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Meet Advisor of the Year finalist Sean Lee

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Family is everything to Sean Lee.

He even shares a birthday with his son. On the website for his practice, SPL Financial, his wife speaks about what she feels sets Lee apart from other advisors. The love for his family is apparent in his voice, especially when he discusses his daughter’s soccer games.

Family is why he decided to start a career in finance, too. Growing up in Wyoming, Lee watched his grandparents lose a significant amount of money due to a subpar financial advisor. After obtaining a degree in corporate finance, he launched his career, which eventually led him to start his own practice in 2012 focusing on seniors.

Here are his thoughts on education, challenges and how his career in baseball has shaped his practice.

On educating his clients The most important part of my practice, hands down, is education. Before someone has an opportunity to hear about specific products, we spend five to six hours educating and informing them on all the tools, options and choices they have. In essence, we’re painting a picture of what is happening in the entire universe of investing and how that can or cannot fit for them. One of the first clients I worked with as a 22-year-old kid chose us because we spent time educating her and actually teaching her about her financial decisions. I still work with her today. We take a lot of time, and we’re patient to make sure we build the right plan. There’s no rush.

On creating a process For us, it’s not about a product. It’s about a process. I read a great quote that said, “If you don’t have a map, all roads lead you to nowhere.” Unfortunately, in our industry the focus is sell the product first; plan second. By flipping that around, the products just filter in. I think what differentiates our firm is that we educate people to make sound, financial decisions and then we let those vehicles and tools all trickle in. I’m a big believer in education.

How his baseball background impacts his practice I’m not the biggest guy. I always tell the storythat I hit one home run in my life. In 25 years of playing, Ihit one, and it was an in-the-park home run. I was a singlesand doubles type player. But what I found was that a highbatting average leads to a lot of runs being scored. You hit alot of singles and doubles and you’re going to score a lot ofruns. So inside our practice, we’re not a home run type offirm. We’re not going to try and hit one out of the park andget massive returns. We’re just going to try to hit singlesand doubles and try to score a lot of runs. If you score a lotof runs, you’re usually going to be successful.

On challenges in his career I’ve been told twice that I would never make it in this industry. Being told by someone that I’m not going to succeed has driven me to succeed.

Another challenge was when I folded a partnership in a firm in December 2011 to start the firm that we have today. We opened our doors June 2012, and my wife had our son a month later. So moving from a pretty secure partnership to creating something from scratch during a time where our personal lives were changing was scary. My wife stays at home to take care of the kids. I don’t want to say it put a tremendous amount of pressure on me, but we had to be certain that we were going to make it work.

But it was the best decision. We can practice the way that we want. We can teach, educate and inform. Our practice is getting to the point where we want it to be.

His best advice Follow the fiduciary standard. In my opinion, our industry is built upon the FINRA suitability standard. Not following the fiduciary standard is putting the advisor’s best interests before the client’s. It’s imperative that advisors understand the fiduciary standard (and what it entails) as soon as they enter the industry. We became a much better planning firm when we put the fiduciary standards in place in our practice. 

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