Paul Strebel has the best of both worlds.
A certified financial planner, certified public accountant, certified business coach and lecturer at Cornell University, he runs the Strebel Planning Group (www.strebelcpa.com), also located in Ithaca, N.Y. He shares the business with wife Leslie, an advisor, long term care specialist and certified business development coach, and his brother Chris Strebel, CPA, CFS, who runs the office’s tax-planning department. The Strebel family’s commitment to the industry will continue as Paul and Leslie’s daughter Debra will graduate from the CFP program at nearby Alfred State University this year, joining the firm as a planner.
While it might sound like a family affair, the Strebels are supported by a staff of 10, handling client service, administration, compliance, technology and marketing. In business as independent advisors since 1984, Strebel Planning Group regularly advocates giving back to the community it serves, and regularly encourages others to do the same.
Strebel is a firm believer in utilizing the power of research and education, and he not only teaches financial planning and accounting principles but also continues studying them. In so doing, Strebel can boil down macroeconomic theory to show clients how economic issues impact their financial future. Senior Market Advisor recently spoke with him about his business, his outlook and his advice for success in these tough times.
SMA: You have a unique perspective within this industry. What is it like to change hats from advisor to educator and vice versa?
Paul Strebel: It’s two very different worlds. The school can be a sanctuary–case studies are theoretical and you can look at the economy and markets through students’ eyes. It’s satisfying and uplifting to influence students and hear how a class has changed their future. It’s very different being employed at a large institution versus managing a 12-person firm where we have control and can make things happen quickly.
SMA: Considering your experience as an educator and your ability to look at the “big picture,” in what ways does that impact or shape your practice? And shape and impact the way you relate to clients and prospects?
PS: While I have a deep understanding of those clients who work in higher education, it’s vital that all advisors transmit confidence and competence in presenting information in a clear, understandable way. As for the economy, it’s no secret that consumers are fearful. I’ve found that it helps being able to give them a long-term picture of markets and what has happened historically. We certainly use this in our communications.
SMA: Talking about the economy, what’s different about this downturn?
PS: One of the consistent challenges is that we can best identify what’s gone on in the markets and economy, only after the fact. This downturn affected all asset classes simultaneously so there were precious few places to run and hide. The speed with which the market dropped also made this unusual. The takeaway is that this is a golden opportunity to start new client relationships.
SMA: What can advisors do to take advantage of this situation?