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From ‘Pedestrian’ to Personal: Giving Clients What Wirehouses Can’t

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For Marti Awad, a founding partner at Cardan Capital Partners in Denver, leaving a wirehouse for the RIA model gave her the opportunity to do more for her clients.

Awad left Merrill Lynch to found Cardan with three of her partners in November 2015, she told ThinkAdvisor in an interview.

“We were able to move just about all of our business,” she said. “We moved to the RIA environment just because we wanted to have more flexibility in working with clients. Merrill Lynch is a good firm, but with 15,000 advisors, the advice and things we were able to do were a lot more pedestrian.”

At Cardan, Awad and her team can focus on more complex planning issues and client service.

Awad is a former tax attorney, and fellow founding partner Sarah Keys is a former family law attorney. With their remaining partners, Ross Fox and Matt Papazian, the team has 25 years of experience working together.

As a firm with strong female leadership, Cardan has found a niche serving women going through transitions in life.

(Related: Amy Florian — Leading Through Loss: The 2017 IA 25)

“Women often like to work with other women because they feel like we understand their concerns,” Awad said.

Awad and the team at Cardan stress to their clients not to make any big decisions like moving or going back to school following a life change. For example, after the death of a spouse, clients may have significant insurance assets that need to be managed.

“It’s important for them to get a handle on things,” Awad said. “If you’ve done the right insurance planning up front, then hopefully you have time to map out a new career.”

She added that in the case of divorce, it’s important for female clients to have their own attorney or even a new financial advisor.

Furthermore, once they’re on their own, female clients’ goals may have changed or they will change without their partner’s influence, Awad said. “You need that time to redefine your goals,” she said.

One challenge Awad sees a lot when advising clients going through a divorce is a spouse hiding assets. She stressed that clients should know where assets are and have copies of bank statements. Otherwise, “you end up having to hire a forensic accountant, and that’s expensive,” Awad said.

Younger people and women have fewer assets so they don’t have as many choices as older women, Awad noted. That may make them less attractive clients to financial advisors, but Awad doesn’t believe women see robo-advisors as an appealing alternative.

“People do tell us very personal things. We help them make these [life] decisions,” she said. “I don’t see how a robot is going to be able to [show] the concern and care, and the iterative quality of the decision making process.”

Furthermore, many of the financial decisions women in transition have to make are tied to more complex legal or tax decisions. Beyond that, advisors help clients “come to the understanding and resolution that their life has to change and they’re going to have to move on and make the big decisions,” Awad noted.

— Read Best Firms for Self-Directed Investors: J.D. Power — 2017 on ThinkAdvisor.


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