Throughout your career as a financial advisor, your practice, services, and client base may evolve over time. Sometimes the change happens naturally and gradually as you find yourself getting referrals from similar types of clients, while other times you may find that you work particularly well with a certain niche and begin to seek out clients who fall within that group.
This past week I had the pleasure of speaking with David Grant from Retirement Matters about the recent pivot he took in his own practice. Dave has run the financial planning firm Finance For Teachers for the past three years, and also founded the Finance for Teachers Network. Dave also writes a column in Financial Planning magazine and is committed to helping other advisors be the best they can be (he won an award for helping to advance the practices of young advisors who are just getting started). Needless to say, Dave is busy! (Just typing that all out, I’m not even sure how he found time to chat with me!).
Read on to hear Dave’s thoughts on changing up the niche you serve, utilizing the best technology to run a virtual practice, and the biggest change in the industry that is good for consumers.
1. This website launch comes as you pivot your practice. Can you tell us a little more about that?
For the last three years, my practice has been focused on K-12 teachers in Illinois. It was becoming more common that current clients wanted to refer their non-teacher friends to me, and my branding was tripping them up. This rebrand gives them somewhere to refer their non-teacher friends. In addition, running a niche practice is great in terms of specialty but it was hard to get momentum with my slowly growing client roster. By broadening my approach in my branding, my hope is that non-teachers will be welcomed and not turned away.
2. I love the photos on your site of the Chicagoland suburbs. Where did you get the photos and what was the inspiration behind this?
I actually took all of the photos used on the website myself as I traveled around the suburbs of Chicago. I always like seeing things I’ve seen in real life on local business websites, so I thought I would try and replicate this.
3. Yes it works great and reiterates the location you serve! So Dave, what is a typical day like for you? Do you follow a routine?
I try to keep a routine to my week, rather than days. Fridays are kept free for research projects, working on writing and talking with other advisors. Monday-Thursday are spent with clients and running my business, with Tuesday evenings being kept open for clients who can’t make a meeting during business hours.
4. It’s always so interesting to learn how each advisor runs their practice. As a financial planner who has worked in the industry for years, what is the biggest change you’ve seen that has been a good thing for consumers?
The numerous fee models available is confusing for consumers, and understanding that the person they like to work with may be charging them twice as much as another competent advisor. The prevalence of Fee-Only education in the media is a great move for making financial advice more of an established profession.
5. Has technology changed the way you run your practice? If so, how?
It has. I run a virtual practice, even though I keep some office space. Having all my technology and document storage in the cloud allows me to work from anywhere. In running a subscription-based fee model, I have utilized software which allows me to bill clients from their credit or debit accounts, and they can pay their fees directly through my website without my involvement.
6. You are using Betterment to manage investment accounts. Many consumers think of Betterment as a Robo-Advisor that consumers can use directly to manage their own investments. Would you mind explaining why you use Betterment?
You’d be surprised at how many consumers have no idea who Betterment is, and have only a vague understanding of what Fidelity, Vanguard and Charles Schwab does! I wanted an investment partner who would use ETFs models, do most of the heavy lifting for me, and also be a reasonable price for clients. The platform is open for my one-time or ongoing clients at a price point of 0.75%, with no minimum balance requirements. With the smart rebalancing, tax loss harvesting, and fractional share investing, clients are getting a great service at a cheaper-than-usual price.
7. What is your favorite aspect of being a financial advisor? Would you recommend the profession to others?
I love how varied this job is. One day can be spent writing (for me this is for my website as well as freelance clients), the other is spent working in person with a client on a personal financial aspect, and then jumping on a video call with clients across the country. Variety makes this job a lot of fun, and one that only gets boring if you let it! If someone loves working with numbers but wants to educate people about finances – this is the job for them.
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