive,” and decided to change all that. Through a journalist he discovered that even to be considered, the planner must write “a damn good letter” explaining why. Using criteria in financial journalist Mary Rowland’s then recently published book on the practices of the nation’s best advisors, he went down the list, addressing each item, and mailed Worth a six-page letter. It got the magazine’s attention.

Like Kiely, planner Stanasolovich relies on PR, though with the down market he has stepped up his firm’s coordination with reporters and response time to media inquiries, and has expanded his list of media contacts. The mailing list now has some 300 names, to whom he sends his firm’s “financial briefs,” short pieces on a wide range of topics pertaining to a given employee’s areas of expertise. A member of NAPFA, Stanasolovich color-codes communiqu?s from the 750-member fee-only group relating to media (NAPFA’s consumer referral system registered 27,032 inquiries in 2000, up 35% from the previous year), with instructions that they be brought to him for his immediate attention. In fact, he has hired a marketing intern to help make marketing more “automated” in an effort to get away from his reputation that as firm principal, “Lou Stanasolovich does everything.” Legend Financial Advisors has also enhanced its Web site to make it more attractive and useful to existing and prospective clients. Recently a man with $7 million in manageable assets saw Stanasolovich quoted in From there he went to the Legend Financial Web site, and then called the firm’s office. The man is now a client.

“We’re being much more proactive, at least this year, anyway,” Stanasolovich says, adding that to date he has participated in more than 90 media interviews. “We’ll try all the not-so-costly stuff,” some of which, especially public relations, has the added benefit of carrying the third-party credibility lacking in other marketing vehicles such as advertising. Planner Mike Knesh agrees, saying PR has the advantage of having somebody else deem he’s an expert so he doesn’t have to pay to claim he’s one himself. “Anyone can buy advertising; not anybody can get quoted.”

Broadcast News

The ultimate goal of an advisor’s marketing effort is to become visible, because visibility equals credibility, maintains Knesh, who as a regular on CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” is visible indeed. “I couldn’t buy that kind of exposure,” he says. He’s also quoted frequently in the Wall Street Journal, Mutual Fund Magazine, and other financial publications. While none of this costs him anything, it does demand time and effort. A former president of his local FPA chapter once asked Knesh why in the world he would want to take a half-day off each month to be on CNBC, since it took a lot of time away from his business. “If that’s the way you perceive it, of course you’re not going to understand the opportunity,” he says. “It surprises me beyond belief how many people would walk away from free publicity because they think of it as a chore or an effort. Well, everything is a chore or effort: The question is, what are the ultimate results you’re going to achieve from it?”

Controlling public relations, and making the most of it, Knesh maintains, is itself a marketing campaign, one in which he is very actively involved. How does an advisor get started? Begin with local community newspapers and radio stations, because they’re always looking for content, he advises. Once your name is in print, it’s easier to get your name in print again. Don’t be discouraged if your quotes are edited out; cultivate relationships with local reporters; keep yourself visible.

And put your media exposure to good use. There’s a television in Knesh’s office waiting room showing videos of Knesh on CNBC. On the coffee table is a book of newspaper and magazine clips. By the time a prospective client meets with Knesh he’s likely convinced that this financial advisor is an expert. When Knesh sits with the client, he doesn’t have to spend much time building credibility. “And instead of building credibility one potential client at a time, I’m building credibility across the board.”

Planner Scott Leonard uses workshops to obtain client referrals, an approach he initiated recently in response to the present market s

Hornblower or Blowhard?
Looking for help in promoting yourself without coming off as a windbag? Try these books

By Marlene Y. Satter

Many planners are uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion. If you’ve decided to bite the bullet and try to make your silhouette a little more visible, however, here are some books to help you along.

First is Credibility Power: The Art of Selling Yourself, by Richard Hansen and Allyn Kramer with Larry Upshaw (Prestonwood Press, 2001). The book uses the stories of a number of famous people–everyone from Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame to Bruce Jenner–to illustrate how you can build on your expertise in any given field to become a “known expert” and perhaps even a celebrity. By building a business, writing books, marketing self-help videos/audios, and going on the lecture circuit, say the authors, it is possible to gain credibility for your expertise and to attract the kind of business that you want.

There’s quite a bit of useful information in this book–suggestions on how to approach the press, how to find a way to do something that appears impossible, even get yourself on radio or TV. The book itself is interesting, with its “success story” format, and can get you enthused about the possibility of promoting your practice in ways you may never have considered.

Then there’s Attract and Retain the Affluent Investor, by Stephen D. Gresham and Evan Cooper (Dearborn Trade, 2001). The authors offer some very specific strategies for changing your practice to make it into one that caters to, and retains, wealthy clients. Using the strategies of a number of advisors who cater to the wealthy, the authors have assembled a checklist of methods you can use to lift your practice above the crowd.

One of the methods the authors suggest is that you trim your client base. Operating on the principle that “20% of the clients generate 80% of the revenue,” Gresham and Cooper look at the process used by one of their contributors to winnow his client list to a more manageable, and more sustainable, group.

Through the use of screens, “George K” learned that 13% of his clients generated more than 90% of his income. Moreover, George was spending much of his time going after new accounts rather than doing actual financial planning for the clients he had–all 631 of them. What he really wanted to do was pay more attention to the planning side of his business, and devote more time and care to the clients who appreciated it. So George got to work and created a series of screens–11 in all, but subsequently reduced to three– and took four months to determine where in his practice each client fit.

Taking into account hard dollars (expenses on trips that lowered a client’s profitability), soft dollars (how much it cost to service some of those accounts through handholding, time on the phone, etc.), and other benchmarks, George reduced the size of his practice until he was able to provide optimum service to the remaining clients. Then he told those remaining clients what he was doing and why, so that the clients he wanted to keep would not jump ship at his shedding of so many others. He committed himself to providing those remaining clients with superb service, personal meetings (including a one-day sojourn at each client’s business or home), and other visible signs of a caring planner. He also asked those clients for referrals to potential clients who would enable him to continue to provide this level of service in the future instead of being sucked back into chasing new clients.

Whether it’s evaluating your current client base to uncover the “20% that generate 80%” or enhancing client meetings so that you can convince clients to hand over assets currently managed by other advisors, the authors offer lucid examples of how to figure out where your time is most effectively spent and how to increase your bottom line.

The Networking Game

For those of you who are into networking, or who have considered it as a way of boosting your client base or your credibility, we have two books: Masters of Networking: Building Relationships for Your Pocketbook and Soul, by Ivan R. Ensnare and Doug Morgan (Bard Press, 2000), and The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret: Building Your Business with Word-of-Mouth Marketing, by Ivan R. Misner (Bard Press, 2000).

The former book contains quotes, excerpts, and anecdotes from everyone from Deepak Chopra to Fran Tarkenton about the practice of networking and the benefits thereof. Through the networking group founded by author Misner, BNI, or Toastmasters International, or any of the other groups and strategies offered in these short and to-the-point anecdotes, there are multitudes of opportunities listed for readers to see how they can promote themselves and their businesses.

By adhering to the principle Misner quotes in his introduction–that networking is based on the concept of gaining through giving–the authors assert that anyone can better not only himself but also the people around him. Therein lies the key to self-promotion, in that people will remember someone who does something for them without expecting a return–and be much more inclined to give that person their business or steer more business to him.

The latter book contains information on business organizations and service clubs that offer members networking opportunities that can and frequently do lead to new business, as well as repeated insistence that networking and meeting people are vital methods of increasing your business. If you are interested in promoting yourself this way, these two books will give you plenty of places to begin, and lots of suggestions on how to form a network of your own or capitalize on opportunities that already exist.

Senior Editor Marlene Y. Satter can be reached at [email protected].

ituation. His firm is small–the model of an outsource business–and his time is precious, but he believes the time is right for him and other advisors to tell their tales of asset allocation. His workshops, limited to 10 or 12 persons, are held in a library, more fitting to educational discussions than a restaurant with its attendant distractions, and which he finds too “markety.” He makes it clear to existing clients, whom he has asked to invite a guest, that he isn’t selling anything. Rather, he wants them to understand that they shouldn’t focus solely on investment returns but consider more seriously the reality of risk. “How much risk did you take to get those returns?” he will ask his group. Like Kiely and Knesh, he spends much time talking to the press, speaking at Los Angeles Times investment symposiums and providing input for that paper’s weekly money makeover column.

Strength In Numbers

Having looked into costs required for comprehensive direct mail and professional public relations efforts, Al Coles concludes the numbers are unsupportable for independent planners such as himself–but not if planners band together. “The possibility of cooperative marketing through a public relations channel is one of our few avenues here,” he concludes. He cites as an example the successful co-op program of one of his California clients, 1-800-Dentist. “What you have is the building of a brand around individual dentists that allows them to pool their resources, get marketing, and basically generate an ongoing source of clients.” It’s an approach that has worked well for dentists, freeing them from the clutches of managed care, which is how Coles tends to view the likes of Schwab and Merrill Lynch, with their “big-box solution.”

Coles says he’s talked to a number of firms that have expressed considerable interest in his proposal, and share his vision of the future. “The marketers with these large broker/dealers who have the power and positioning are going to drown out our message unless we can come up with some other way,” he says. (It’s arguable that giant corporate ad campaigns that bring awareness of fee planning to the masses are beneficial to independents as well.) Coles has already put together the “fundamental steps” to realize his project, starting with the hiring of a marketing expert and the “repositioning” of his own firm to take advantage of an ongoing marketing process; he hopes to hold his firm out as a model for other planners to replicate. He is also negotiating with individuals and financial organizations (whose names he felt it premature to divulge) to enlist their aid in establishing a national brand.

Branding is high on NAPFA’s agenda, too, according to NAPFA’s Steve Kanaly. “Branding is one of the number-one topics for our strategic planning committee,” he says, adding that the committee is in “positive agreement on what to do.” Information will be shared with NAPFA regional offices–but not yet with the public–that in mid-July were to start work on branding goals and objectives. “This is the first time our board and strategic committee have really thought strategically, instead of tactically,” he says. He enlisted the aid of an independent industrial psychologist to help “referee” the committee meeting. “After 18 years I think we’ve figured out what we’re not going to do,” says Kanaly. “Branding will help us get focused on everything else.”

In addition to these initiatives, a knowledgeable industry source says that NAPFA is negotiating with The Motley Fool (, an online financial information service, to become the exclusive provider of a financial planner referral service on the Fool site. In addition, Gary Schatsky, former NAPFA chairman and current board member, says NAPFA is looking to build relationships with professional groups including AICPA, AITCO, and AIMR, which bestows the chartered financial designation on those who pass its rigorous exam. He would also like to see NAPFA ally itself with trusts and estates sections of local bar associations.

No one knows whether marketing and brand recognition efforts of independent planners can prevail against a relentless big-money media blitz of banks, wirehouses, and insurers who aim to counsel an advice-hungry nation that independents once claimed as their own. But advisors who haven’t been self-promoting from the get-go seem to agree they had better begin to do “something.” Al Coles, for one, has no idea whether or not his cooperative effort will fly, but he’s determined to find out. “It sounds great, but the devil’s in the details,” he says, “and the only way to know the details is to start.”


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