When Diahann Lassus, president and co-founder of Lassus Wherley, took the helm of NAPFA—the National Association of Personal Financial Planners, for the 2008-2009 term, little did she know how extensively the market crisis would remake financial services. Washington politics aside, the changes sweeping through wealth management and financial planning may ultimately be the largest since those that resulted from the Great Depression.
Lassus (left) has been very active in industry issues; as the NAPFA chair, she became a leader of a new group founded in 2009, the Financial Planning Coalition, advocating for recognition of financial planning as a profession. Lassus has testified before the House Committee on Financial Services and has served on the board of governors of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP). In addition, Lassus has been recognized by Wealth Manager (now part of AdvisorOne.com) as one of the 50 Top Women in Wealth in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Lassus and business partner Clare Wherley, CEO, founded Lassus Wherley in 1985 to provide fee-only financial planning and wealth management services to clients. Lassus Wherley is a registered investment advisor (RIA) with offices in New Providence, N.J., and Bonita Springs, Fla. This editor first met Lassus years ago, when her own family wanted a financial plan and, as a former investment advisor, liked the idea of a fee-only advice.
AdvisorOne caught up with Lassus via email on Monday and Tuesday.
Trends in Wealth Management
Q: Are clients asking different questions of you now than before the financial crisis?
A: People are much more aware of the risk in the financial markets today. We are much more likely to be asked whether the client is being too conservative. I believe many clients recognize that their perspective and frame of reference around investments has changed. They wanted to reduce risk for a while after the market in 2008-2009 but now want to make sure they haven't gone too far in that direction.
Q: Have the tax and estate law changes of last year helped clients to plan gifting and estate strategies or is it just as uncertain because the laws [are set to expire] at the end of 2012?
A: In many ways it has just added to the confusion for clients. Although it has provided opportunities for planning there is still the concern that the world will change in 2013. It can easily become analysis paralysis.
Q: Where are the majority of your new clients coming from?
A: The majority of our new clients come from referrals from current clients. The rest come from NAPFA and other media references.
Q: Are you seeing clients deliberately look for a fiduciary advisor?
A: People are asking more questions but there is still much confusion around the differences in how advisors operate. Many new clients are coming from banking or brokers and didn't really understand the difference in the models. Once they understand they think it’s great. Most of our referrals are definitely looking for fee-only and want to make sure the advisor puts [the client’s] interest first.
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