Ron Peremel has created a referral Web site that provides a smart way to remedy one of the industry’s conundrums: serving middle-market America. Peremel launched Myfinancialadvice.com last November, after years in the full-service and discount brokerage worlds taught him that middle-income America was in desperate need of professional financial advice. So Peremel built a Web site that allows this group of investors to pay for a licensed advisor’s wisdom by the hour.
Most advisors are busy chasing high-net-worth clients and shunning those who have “less than $100,000 in investable assets, and make less than $100,000 per year in income,” Peremel says. But Myfinancialadvice.com targets “the middle-income consumer who doesn’t get any advice, as well as the more sophisticated, higher-income individuals, those below the top 15% in wealth, who make up the mass affluent.” Both of these groups fall into the do-it-yourself investor category, he says, and are seeking professional help.
The site is also great for advisors who are looking to supplement their business with hourly clients. That probably doesn’t include the majority of advisors, but it is great for those who feel they have a duty to help the not-so-rich, and are “tech-savvy, and interested in utilizing the Internet to grow their business,” Peremel says.
Unlike other referral sites like WiserAdvisor.com, Myfinancialadvice.com is “an actual live advice site” that lets consumers buy advice on an as-needed basis, Peremel says. Say it’s midnight on April 14 and you have an urgent question about your tax return. By clicking the “taxes” section of Myfinancialadvice.com, you’ll be given a list of advisors in your local area that can help you with everything from tax preparation to tax form questions. And that’s not all. Advisors are also on hand to help with questions about financial planning, insurance, mortgages and lending, employee benefits, and investing. “The power [of the site] is that the client can choose different advisors for different needs,” Peremel says.
You’ve Been Featured
When you log on to the site, a “featured advisor” appears on the right-hand side of the home page. The featured advisor changes every time you enter the site. The advisor’s name, picture, biography, and area of expertise are shown. By clicking on the “view profile” button, you’re able to view all of the information in detail–including how much the advisor charges per hour or per minute. Prices range anywhere from $150 to $300 per hour. The “view profile” area also tells you whether the advisor is actually signed on and ready to accept questions via phone or e-mail.
The site uses “click-to-call technology,” Peremel says, so when you click the phone icon, the client’s and the advisor’s phones ring simultaneously. Using the “click-to-call” method ensures that “no one gives out their phone numbers, and we can then track the transaction once it’s completed,” Peremel says. If a client has a dial-up connection, she first has to log off of the Internet to free up the phone line, of course, or can enter a cell phone number that the advisor can call.
Before a transaction can be completed, the client has to accept the advisor’s proposal. Here’s how it works:
After the client has chosen an advisor, she must fill out online forms that ask for her personal background information–how much money she makes, her net worth, the type of advice that she needs, and so on. The forms are then transmitted to the advisor. “We have forms in all of the different categories of advice–insurance, capital analysis, asset allocation, and 401(k) plans,” Peremel says. Having the client fill out the forms online relieves the advisor from a lot of paperwork, he says. Myfinancialadvice offers “a streamlined process for communicating, delivering, and accessing the advisor,” he says, “and it makes it easier for the advisor and client to do business online.”
Once the advisor has the client’s completed forms, he then creates a proposal that lays out how he’ll help the client, how much it will cost, when the service will be delivered, etc. The client can accept the proposal, reject it, or revise it. If she accepts it, she hits the “accept” button, enters her credit card information, and the advice is delivered. Myfinancialadvice doesn’t “clear the funds until the advice is given,” Peremel says, and the advisor is paid on a monthly basis after the funds have cleared.
Peremel charges advisors a $300 set-up fee, which covers their Web training as well as an extensive background check of, among other things, any criminal and regulatory records. Peremel also levies a $150 annual renewal fee. In addition, Myfinancialadvice takes 35% of the advisor’s billing rate, which covers marketing and set-up costs. Along with three years of relevant work experience and a clean criminal and regulatory background, advisors must hold one of the following designations before they can become a member: CFP, ChFC, CFA, CPA, CPA/Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), Enrolled Agent, Series 7, or Mortgage Professional. And advisors must be independent, Peremel says.