One of my old mentors had a favorite definition of “T.E.A.M.” — Together Everyone Achieves More. Holding true to this mantra over many years played a big part in creating a record of jaw-breaking success, not just for the individual advisor but for the entire support team and a select group of strategic partners.
In today’s fast-paced, knowledge-driven world, the concept of “team” may be more important than ever. My father-in-law, an accomplished ex-military officer, reminded me just last week that we are all wise to acknowledge the Parabola of Knowledge: The more we know, the more we know we don’t know. That’s why creating a core team and adding satellite support from CPAs and attorneys has been a successful formula for financial advisors over the years.
Just ask Devery “Rusty” Cagle, founder and president ASE Wealth Advisors in Greenville, S.C. A CFP who also holds the CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certification and the CAP (Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy) designation, Rusty’s clients tend to be small business owners and high-income taxpayers. While Rusty traditionally serves as the quarterback, he is sure to suggest and coordinate the additional expertise clients need to meet their goals.
The Team-Building Process”When we start out with clients, we ask who their other advisors are,” Cagle says. “Then we contact those people and coordinate things, assuming that the client is happy with the relationship. To make sure this is the case, I ask the client about the process they used in choosing their other advisors; that usually leads to some thought-provoking answers.”
“We want to make sure that we have a solid advisory team in place, one without ego interference or conflicts of interest. If the client has a trusted relationship with another professional and things are going well, we’ll ask them to connect us. We’ll do our best to work with the existing professionals; however, a lot of times the client will say, ‘You know what, I really didn’t have a process for picking this person and now that I think about it things aren’t really all I’d hoped they could be.’ If that’s the case, I’ll recommend people we’ve vetted to help deliver all the services and advice we think will be needed.”
“The strategic team approach is really about having economic glue, not glitz with no execution,” continues Cagle. “When we are working together at our best, all of us are focused on the client’s best interest. We may be looking at year-end tax planning and how we can save the client from incurring capital gains. We might develop a charitable-giving plan or work with a business owner to create an exit strategy. But all of us are dedicated to helping the client and are interested in being synergistic — in essence, we must check our egos at the door.”
“We’ll look at the executive summary, benchmark where we’re going, discuss what’s important to the client, and teleconference to be sure we are all on the same page because all our different expertise really does flow across different avenues. That’s the magic of what we’re doing from a collaboration standpoint.”
Jenifer Cohen, a CPA with Greenville-based The Cohen Company, is often a part of Cagle’s strategic team. “Basically, we’re working on a client’s life plan. It’s helping them reach their goals, whether that’s through tax savings or investment planning or creating a strategy to help them put a child through college. As professional advisors with different disciplines, we all need to know what’s going on and work together to get them through that life plan. We certainly all have our specialties but we can’t all know everything. We must develop strong professional relationships.”
Jane Lindstrom, also with The Cohen Company, adds that most clients tend to rely on one advisor to serve as the quarterback but that it doesn’t really matter who’s the lead as long as there’s a clear understanding of who’s taking on that responsibility. “Only through working with other professionals can we help our clients truly accomplish their life plan. We have also found that as better customer service is delivered, through a team approach, clients start to trust us even more. Client satisfaction and referrals increase. And because a number of independent professionals are all looking out for the client’s best interests through a coordinated effort, each of us can concentrate on what we do best. This reduces stress for all involved.”