CEO-PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FINANCIAL NETWORK, Calabasas, CALIF.; AUM: $1.2 billion
HIS FIRM’S FOCUS:
“We bridge the gap between businesses and the people who own them.”
Here’s the heart of it: Financial advisors are in danger of becoming commodities — unless they diversify revenue sources and position themselves as true partners with clients. So says independent advisor Brett S. Ellen, Securities America’s top producer in 2008 and one of the broker-dealer’s two leading advisors for assets under management.
Ellen, co-founder and CEO of American Financial Network, was sharp enough to take his own advice some time ago. Not only does he helm a bustling 27-year practice specializing in both corporate benefit planning and high-net-worth individuals but he has established two national networks to help other advisors step up their game.
“We don’t feel we’re in competition with them. We want to bring a lot of business to them — and in return, they want to bring a lot of business to us,” says Ellen, 45, from his office in Calabasas, Calif. Managing $1.2 billion in assets, he has been Securities America’s No. 1 producer for four years running.
With his Collaborative Services Platform, Ellen and a team of other experts in a host of financial fields train successful FAs in complex tax, compensation and other areas that go with the territory of business owner or corporate executive. Above-average knowledge of these issues can go far to attract new clients and build practices, Ellen says.
“The idea is to become an expert gatherer of information of what’s important to a business client. Then our back office and contacts outside the financial planning industry build the model most suitable for that client,” says Ellen, whose corporate accounts are both public and private companies.
As members of his collaborative think tank, advisors share consulting fees and product commissions with other CSP experts. A core component of the platform is Ellen’s coast-to-coast Financial Solutions Alliance, which boasts professionals in financial, business and legal areas.
Up until this past summer, the five-year-old CSP was open only to Security America advisors; now it’s available to FAs affiliated with other broker-dealers too.
But there is much more to the industrious Ellen than business: He is deeply motivated to give back to the community. And this dedicated father of five, ages 9 to 22, doesn’t simply talk the talk.
“We were put on this earth to do more than just make money — to make a difference in the world,” he says.