The companies on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing privately held companies are a diverse lot, to be sure, but one of them — No. 362 to be precise — has achieved its meteoric rise by propelling financial advisors’ businesses.
Inc.’s stats show Platinum Advisor Strategies has grown 1,218% over the past three years, reaching 2012 revenue of $2.3 million—three years after its 2009 founding.
And it is the unmet needs of beleaguered financial advisors that are fueling that rapid-fire growth, according to Platinum’s CEO and co-founder, Robert Fross.
“Our growth is the result of the desire our industry has for a company that can help advisors do the things they know they need to do,” Fross told ThinkAdvisor in a phone interview from Washington, where Fross is attending Inc.’s annual awards ceremony for companies that made its 2013 list.
But Platinum’s growth has already zoomed past its 2013 Inc. listing, which among other statistics, shows 825 financial advisors being served by 15 employees.
Today, the advisor services company’s 23 employees serve nearly 1,000 financial advisors, and Fross says Platinum is committed to adding staff as necessary to keep up with the advisor work flow.
Employees of The Villages, Fla.-based company — dubbed “advisor’s assistants” — work “as an extension of advisors’ offices—they work almost as an employee of the advisor,” Fross says.
“In our business, we have coaches to tell advisors what to do. What we’ve found is the hole in our business is not telling advisors what to do, but providing a service we can do for advisors.
“[Advisors are] told we need to communicate more regularly with clients, do more client events, connect on a more personal level, be more involved in social media,” Fross continues. “What most of these coaches don’t realize is we already know that. But we’re already busy working as financial advisors for a living. If you expect me to also be an events coordinator, that’s unrealistic.”
That’s where Platinum’s advisor’s assistants come in—they’ll tweet, blog, post on LinkedIn in addition to other branding and communications tasks, while Platinum’s office systems and turnkey prospecting initiatives designed to let advisors just “show up.”
“Most [coaching-type] companies teach the advisor how to fish, or show him how to fish; we take them to the pond and cast the line, then hand them the rod,” Fross says.
The idea for a company that would help advisors grow stemmed from the rapid growth Fross’ own wealth management company experienced. Fross and his twin brother, Thomas, remains actively engaged in their own Fross & Fross Wealth Management firm, which they started in 2007 after working five years with another indie firm.
The financial crisis proved no barrier to Fross & Fross’ growth, from $160 million in assets in 2007 to about $400 million today.
“Because we were communicating so regularly, we retained our clients. So many people weren’t hearing from their advisors — so that was an opportunity to attract new clients. We were very much in front of them,” he says.
Fross says lack of communication is the No. 1 reason people leave their advisor. So Platinum offers its white papers, newsletters, conference call and video scripts, e-mail updates and other communications to help its advisors similarly stay in front of their clients.
“We connect the dots between what the advisor knows he needs to do and what he has time to do,” citing a “State of the Market” assessment as an example.
“The advisor has to build the presentation, do the research and get approved by compliance. For all those reason few advisors will ever do a State of the Market.