By Joseph E. Lowry, AIF® , AEP® , ChFC® , CLU®
Finding the right advisers as you build your estate can seem quite challenging at first, but following a few simple steps can make the process more effective. The relationships you develop will be long-lasting ones and it is extremely important to feel comfortable with those you choose.
As you prosper, you will be putting together a team of specialists, each one from a distinct discipline, bringing to you the information and perspectives necessary for your interests and objectives to be served.
The specialists typically involved will represent the following disciplines, namely financial planning, investment management, accounting, law and insurance.
We all have our preferences when it comes to personalities and that’s not a bad place to start. That may seem to be the least of all important attributes, but nothing is worse than spending time with someone who speaks in too technical a manner or who fails to recognize or respect your concerns and sensitivities.
Your advisers will ideally understand the team approach, will have no problem working in tandem with the other members of your team and will be willing to collaborate with the other members of your team as they assist you in reaching your goals. This is not the venue for overly assertive egos or competitive gamesmanship between your advisers. Qualified advisers will recognize they work for you and will have no problem putting your interests first.
There is no substitute for experience when it comes to getting the best advice. The body of knowledge accumulated by working with many different client types (i.e., individuals, families and institutions) over a period of years should provide your advisers with a seasoned understanding of how potential pitfalls can be identified and efficient solutions can be applied.
With the ever-increasing range of financial product offerings, a tax code that never remains the same, a constantly evolving legal environment and financial markets that have become more sensitive to media and political influence, it is essential that the individuals you work with be engaged in an on-going educational process.
In the professional services arena, education falls into two categories. The first is that which is required based on the degrees, certifications and license(s) one may hold. Typically the state, federal and any other applicable certifying entities require the adviser to undergo periodic continuing education. This is essential in order to conduct business legally and refer to the possession of applicable licenses in their professional practice.
The second category is elective education. This is obtained in pursuit of a professional designation or certification and regularly occurring seminars and institutes on a variety of topics pertinent to wealth management. These educational forums will provide on-going opportunities for your advisory team to ‘drink from the well’ of the global knowledge base.
Finally, we address the question of, ‘Where do I look for an adviser?’ If you’re comfortable doing so, you may want to simply ask your family members, friends and associates who they use. This can be a good first step given the ease with which you can inquire as to both the individual characteristics and overall experiences others have enjoyed. But, this alone won’t guarantee the advisers they like will be best suited for you.
In the end, you will want to personally interview your advisory candidates to feel perfectly at ease. Above all, the advisers you choose, whether via recommendation from others or by your own selection process, should recognize and reaffirm to you that all matters pertaining to your wealth management affairs will be conducted in the strictest confidence.
Other resources available to you are the various states, federal and other applicable regulatory entities that will disclose any formal actions or complaints previously filed against your prospective candidates. Remember, however, that the mere filing of a complaint does not mean that any wrongdoing actually took place, as contrasted to completed actions where fault was cited and some penalty and/or restitution was exacted.
Finally, make good use of professional association databases readily accessible through the Internet. Among these are the SFSP (Society of Financial Service Professionals), the AICPA (Association of Certified Public Accountants), CFP® Board (Certified Financial Board of Standards), ABA (American Bar Association), NAEPC (National Association of Estate Planners and Councils) and Fi360.
NOTE: Mr. Lowry is Senior Partner of Lowry Financial Advisors, Inc., located in Tioga, Florida.