Marissa Thomas, director of marketing at RIA firm Brand Asset Management Group, has a master’s degree in psychology and a background in design. She brings these skill sets together to look for technology solutions that enable advisor efficiency as they enhance clients’ experience, and she’s extremely excited by the firm’s latest endeavor: A dedicated media room from which the Chesterfield, Missouri-based firm’s advisors will be able to connect with clients located in 26 different states at any given time.
“We wanted a place in our office that would be our virtual space,” Thomas said, “a place that doesn’t have to be pieced together when someone needs to make a Skype call or do a webinar, but a dedicated space that allows us to stay connected with our clients and make them feel like we’re connected to them. Anytime a client who’s not local or is traveling wants to do a Skype call with an advisor, that space is available.”
The space also includes a staged studio setting that serves as a dedicated locale for webinars, Thomas said, and it boasts the best-in-breed video and audio software.
Brand Asset Management Group’s focus on seeking out cutting edge software solutions is borne out of a long tradition of using the best available technology, a tradition started in the early 1990s by Todd Brand, principal of Brand Asset Management Group. Brand’s father founded the firm, which is grounded in the idea that technology enables advisors to spend more time cultivating and deepening relationships with their clients.
“I had done computer work in college, where I had a concentration in information systems, and so I was put in charge of software programs when I joined the firm,” Brand said.
At the time, that meant replacing old-style transparency machine presentations with PowerPoint spreads, and upgrading to a new client performance reporting system – “Advent,” Brand said, “which is common now but was totally new then.”
Empower Small Advisor Force With Technology
As an independent advisory firm, finding the best systems for the back, middle and front office is imperative for Brand Asset Management, which today serves 100 clients with $600 million in assets under management.
“Today, there are so many software solutions that an independent firm can choose from,” Thomas, who is part of a four-member technology committee, said. “That’s why we prefer being an independent company that can make our own choices and really get the newest and best technology out there that adds the best value for our clients.”
The firm aims to keep its advisory force small, Thomas said, and empower them through the best available software solutions such as MoneyGuidePro’s goals-based financial and retirement planning package, which really helps advisors understand, keep track of and help clients realize their financial goals. The comprehensive software breaks things down clearly for advisors and enables them to have the kind of meaningful financial planning conversations with their clients that translate to concrete solutions that have an impact.
“What is different about our company compared to other RIAs is that we have five advisors who all serve the same book of clients,” Thomas said “Every time a client comes in, they may meet with a different advisor but we all know the stories of all our clients, and we keep up to date on them. This has provided our clients with a sense of stability and the knowledge that all of us know who they are.”
Brand Asset Management Group has also launched a robo-advisor offering through Schwab to serve clients’ family members who may not meet the firm’s asset minimums, to begin a conversation with advisors and keep that going as these individuals progress through life.
“We hear that most of the time, money doesn’t make it through the second generation and into the third, and that is because people are not prepared to inherit a lot of money,” Brand said “The best we can do as a firm is create an engagement with younger investors, the kids of our clients and so on. It’s hard to have a conversation with those kids, though, about the issues that are relative to them – credit cards, whether to buy or lease a car, where to get the money to put into a Roth IRA — without a technology solution. Without it, we would end up using organizational time that advisors can’t afford to use.”
— Read Digital Advice Market Will Reach $83B by Year End: Cerulli on ThinkAdvisor’s TechCenter.