Clients often have a long list of what they’d like in an advisor. They want someone they can trust, someone they won’t mind visiting regularly, someone who will know their finances as well as the names of their kids.
Fortunately, most people already have their dream advisor. Unfortunately, it’s their CPA — and that means he or she is rarely equipped to help with some of life’s biggest financial questions.
John Azodi wants to change that.
As the head of Azodi CPA & Investments in Kansas City, Azodi saw his business boom after getting licensed and offering financial and insurance services to his tax-preparation clients. In fact, in 2012, he was the No. 1 producer for Elite Wealth Advisors’ CPA group.
And now, hoping to convince other CPAs that the combination business model is a winner, Azodi is running “CPAs as Advisors,” a program that teaches other accountants how to replicate his success — and serve their clients better in the process.
Becoming an advisor
Azodi got his start as an accountant in 1982, when he graduated from college. He worked for several small accounting firms at first and then left to start his own firm in 1991. In 1994, he added 401(k) administration services to his business and started learning a little more about managing investments.
“I got really exposed to the investment side of the business without really getting paid for it,” he says. “In my opinion, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I could look at the investment without thinking, ‘Okay, what’s the commission on this?’”
When Roth IRAs appeared in 1998, Azodi started talking the plans up to his tax clients while working on their returns. Excited, they’d say, “Okay, let’s go ahead and do this,” but Azodi wasn’t licensed and couldn’t help them. He did, however, refer them to other advisors he knew, thinking they would just go there to set up a plan. They didn’t.
“When I talked to them a year later, only two had actually opened a Roth,” he says. “The major reason for most of them was that it was a new person, a new relationship; it was inconvenient to them.”
Azodi saw an opportunity, but after years of building relationships with brokers through the 401(k) side of his business, he was reluctant to jump in.
One night, when he was agonizing over whether he should get licensed, his wife turned to him and asked, “Who are you working for?” The answer was, of course, his clients. Azodi stopped worrying and became an advisor.
Today, Azodi offers not only Roths but also annuities, life insurance and long-term care insurance products. “Some firms specialize in just one product,” he says. “My specialty is what’s best for my clients and what makes the most sense. How can you do one thing, sell one product or two products, that fits everybody?”
In that same vein, he serves a broad spectrum of clients and doesn’t target a specific market or class. “If someone comes here and wants to open something for $100, I open it for them,” he says. “If you’re willing to help yourself, I’m willing to give you my attention.”
Most of his clients come to him for taxes first and gradually become insurance and investment customers, but that doesn’t happen by default, he says. The secret lies in how he treats his clients. “I talk to them, find out what their need is, and I give them a solution,” he says.
Azodi also hosts client appreciation events, usually seminars with a meal, where clients are invited to come eat and learn about Roth IRAs or 401(k) rollovers. Not only does this help Azodi mine his existing clients, but it also serves as a source of new prospects, as those clients can bring friends and family members along with them.