LPL Financial's San Diego campus. LPL Financial’s San Diego campus.

It’s easy for LPL Financial advisor Rick DiStefano to remember Administrative Professionals Day each year, because it falls near the anniversary of when he hired virtual admin Veronika Thruston.

“I know exactly when I began working with Veronika,” DiStefano said. “It was April 18, 2017.”

For the prior five years, DiStefano says, he “did it all” when it came to opening accounts and updating client information. “It was a lot of work!”

His practice in Phoenix, R&D Financial Services — which has about $40 million in client assets — could double this year. And San Diego-based Thruston is a big reason for that potential growth.

According to LPL, the independent broker-dealer began a Virtual Admin program in 2017. It now includes 75 admins who work with roughly 200 affiliated advisors.

Those using the service — which is free for three months to new recruits — find the program’s results more than pay for itself: a 70% decrease in rejected paperwork, 50% drop in service calls and 11% growth net new assets, the IBD says.

Broader Growth Strategies

For DiStefano, the relationship with Thruston dovetailed with his move to become a fee-based practice.

Working with LPL practice-management consultant Don Williams and one of Williams’ colleagues, he developed a plan and then “transitioned all my commission business to fee based,” the advisor said.

This meant the “Veronica was helping me move $20 million to $30 million in assets” over the into new accounts over the past three years or so.

We connected and work well together,” DiStefano said. “And every day, we learn how to communicate better.”

As someone “who knows LPL … I came in and did the transactional work, so  Rick didn’t have to worry about any backlog” of paperwork, Thurston said.

“The beauty of this approach is that I am in the background, doing the busy work,” she explained. “Ultimately, this business is about [advisors] growing the practice, not focusing on the operational side of things.”

Working with virtual admins, who don’t have to be hired or paid by advisors, is pretty much “a no brainer,” she added.

Client Issues

For DiStefano, having a virtual admin means “having a business partner who frees up my time.”

After all, he explained, “Advisors can’t waste time pushing paper, or they will lose 65% of the time they need for bringing in referrals and clients.”

But how do advisors and clients feel about Thruston not being in the office? “I know Rick, in the beginning, was hesitant to give all the paperwork over to someone to do and to monitor,” she said.

But after seeing how he could boost his productivity, “He is now an advocate of the program,” Thruston explained. In fact, the duo will be sharing their story at a regional advisor event later this week.

“I don’t really need to have an admin meet in person with my clients, who are like my best friends and family,” DiStefano said. “She is part of this, too, now. And the clients love communicating with her.”

The advisor, who’s been in the business for 35 years, says the two have a “no drama” relationship. “And clients reach out to her directly and vice-versa …,” he said. “It’s an open door … and a win win.”