Anyone who thinks the advisory profession is strictly about financial planning and managing money is probably still living in the last century. Cutting-edge advisors these days still help their clients plan their financial futures and manage their assets, but they’re also likely to provide a range of other services from bill paying to lifestyle consulting to estate planning. One firm that exemplifies tomorrow’s attitude today is the Schultz Financial Group, a fee-only advisory firm in Reno, Nevada.
Sure, principals Russell and Vicki Schultz and their team of 14 other professionals offer comprehensive financial planning and the usual range of investment options. But they offer much more. For clients who want to dive into the real estate market, SFG can find investment properties around the country, or they can arrange and oversee any kind of construction project. Clients who are interested in the volatile energy market can of course purchase stock in companies like Exxon/Mobil or energy-related mutual funds, but Schultz clients can also invest directly in natural gas exploration or in-ground reserves or mineral royalty interests. The firm also runs its own fund of funds to offer clients easier access to the hedge fund space. For services they can’t provide in-house, the firm has a database of top-notch providers ranging from tax attorneys and CPAs to psychologists and interior decorators.
The firm was founded in 1982 by Russell Schultz in southern California and moved to Reno a decade later. In the interim he hired and then married Vicki Schultz and both felt that Reno provided a better environment for raising their daughter. In the first few years, the majority of the firm’s clients remained in southern California. Today the customer base is pretty evenly split between the Reno area and southern California, with a smattering of individuals in other parts of the country. Client net worth ranges from $3 million to $30 million with the average between $5 million and $10 million. Most tend to be between the ages of 50 and 70. “We do have some younger clients, too, mostly professionals, like doctors,” notes Russell. Not counting real estate assets, Schultz Financial Group has about $125 million under management.
“Our core competency, since we started, has been comprehensive financial planning,” says Russell Schultz. “All we’ve done is listen to our clients for 23 years and build the business around those clients and their needs.”
Different Definitions of Capital
Listening for more than two decades, he says, has caused the company to focus on three different aspects of their clients’ lives: financial capital, physical capital, and psychological capital. It’s also been the inspiration for what the company describes as its core beliefs and a series of behaviors associated with each.
Client committed behavior means hiring the best minds available within and outside the firm, charging fees without conflict, taking fiduciary responsibility, and empowering clients through education and communication. Innovation entails encouraging an independent, creative atmosphere populated with an eclectic group of professionals with a wide variety of talents and fostering an atmosphere where it’s okay to be unconventional and a leader rather than a follower. Service heart is simply attempting to anticipate the client’s needs and delivering exceptional service.
“The core beliefs and behaviors are really to remind us of the direction we should be going and that we should remain client-centered,” explains business manager Holly Evers, who was charged with putting the firm’s philosophy into words. “They seem really simple, but everything that we do stems from them.
“We take those core beliefs as differentiators, but we also reflect them internally,” she continues enthusiastically. “We treat each other to a certain extent as clients, with a service heart. And when we’re committed to each other, it really does help us provide great service to the client.”
This client-centered focus led to the development of the family office services that Schultz Financial Group offers. Depending on the individual client’s needs, the firm can aid in family strategic planning, as well as developing business plans and strategies. SFG can provide the family with a chief financial officer, provide tax preparation and coordination with an outside CPA, handle bill paying and bookkeeping, arrange the purchase of homes or automobiles, provide secretarial or personal assistant service, or act as the owner’s representative in real estate transactions. The company even has a principal, Eric Miller, who is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer; in addition to handling the firm’s technology systems, Miller can coordinate the client’s in-house and outside technology resources.
Many of the services that Schultz Financial Group offers are similar to what other advisors provide; Schultz Financial just seems to take it a little further. Many advisors hold educational events with guest speakers for their clients, but most of those events are product-oriented with the speaker making a sales pitch in the guise of education. “We hold a client forum each year that’s very much a differentiator between us and other firms,” says Russell Schultz. “That client forum is strictly for our clients and it brings in people to speak to different areas.”
“The nice thing is that because it’s for our clients, it’s strictly educational,” adds Evers, who puts the program together each year. “Nobody’s selling any product, so no one’s pitching anything.”
The speakers at this year’s client forum included Shirley Neff, formerly chief economist for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and an adjunct research scholar with the Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy in the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, who spoke on energy policy. Another speaker was Dr. Yoon Hang Kim, dean of integrated medicine at Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley, California. The 2005 program included a lecture on bonds, a talk by a psychologist who spoke about mindfulness, and a financial professional who talked about the bond market. The day-long session also included an organic lunch, followed by an exercise session using a form of Tai Chi.
“It allows us to provide education for our clients and remind them that we are a resource for many different things,” explains Evers.
“We’re exposing them to things that they’ve either never thought about or they’ve thought about but they don’t know how to get to,” adds Vicki Schultz.
The entire forum is videotaped and a DVD of the proceedings is then sent to clients who are unable to attend.