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Looking Back

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The transition of advisors to fee-only planning has been a regular Investment Advisor theme for many years. In December 1990, Bob Clark shared some of the techniques that allowed Atlanta-based advisor Tony Smith to successfully make the switch. Below are some excerpts from that article; the tips seem as valid today as they were 15 years ago.

“Smith specializes in problems that arise when a client experiences a major financial event . . . his niche is top executives whose corporations have been acquired, restructured, or substantially downsized . . . . [He] is succeeding where others are struggling for three reasons: position yourself as an expert in a narrowly-defined niche; provide services by adapting your skills to clients’ needs (not the other way around); and maintain impeccable relations with a primary source of business–other professionals who refer clients. Lawyers make good contacts for networking . . . and legal clients are well suited to fee-only planning. ‘If they pay a lawyer,’ Smith says, ‘they’ll pay me.’ [He] provides estimates of fees to clients at the onset of the relationship [and] prefers to move the client toward an annual retainer, paid quarterly, rather than an hourly rate.”