Brown Wealth Management’s Accelerated Growth Demonstrates Advantages of Aligning Financial Advisors’ Soft and Hard Skills
In launching his independent RIA firm, Brown and his partners had a clear vision: To elevate the client service experience by integrating the very best features of holistic planning, life coaching and investment management.
Today, the firm serves high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals, families and business owners across the country, managing over $1.4 billion in assets through 16 dedicated professionals on the Brown Wealth Management team.
It’s an impressive growth journey, considering how the firm departed Wells Fargo six years ago with roughly $400 million and five employees.
Bringing Together Best-of-Breed Planning, Coaching and Investment Management
Even more remarkable, however, is how the integration of soft skills and hard skills across the Brown Wealth Management team has kept the firm true to its founding mission of guiding people between the two guardrails of “not running out of money” and “maximizing quality of life while on the planet.”
It’s a powerful message that has attracted clients who are very strongly aligned with Brown Wealth Management’s approach to service and solutions.
The firm’s client base consists mainly of business owners that have conducted or are looking for a successful exit; corporate executives and employees that hold a significant degree of employer denominated compensation; and engineers and scientists that are extremely detail-driven, with an eye toward performance and very reasonable fees.
Brown Wealth Management’s sweet spot for clients is in the $3 million to $15 million assets range, although the firm does serve many clients well above those levels.
We recently connected with Jeff Brown to get a sense of how his embrace of integrated planning, coaching and investing has helped supercharge Brown Wealth Management’s growth, attract top shelf clients…and where the future of wealth management could be heading.
WSR: How has integrating holistic planning and coaching with investment management helped your firm deliver an elevated client experience and generate business growth?
Brown: These days financial planning and good investment management should be table stakes. The reality is that the best of the best will stay on the forefront of advice and technology.
While we felt we delivered holistic planning just three years ago, we have really moved more into what I would call holistic “guiding.” Goals change. Situations change. Economies change.
But meanwhile, people’s intentions rarely change, so building a future based on goals without knowing intentions is ‘old school’.
Each of our initial client meetings encompasses 90 min getting to know our clients in a unique way, and using technology to get to the true intentions of what money means to them. If the client is married, it is required that both spouses attend all parts of our onboarding process so we can make the best possible recommendations.
Once we have the client’s intentions clear, we can help them formulate goals based on those intentions, then action items tied to those goals. More important than creating the plan, is the ability and flexibility to change that plan. That’s what client pay us to do.
An excellent process and cutting-edge technology make this service very manageable at Brown Wealth Management. We spend a lot of time and money focusing on improving technology and process so that we can provide more services for the same fee to our clients over time.
We believe that investment management expertise is expected at every quality firm. By managing this process in house, we know when we are shifting portfolios to a more conservative or aggressive strategy and how we ‘feel’ about the financial markets.
This allows our advisors to always have an opinion about our client’s portfolios and help them make financial planning decisions that might require an allocation change, selling assets to fund goals or investing excess proceeds on the sidelines into investments.
WSR: What are the essential building blocks for a successful integrated planning, coaching and investment management approach for client service?
Brown: It starts with a vetted process. It is not easy to get from “nice to meet you” to “here is how you change your life”. Our process takes prospective clients through a series of meetings that use a variety of fintech offerings to maximize the experience and the information that we gather.
So, understanding technology and knowing how it needs to be integrated is a key building block at Brown Wealth Management. Think of that as the base.
However, having great tools isn’t useful if you don’t know how to use them. Our advisory team does extensive reading and education as well as weekly meetings to maximize the use of these tools. The team at our firm is the center building block of a successful experience. We track every available planning and life event for each client in our custom CRM so anyone on the team can step in quickly to see where a client is and what they need to do next.
Finally, the investment management building block is layered at the top. All client portfolios are customized to be based on their objectives, goals and intentions. We offer tactically managed portfolios so that we can change with market conditions, but since clients often change their goals, we need to be flexible to adjust the portfolios at the client level to always make sure they are in line with the client’s journey.
WSR: What would you say to independent financial advisor businesses that are sticking to a “Rep as PM” approach – And who believe holistic advice and coaching are unimportant compared to directly managing assets to drive investment returns?
Brown: Holistic advice and coaching unimportant? My initial reaction would be “Perfect – Good for Brown Wealth Management, bad for the other firms’ clients.”
I think you can manage money in house if you are doing all the other services. Unfortunately, however, there are a lot of ‘investment’ advisors that think they can define value with a good story and a relationship.
While I’m sure there are some truly great investment advisors and money managers out there, the tough part will be for them to compete effectively over the long term.
Most savvy clients are going to learn about holistic planning and wonder why they are paying a fee to an investment advisor when they could be getting so much more for the same or sometimes lower fee.
If I were a primarily money management-focused financial advisor, I would try and partner with a financial planning firm or wealth management firm to offer the asset management as a model and deliver holistic planning expertise to their clients.
If they are great at what they do, feel free to have them give us a call!
WSR: If you could travel back in time to give the 25-year-old version of yourself any planning or coaching tips about how to best approach a career in wealth management, what would they be?
Brown: I really believe there are two types of advisors out there. There are the ones that really want to help people, make a good living, make a difference, and learn a lot in the process.
And then there are others, who want to do most of that while building the business from scratch – They are the entrepreneurs.
The advice I have is to try and figure out who you are ASAP. These two paths require two totally different skill sets, mindset and working hours.
The sooner you can educate your future self on who you are today, the better off you will be and the more chance you will have for success long term. Again, it all comes down to understanding the intention behind what is most important to you.
Janeesa Hollingshead, Senior Editor, can be reached via email@example.com