I was finally able to catch up with Deborah Fox, CEO of the Fox Essential Planning Services (and the Fox Financial Planning Network), who was the subject of my last two blogs (Luring Millennials Is a Waste of Advisors’ Time and last week’s Luring Millennials Is a Waste, Take 2: Serving the Children of Clients Makes Sense), via telephone from her San Diego office.
She’s an obviously bright and passionate advisor, who gave me more than I bargained for: providing the details of her novel strategies for both attracting and working with millennial generation clients.
Here’s what she told me about her process for working with millennials. As I wrote in my last blog, her goal isn’t to recruit these 20-somethings off the street (although she wouldn’t rule that out). Instead, her plan is to offer financial services to the children of existing clients, creating an “ongoing” firm that, if successful, could take the independent advisory business to another level.
Fox’s work with millennials is an offshoot of another uncommon service that her firm offers: providing college financing advice for affluent families. With college costs continuing to skyrocket, and sources of financial aid funding drying up, Deborah found her firm researching the alternatives for clients with college-aged children. “It was completely accidental in the beginning,” she told me. “But before long, we developed an expertise in the alternatives for people who don’t quality for financial aid. And that side of our business just grew. We eventually created Fox College Funding, LLC, and now other advisors send their clients to us for college consulting, too.”
Not only did college funding become a source of new advisory clients (not those of other advisors), it also led to services for high school students: choosing the right college, learning financial responsibility and even some financial planning. Which, in turn, led to advisory relationships with college-aged children as well as their parents.
But what started as an additional client service has turned into a business model that Fox hopes will enable her firm to work with her clients’ children from college to, well, when they pass on their portfolios to their own children. “It’s just a question of creating good relationships with young people,” she said, “and of helping them with the challenges they are currently facing. And working with younger clients who have more basic financial needs is a great training ground for young advisors—who don’t get much hands-on client experience at most advisory firms.”