Like a sharp journalist inducing a subject to open up in an interview or a doctor taking a patient’s medical history, Eric Hutchinson knows how to ask the right questions. With his proprietary Retirement Discovery Process, the president of Hutchinson Financial probes for answers that help to best serve his focus retirement planning clientele.
“I had found that if I asked certain questions in a certain sequence, I began to get much more in-depth answers that let me understand what was motivating clients about their future and what was really important to them about money. It changed the whole character of what I was able to do for them,” notes Hutchinson, 57, from his Little Rock, Ark., office.
In the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, this Registered Investment Advisor is going against the grain. Last July he landed his single largest piece of business ever: a whopping $38 million retirement plan account.
“A pretty exciting day — particularly in these times” is the way the unassuming Hutchinson, who has specialized in retirement planning for 20-plus years, describes the achievement.
HUTCHINSON FINANCIAL; LITTLE ROCK, ARK., AND TEXARKANA, TEXAS;
AUM: $100 MILLION-PLUS.
ON MATTERS FINANCIAL:
“Money isn’t complicated. It’s not rocket science. It’s doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time.”
While many other practices, and firms in general, are contracting, Hutchinson, voted by Arkansas Business magazine readers best in financial and personal investment services, is indeed expanding. Landing that big new account — a construction company with more than 1,000 employees in four states — has sent him into a major recruiting mode. To his current four advisors, he plans to add eight more by year’s end, doubling his total staff in the process.
Serving 100 individual and small business retirement plan clients, Hutchinson, who also maintains an office in Texarkana, Texas, manages assets of more than $100 million, which are custodied at Charles Schwab and FOLIOfn.
Not only has he lost not a single client in the downturn, he’s gained several. In fact, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was swinging so erratically last fall, he had phone calls from clients asking how he was doing. “It was wonderful!” he says.
Hutchinson started as a Shearson broker, 1985-88, and began focusing on retirement right away, when, even back then, he took a financial planning approach.
“Frequently, clients were preparing for retirement. So I thought, ‘Well, if this is what’s on most folks’ minds, I’ll concentrate on that’,” he recalls. Eventually, he developed and trademarked his structured Retirement Discovery Process, which helps reveal what makes clients tick.
Afterward, “I find that if we methodically address every aspect of their financial life,” he says, “we eventually get to a place where the client feels: ‘My house is in order. I can relax now. I have peace of mind.’”
Twenty-year client Marita Williams, 77, of Texarkana, Ark., says: “I’m absolutely financially worry-free.” The Williamses hired Hutchinson when Marita’s husband retired. Four years ago, upon his death, the advisor became “particularly helpful,” she says. “He’s always made me feel that he has my best interest at heart. He has a tremendous amount of integrity. I just think he’s top-notch.”
Previously serving 401(k) plans mainly as an extension of individual-client relationships, Hutchinson is now pursuing the business directly.
He already had the retirement accounts of some key officers and managed money for the construction company whose big retirement plan he just snagged.
The firm had been dissatisfied with the level of service its former advisor was providing. Homing in on the account, Hutchinson outshone that advisor, and others, partly by conducting employee group education and individual counseling.
“Having that opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities in a different way was instrumental in helping us land the business,” says Hutchinson, a certified financial planner and chartered life underwriter.