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Comprehensive Planning: Time to Add Staff?

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Comprehensive planning is catching on with advisors -- and their clients. But it can be labor intensive, requiring that a practice add more resources and staff, advisors say. 

Advisors across all channels aim to have 43% of their clients receiving a holistic planning experience by 2016 according to research from Cerulli Associates. This is up from 33% in 2013.

Meanwhile, they expect to hold steady at 27% the portion of clients receiving singular-focused planning services, such as portfolio management or retirement accumulation, at 27% through the same period.

FPA president Janet Stanzak, founder of Bloomington, Minn.,-based Financial Empowerment, says increased demand is driving the trend. "Consumers are realizing, just as advisors are realizing, that there is so much value to (comprehensive) financial planning," she says.


Data from the CFP Board highlights these trends. According to a survey conducted last year, 70% of consumers polled wanted to work with advisors who focus on comprehensive planning. Another study by the CFP Board shows that 87% of CFP professionals said that financial planning was "equally important" or "more important" than investment management to their advisory practice.

Two-thirds of the FPA's members are currently CFP practitioners and include advisors across all channels, with 17% from independent broker-dealers and 13% from IRA plans, according to an FPA spokesman. Stanzak says she expects an increasing number of younger advisors to pursue the CFP designation, further bolstering the shift toward holistic planning.

Baby boomers are another driving force as an increasing number reach retirement and seek help addressing issues with Social Security, defined contribution and IRAs, Stanzak says. For advisors, she says, the onset of retirement, the start of a new job, when there’s a death in the family or when couples divorce are all good times to shift clients into a comprehensive planning relationship.

But to do so, proponents and practitioners of comprehensive planning say, advisors must invest in extra resources at their practices and find the right outside financial and legal professionals to tap. 


"If you are going to offer true financial planning you have to dig deep," says Ron Weiner, a CFP with RDM Financial Group, a dually-registered RIA in Westport, Conn.

As his practice has grown, Weiner has added resources and personnel to assist with all facets of a client's financial plan such as legal, tax and insurance issues. This includes a full-time attorney, who is also a CFP, as well as staffers who hold the Chartered Life Underwriter insurance designation.

Weiner, who spent 10 years with Raymond James Financial Services before starting RDM, says advisors must collaborate with experts in law, accounting and insurance whether in house or through an outside network to perform the most effective comprehensive planning for clients.  In addition to the firm's in-house experts, he frequently communicates with other professionals he trusts when tackling planning issues.

"We have all these different experts but we're in the same room going over the plan," Weiner says.


Karen McIntyre, managing director and senior financial advisor at Philadelphia-based Wescott Financial Advisory Group, communicates often with two attorneys when legal matters come up with clients.

"We have mutual respect for each other so we tend to refer business back and forth," says McIntyre, a CFP. "You need to surround yourself with a bevy of resources that will provide the information the clients need.”

The need to stay current on tax and estate planning issues may mean advisors have to add staff members that have the proper financial knowledge, says Sandra Goodstein, a CFP and founder of Fort Washington, Pa.-based Goodstein & Associates. In Goodstein's case, her planning assistant has both an MBA and the CFP designation.

"Since this is labor intensive, it is a good idea to have staff with expertise to do a good amount of the preliminary planning work for the advisor," says Goodstein. "There needs to be a business model to deliver good financial planning in an efficient manner that is cost effective."

Weiner says that while conducting holistic planning can often be very intensive, doing so will provide a huge payoff for advisors in addition to doing right by clients.

"By doing the right thing your practice will grow because your clients will want to stay," he says. "It will ensure a long-term relationship."

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