Bridging the Virtual Gap

By Daxs Stadjuhar, Managing Partner and Chief Risk Officer

A topic we’ve been covering this year is how to create an exceptional client experience as we continue to work in a virtual or hybrid office/virtual environment. Last month, we talked about how your physical space plays an important role in the energy that you bring to your practice. This month, we’re highlighting how to make your clients feel like you’re bridging gaps rather than widening them, especially with your client’s extended family and centers of influence.

This time last year, there were a lot of things that were “nice to dos” that are now a MUST DO. For example, as a courtesy, a Network office sends client reviews via FedEx so the older, less tech-savvy family have time to review the report before meeting. Another sends  top clients GrubHub vouchers to make up for the lunch meetings they used to have in person. Our friends at Goldman Sachs are discovering that these “nice to dos” are now essential. If you want to maintain the closeness with your clients, personalized touches that close the gap in this new business environment are crucial.

What are the lessons learned?  Truth be told, we are still learning them as we go along.  Some clients are embracing this new environment while others are starving for engagement and interaction.  Equally important, how are you doing?  Is this new environment “feeding” your core needs to have meaningful and valuable conversations with your clients? Please continue to stay engaged with us as we navigate and share what we are learning so we can all serve our clients in this crisis.

Tools for Thriving in a Digital Environment

By Tom Croxton, VP Business Transitions

When the pandemic hit the US at the beginning of 2020, a record number of professionals found themselves working entirely remotely. Yet from what I have seen there has not been a lot of struggle despite the unexpected shift to a virtual environment. Many advisors say that a lot of clients even prefer it.

While advisors and clients are mostly enjoying this new digital atmosphere, what technological enhancements are still available that offices are not taking advantage of? As an example, our partners at LPL Financial report that only 25% of offices use DocuSign, an online tool which allows clients and advisors to review and process paperwork both virtually and securely. Recently, one of the offices we worked with conducted an entire merger with 100% remote signatures. They were able to send and track the signature status for hundreds of forms from one easy location—not to mention saving on all that paper and time spent back and forth at FedEx.

DocuSign is just an example of one online resource that can help streamline your daily tasks. Other advisors have taken advantage of ScheduleOnce, allowing clients to view availability synced straight from a calendar, then set up meetings with automated reminders that link to a video portal such as Zoom or GoToMeeting.

What other tools can you use to thrive in our new digital environment? Our Business Consulting team has lots of ideas for how you can improve the efficiencies in your office.

Is Your Home Office Environment Working for You?

By Daxs Stadjuhar, Managing Partner and Chief Risk Officer

When I first started using my webcam as the primary way I connected with advisors and prospects, I had just moved into my new house. My home office was barely set up; the comforts I had come to rely on like a standing desk, multiple monitors, and a large space where I could shut the door away from the world were gone. Instead, over my shoulder you could see the door leading to my living room and a bookcase crowded with family portraits. One day my wife and four kids paraded past on their way out the door while I was on a big team meeting. The next, I caught the way my face looked on a particularly important call—washed out and exhausted under my 1000-watt bulbs. Was this the way I wanted to represent my business?

While many of us are dealing with similar situations and a certain level of forgiveness can and should take place, I did not feel like I could bring my typical level of professionalism to my interactions, and it was affecting my energy and drive. The days of hopping on a plane to finalize a deal or walking into an office for an audit are on pause. The way we connect has changed for the foreseeable if not the permanent future, and so, too, has the way I engage with my virtual environment.

Last month, I invested in recessed lighting for my home office. I bought the standing desk, threw a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and organized my bookcase. I know to shut the door when I am on a video call. I kept a few of the family portraits up—some change is for the better.

It is important to adapt with the times and accept that while we might not love the virtual environment, there are ways to make it work for us. At The Network, let us work with you to discover how to harness your workspace and channel that energy into your engagements with clients, colleagues, and prospects. Just because we are at home does not mean we need to feel like anything less than our best professional self.

Mergers and Acquisitions: The Right Deal or The Right Partnership?

By Christopher Mercado, MBA, CFP®, CIMA®, AIFA®, Managing Partner and Chief Investment Strategist

In the world of M&A, there are a million things to take into consideration, but one of the most important aspect that advisors often forget is that you not only need to find the right deal but find the right partnership.

It seems intuitive, but in a contract-driven engagement, all parties involved can hyper-focus on the numbers and leave out the personalities behind those numbers. I’ll hear advisors ask, “Does merging with this practice help my bottom line?” or, “What’s the breakeven analysis on the acquisition of this book?” What they need to do is take a step back before signing on that dotted line and ask: “Does the values of this practice match my own?” and “How will these clients fit with my investment strategy?”

In fact, I tell my team that you should consider the process as carefully as you would a marriage—this is a decision that can affect the rest of your professional life, so treat each step with care and flexibility. Even for advisors looking to retire, the advice is the same. Let’s face it, it took you a lifetime to develop your practice—the last thing you want to do is let it go to another firm that won’t take decent care of your clients. At The Network, we partner with you to take a holistic look at your practice and the firm, business, or advisor you’re thinking of engaging with. Contact our team today for help.

Arakelian Wealth Management Welcomes Jane Levine to their Growing Practice

Arakelian Wealth Management (AWM) is proud to welcome Jane Levine, CFP® as the newest advisor to their organization. AWM is an affiliated office of LPL Financial based in San Ramon, California, and seamlessly services clients throughout California and several states throughout the country.

While 2020 has been a struggle for many offices, it has proved to be a banner year for Stuart Arakelian of AWM. With their new corporate office in San Ramon and a growing client base, AWM was ready to add to their team. Over his 35 years in the business, Danville resident and active community member Arakelian has been recognized as a Chairman’s Club* advisor by LPL, along with numerous other company and industry awards throughout his career. AWM prides themselves in delivering a truly holistic and comprehensive approach to their financial planning, and as they searched for an advisor, Arakelian knew they wanted the presence of a seasoned female advisor who shared this perspective on their team.

With 36 years of industry experience, Levine provided the insight and integrity they sought. “Like AWM, Levine had a concentrated number of households to which she holds strong, committed relationships,” Arakelian stated. “We knew she’d be the ideal fit.” Levine, fellow Danville resident and past President of the East Bay Financial Planning Association, spent 13 years at Washington Gas Light and attained the positions of Director of Investor Relations, and Pension Plan Oversight, reporting to the CFO. After moving to New Jersey in 1983, she gained experience in stock brokerage, insurance, and financial planning. Eventually obtaining her CFP® designation, she moved to California in 1995 and became affiliated with LPL. Levine says that she chose LPL Financial for their independence, allowing her to serve her clients best.

Both Arakelian and Levine are existing members of The Financial Services Network, a business support organization providing resources to independent financial advisors. Leveraging The Network’s investment management expertise, AWM has the opportunity to expand clearing relationships with additional custodians such as Schwab, TD, and Fidelity to provide further options for their clients. They also appreciate The Network’s strong relationship with LPL and their ability to act as advocates on behalf of their practice and clients.

Christopher Mercado, Managing Partner of The Financial Services Network, said, “The Network is thrilled by the union of Arakelian and Levine. We have no doubt that their expertise and commitment will only further enhance and support their clients’ experience.”

With the union of the two veteran advisors, AWM is better poised than ever to deliver on the mission statement, “Mindful, comprehensive financial advice is a fundamental need for everyone. We allow our clients to focus on their life’s priorities while we diligently support them at every stage to guide and help ensure that their financial aspirations ultimately become reality.”

The Financial Services Network (The Network), is a national enterprise office (OSJ) and multi-custodial hybrid RIA with over $18B under advisement across the organization. Assets are custodied at their affiliated broker/dealer – LPL Financial, and/or their custodial partners, including LPL Financial, Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade. Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG) is The Network’s wholly owned RIA with over $4.5B in assets under management. The Network supports advisors who are independent and affiliate traditionally with an independent broker/dealer (for both brokerage and advisory business through the corporate RIA) through their OSJ model. The Network’s hybrid RIA, SWAG, also supports advisors who manage a Fee Only/RIA Only business as well as those in need of a Hybrid RIA.

*LPL’s Chairman’s Club distinction is awarded to less than 5% of LPL advisors nationwide

The consultants of The Financial Services Network are registered representatives with, and securities are offered through, LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Fee-based investment advisory services may be offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG) or LPL Financial. Neither SWAG nor The Financial Services Network are affiliated with LPL Financial. Schwab, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The financial consultants of Arakelian Wealth Management are registered representatives with, and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group, LLC a registered investment advisor. Strategic Wealth Advisors Group, LLC and Arakelian Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.

*Based on prior business and represents assets that would have been custodied at LPL Financial, rather than third-party custodians. Reported assets and client numbers have not been independently and fully verified by LPL Financial.