Laurie Hasso has changed her way of doing business since 1985, and not just in moving the financial planning firm she owns with her husband, Steve, out of her living room so many years ago. A battle with breast cancer that kept her from her practice from March 2005 until March 2007 led her to re-examine her approach to her clients, resulting in a decision to emphasize quality over quantity.
Hasso and her husband, Stephen Hasso, had built their Latham, New York-based Century Hill Financial Group, a MetLife affiliate, to $40 million in assets under management with 250 clients and the business was reaching critical mass when Hasso was diagnosed.
After she returned, she realized she wanted to focus on helping her clients get the most out of their lives, even if it sometimes meant enjoying themselves in the present by spending some of their cash. Her new perspective on life and its unpredictability means she is able to impart more meaning to the money she manages, she argues. She and her husband decided to take a more service-oriented approach to their business, rather than let it grow wildly. Currently, the practice has $50 million in assets under management and no more than a 200-person client base, of which 50 people get 80% of the attention. “We limit our client base because it’s too hard to provide the intimacy and world-class service that our clients deserve,” Hasso says. The couple spends a lot of time getting to know their clients personally.
Since Hasso has returned to the practice, she makes sure all the advice delivered is customized, she says, constantly reviewing changing income tax issues, and reviewing all insurance and investments, corporate planning issues, and the cost of employee benefits. Century Hill also aids the client in choosing particular industries or avoiding risks or industries or stocks that don’t fit in with the investor’s socially conscious profile. There is also a high level of customization in the portfolio, with broad diversification, according to the Hassos.
At the same time, technology has allowed the client to understand better how his or her money is being managed, she says.
The couple began to focus on managed money in separately managed accounts so they could focus on the client relationship. Century Hill now contracts with a separately managed account firm that conducts the due diligence and then buys and sells individual securities, all of which is reported to the client. This results in the clients seeing all their charges spelled out while sometimes paying even less than with a “cookie cutter approach,” says Steve Hasso, under which “the fees that were bundled in the product are now easily visible enable.”