Who Needs a Plan? We Do. You Do.

It is a fair question to ask your financial advisor if he or she “eats their own cooking.” In other words, do they invest in the same way that they advise their clients to invest? If so, it shows that they have strong enough beliefs about investing to follow their own advice. That would be a comforting feeling if I were in a client’s chair.

We could take it a step further, though, and ask an advisor (continuing the food analogy): Do you follow the recipe? In other words, do you have a plan for how to get to the desired result. As someone who can’t help but plan for every eventuality, I think this is an even more important question than asking about the investments. If a professional tells you they will help you meet goals, make decisions, and understand your situation, are they disciplined enough to do it themselves when it counts?

I mention this because Katie and I were invited to be guests on a podcast hosted by our friend, Steve Sanduski, entitled Between Now and Success. Steve had come to know how we were planning our business in a very purposeful way and wanted to explore our methods for the benefit of his national audience. You can listen to the conversation and read the show notes here.

To summarize an hour’s worth of conversation, we have thought very deeply about what it takes to serve the families who trust us now and those who may come to us in the future. We know that being good planners and investors will help a lot of people, but we also know that firms like ours hit stumbling blocks along the way. They fail to plan for growth. They fail to use technology to improve the client experience. They fail to develop talented people. From our inception we have embraced the idea that Morton Brown Family Wealth could grow accidentally. There are too many people in need, and the number of qualified advisors is shrinking. We need to have both the ability and the capacity to serve.  We need to be prepared.

We started with a Creed that defined our values and focused our efforts on helping families make Confident decisions. Then we started building Playbooks that helped us articulate what we do, how we do it, and deliver on those promises. The client experience should be consistent and robust; Playbooks have focused our attention on both of those goals.The result is a living, breathing plan that evolves with every new day, much like the financial plans that we create for our clients.

Financial decisions are too important to not have a plan. Our work here is too important to not have a plan. We follow the recipe, eat our own cooking, and are happy to be able to pull back the curtain and share some of the work that goes on behind the scenes.


One Year On: Freedom, Fearless, Celebrate

Morton Brown Family Wealth has crossed the milestone of one year since our founding. Katie and I continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude for the trust of the families whom we serve, the team who has bought into our vision, and all of the family and friends who give loving support for the work that we do.

I keep a Moleskine notebook with me every day and write (illegibly) my thoughts and observations, some of which eventually make it here to the blog. I am trying to get better at this writing habit because at times like this, when I want to reflect, I can reach back to what I thought in the moment.

What did I think when we flipped the switch and the firm went live? Humbled. When the markets sank at our first year-end? A healthy test for us and our clients. When work was coming back from vendors sub-standard? Fight for higher standards.

The most recurring words that surface though, are the three words that we decided at the start would define our first year: Freedom, Fearless, Celebrate. They are simple reminders for us of the opportunity ahead, the challenges we will face, and the attitude that will make it all worth it.

Freedom: I have heard it said that the highest expression of Freedom is Commitment. I could do anything, I choose to do this. A year ago we could have built a firm any way that we chose, but we expressed our freedom by defining what we are creating: Confident families. We will not be all things to all people, but rather focus on supporting the unique decisions that families make about money. That commitment has been liberating.

Fearless:  Launching Morton Brown felt bold in the moment, but that need for boldness has not subsided. We have found that it takes guts to have candid conversations with clients, to speak out loud about our strongly held beliefs, and to take on some of the lesser practices of our industry. It is necessary, though, and it builds muscle. I think we are much better today at seeking out those fearless moments, supporting each member of the team as they do courageous things, and using the strength that we build to benefit our clients.

Celebrate:  This one’s for me, especially. I feel blessed to always have an eye out toward the horizon, looking ahead to see what might be coming. That means the blind spots are often in the moment, when great accomplishments and special moments are happening here and now. I want our culture to be one of celebration, where we pause to recognize how amazing it is that we get to do this work. For people we care about. With people who cheer for each other.  Supported by the people who love us. Cheers!

I am going to keep these words top of mind for the remainder of 2019, then retire them and look out for what will define 2020. Looking back, Freedom, Fearless, and Celebrate, felt right as a concept a year ago and helped build a culture of which I am very proud.

How to Interview a Financial Advisor

When someone reaches the point when they need financial advice, the idea of interviewing a professional is intimidating.  For many years, we met with people who admitted that they did not know what to ask and were making decisions on hiring someone based on their gut.  You can imagine the risk in that.  The advisor who is hired may be the most charismatic salesperson, but are they the best fit? 

As a tool for people who might want to interview our firm, or anyone else for that matter, we created a list of questions for a prospective client to ask an advisor.  The questions cover the business model, credentials, compensation, and expertise of the person to whom they would entrust their financial future.  After comparing answers, the family can at least know that they have made an apples-to-apples comparison of different firms. 

Questions for a Financial Advisor

  • Are you a Fiduciary, required to provide advice in my best interests at all times?
    • Registered Investment Advisor (Fiduciary Standard)
    • Broker/Dealer (Suitability Standard)
  • What type of business is your firm?
    • Corporation
    • Partnership
    • Who are the decision makers?
  • What are your credentials and experience?
    • Professional designation (CFP®, CFA, CPA, etc.)
    • Licensing, registration
    • How long have you been providing this kind of advice to clients like me?
  • Financial Planning
    • How do you incorporate the financial planning process into your services?
    • What kind of financial plan can we expect?
  • Typical Client Type
    • How many households do you work with?
    • What is the risk profile of a typical client?
    • Do you work with institutions and businesses or just families?
    • What is the financial profile of a typical client and how much have they invested with you?
  • How are you compensated?
    • Fee
    • Salary
    • Commission
  • How will we work together?
    • Who will I work with?
    • How often do we communicate and meet?
    • How is performance reported?
    • What is the size of your team?
  • How do you approach investing for people like us?
    • What types of investments do you use in your portfolios?
    • What are the costs of the investments that you use?
    • What is your philosophy?
    • Who makes the investment decisions?
    • How frequently do you trade?
  • Where will my assets be held?

We often talk about the importance of confidence in financial matters and what better way to start an advisory relationship than with the confidence that you have asked the right questions.

Contact Dennis

Important Disclosures