[tweet_box design=”box_10″ url=”https://buff.ly/2oLKSg5″ float=”none” excerpt=”We may not have all the answers individually, but we can build a team in the community that can solve the challenge. – @thebrentweiss on #YAFPNW”]We may not have all the answers individually, but we can build a team in the community that can solve the challenge. – @thebrentweiss on #YAFPNW 175[/tweet_box]
Ian: Hello, everyone, and thanks for being with us today. We’re here with Brent Weiss, and we’re at FBAs annual conference 2019 sitting in what we’ve been calling the fish bowl inside of the hall here. So Brent is here to help us talk about the future of the profession. We’re going to have a little conversation about what he does with Facet and his role and how we can all work together to do that. So thanks for being here, Brent.
Brent: Ian, thanks for having me. it’s great to be here at FBA National, be here in the fish bowl. I love the energy at these conferences. It’s always inspiring for me when I go back home to Baltimore and get to sort of wave the fiduciary and financial planning flag and talk about advancing the profession. So it’s great to be here.
Ian: Yeah. So let’s talk about it. So let’s get started with sort of your role at Facet. What is your role at Facet? I’ll let you say it, and then give us a little flavor of what that means to you.
Brent: So it’s interesting. Usually I’m introduced with the title when people start scratching their head and going, what is that thing? So I’m the Chief Evangelist at Facet. I’m also one of the co-founders, original financial planning co-founder with an amazing team back in 2016.
Brent: So I think to give some people the context of what a Chief Evangelist is, we have to go back to the origin of it, because it’s new to the industry, but it’s not new to industries in general. So it started back in Silicon Valley with the technology companies building innovative solutions, disruptive solutions. Guy Kawasaki of Apple is like the most famous Chief Evangelist out there.
Brent: So the whole idea is it’s about … the simple solution is it’s about spreading the word and about bringing something new and disruptive to sort of the world, bringing a new idea to the world, and creating believers and followers and establishing it as this new standard within some organization or industry in terms of what you’re doing. That’s what Silicon Valley did for many, many years and continues to do. One of things that we want to do at Facet to show that you can build innovative world-class companies outside of the Valley. That’s why we chose Baltimore as one of the things here.
Brent: The last thing I’ll say about that before we get into the specifics of the role is the cool thing about the Chief Evangelist role is, they say this in the industry, it’s not a job title, it’s a way of life. So it’s a bit of a nebulous thing, but the great thing for Chief Evangelist is you get to create your own evangelism and figure out how do you bring some new, innovative, and sometimes crazy ideas to your industry and profession to try and create some change, inspire the next generation, to start some movements, to really create some disruption and innovation.
Ian: Awesome. So now you’ve described what the role is. What does that mean you do when you’re out in the field?
Brent: Can I say I don’t know sometimes.
Ian: That’s a good answer.
Brent: I’m still trying to figure this out here at the end a little bit. So I boil this down to three key elements. So internally it’s … because it’s both internal and external. When you think about the evangelist role internally, it’s about being a brand evangelist.
Brent: So what I do on a day-to-day basis, which doesn’t involve any particular tasks, but it’s about influencing our product, our process, and our people. So that’s really influencing the culture that we’re creating and the people that we’re hiring within the organization to keep us true to our North Star. It’s about the product, which is our technology. Making sure that the financial planning, financial life planning technology we’re developing is actually designed correctly for the people that we’re providing advice to. Then from a process perspective, it’s about the financial life planning experience overall. Are we building it the right way based upon our mission as an organization to make sure we’re helping the families that traditionally have not had access to this kind of advice?
Brent: So that’s sort of internally. Externally, it’s really … I’m also a champion and advocate for real quality financial planning. I love what RIAs do. I run a wealth management firm for about 10 years. I think what CFP professionals and other fiduciary advisors do is fantastic, and I want to be a champion and advocate for that. Then last but not least, it’s about being an advocate and ambassador for next generation planning solutions and the technology that will enable greater access to true fiduciary financial planning.
Ian: I think that kind of resonates with what Tom Potts had to say yesterday morning where you have two responsibilities from a fiduciary perspective, you have fiduciary duty to your clients and a fiduciary duty to the profession.
Brent: Amen, absolutely.
Ian: Thank you for being that.
Brent: I could not agree more.
Ian: So before we go further, we’re going to skip around here a little bit. I think it’d be helpful to sort of introduce who it is you work for, because I don’t even think we’ve gotten there yet, and what you all do so that our listeners can get a sense of where you’re at in the marketplace.
Brent: I’m happy to do it. I always … I’ll preface it by saying I’m never wanting to pitch or plug Facet Wealth.
Ian: No, no. But yeah, let us know what’s going on …
Brent: I’m the Chief Evangelist for reason, because I’m inspired by what we’re doing and I’m passionate about sort of the movement that was started 50 years ago, I think, as of this December and the firm. So Facet Wealth is we’re a national RIA, we provide financial planning, but I always like to start with our why. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Simon Sinek TED talk. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. I think it’s actually how great leaders inspire action. So our why as an organization is to make high quality financial advice through a dedicated CFP professional more affordable and accessible to everyday families. Simply put, right? Most people hear that and go, wow, that sounds simple, but it’s hard to do. So that’s the organization.
Brent: So we do three things. We do planning, technology, and partnerships. The planning is the comprehensive financial planning, delivering that differently to families who traditionally have not had access, who may not have investible assets, but still struggle with everyday financial life decisions and empowering them to improve their health and wellness.
Brent: The technology. We are a technology firm. I guess you can put us in the fintech category, because we’re building our own proprietary technology. It’s really around empowering our advisors to be more efficient and productive and really better at financial planning so they can spend their time where it matters most, and that’s with our clients.
Brent: The last thing is our partnerships is we work with the RAA and financial planning community to really drive and support the movement. We’re not creating the movement, we’re supporting the movement, quality fiduciary planning, supporting RIAs, and building healthy, sustainable business of the future. And really developing next generation talent, which I’m sure we’ll talk about soon, which is lacking in this industry. But it’s a really amazing opportunity for everybody here.
Ian: Awesome. Thanks for sharing that with us. I think it’s helpful to get some context in terms of where people are coming, and the types of clients that you work with, and what you’re hoping to bring to the table. So thanks for sharing that.
Brent: Of course.
Ian: Let’s go back to sort of where we were from an evangelist perspective. So you do this from Facet with both, like you said, an inward and an outward looking lens.
Ian: How do other firms step into that similar role where they can be advocates for the profession to move forward and still be successful at what they do? Because I think the goal is not to make people feel badly for not serving the underserved, right?
Brent: That’s a good point.
Ian: When we talk about financial planning for every person on the planet, that means every person on the planet. So folks may work with the ultra high net worth folks, but still they want to be part of this conversation. So how do you sort of do both?
Brent: It’s an excellent question. I always say that I don’t know all the answers. Part of what I want to do is build a community where we can find the answers together. The way I think about this and think about it from a financial planning perspective, we sit down with clients and it’s like, what are your goals? How do you define success? If we walk in and tell a client, “Here’s what you should be doing,” they’re going to raise their hand and go, “Time out. Can we talk about me for a second?”
Brent: So when I think about this, think about the two sides of running a healthy, sustainable, profitable business, that’s a good thing. If you’re doing it right, you’re doing great work for the families you represent, be proud of that. But then there’s sort of what I call the responsibility we have to advance the profession. First of all, define success for you. I think the industry’s done a terrible job in terms of defining success for RIAs. If you look at top RIAs, it’s either assets under management, it’s growth, or its revenue. Is that really what’s important to you? Now, it might be, which is fine, but a lot of younger advisors are going, “Maybe it’s not that for me.”
Brent: So I’m actually working on what I’m calling the RIA Health Index at Facet that actually looks at other things to judge health. It includes a digital index. Are you investing in technology to support your business, but to build a future ready firm? A sustainability index. Are you really building a firm that can serve clients from multiple generations? So a lot of advisors aren’t, which is fine, but we have to think differently.
Brent: Then here’s the other one I really like is responsibility index. I believe in and I love the work that you do with the FBA within your firm, within the community, and I thank you for that, but I think we have a responsibility to go beyond that and say like, okay, let’s get involved in the inclusion and diversity conversations. Let’s get involved in the next generation talent development. We have an issue there, so let’s actually make it a reality. So let’s judge the health of firms on are they advancing the profession or not.
Brent: The last thing that I have that’s not really being talked about is I call it the client experience index. What is real financial planning? There’s no … you can look up, go to CFP Board, type, look up financial planning, it’ll give you a definition. But when you say when advisors are are actually delivering advice to their clients, how do you define that? Are clients really getting what they need or deserve?
Brent: So number one, define success for you. Then think about once you’ve defined success, understand what your one thing is that you can give back to this community and focus on that. Find the people that have already started that community, find the people that believe in that one thing. Then from there help to amplify that voice within the industry.
Ian: So I’m hearing you say is understand where you’re successful from your business perspective and be great at it, and then find ways to give back to the profession that’s provided you an opportunity to build a business and be successful.
Brent: 100%. I think the key is, like everything else, keep it simple, stupid. I’ll say this, from my younger … at my previous company when I was running a wealth management firm, I was doing 17 different things and I was on eight boards, and I did none of them well. What I realized is I need to focus on one thing that really is important to me where I can create impact. So for the advisors out there, I think the most important thing … especially for younger advisors, because we all start and we want to change the world, we want to solve all the problems … is simplify it and figure out what it is, where you can make a difference. One thing, maybe it’s three max, and then focus on that one thing or those three and drive a real meaningful impact. I promise you it’ll be very fulfilling for you. You’ll advance the profession and still be able and have time to run a great successful business.
Ian: And don’t spread yourself too thin. Stop saying yes to everything that comes to your door and pick the things where you can be successful.
Brent: Amen, absolutely.
Ian: Awesome. So we started to talk about this, you touched on this. I’m curious to hear from you what conversation should we be having in this profession as the next generation of advisors thinks about the future of the profession? What should we be thinking about that maybe we’re not thinking about as the thoroughly as we are right now?
Brent: I’m looking at my watch and thinking how much time do we have? I think he said get 45 minutes. This could be like a 10 part series, I think, when we start talking about the conversation. But I boil this down to sort of five things that are top of mind to me everyday and that I really hear about at conferences like FBA national and Insider’s Forum from … or Insider’s Conference, I think, with Bob Veres. There are five things. So I’ll list them and we can dive into certain ones depending on what I think makes the most sense.
Brent: Number one is next generation talent. I think that’s everywhere. No matter where you go, whether you’re on Twitter or you’re on social media, you’re at conferences, everyone’s talking about like, we have a problem here. It’s one of our sort of two degree problems right? The global warming issue. We all know it’s kind of there and we talk about it a lot, but are we doing enough to solve the challenge?
Brent: The next one is diversity inclusion. This is an amazing opportunity for our industry and we have to do more. Now, I will say this, I have to do more, because I don’t want to point fingers at other people. I know there’s amazing advisors and community leaders starting that conversation. I need to get more involved there. I think we all should get more involved there.
Brent: Then we have, I think, a lot of firms are building commoditized undifferentiated businesses. If you go to websites and you look at value propositions, we sound the same. So when you think about building a business … I think of report just came out from XY Planning Network that firms that build niches are growing faster. They have better client experiences because they’re focused on driving better outcomes for clients.
Brent: Then I always say this. Kind of good advice is no longer good enough. If you’re giving generic general advice to families, it’s probably not what they deserve. Specialize in something driving edge.
Brent: Last thing is, of course because of what we do at Facet Wealth, is creating greater access to real financial planning. That needs to be a conversation that more people are talking about. You don’t have to solve it individually, but together as a community we need to find a way to create access for more families that need it.
Ian: Thanks for sharing that. I think it’s super awesome to even think about all those different types of things. Let’s start with the first one you brought up with next generation talent. So you graduate college, you graduate 5,000 CFPs a year. Where are the opportunities for those students to really find true financial planning work, number one? Then the second part of that question is can you be successful working for maybe a firm you’re not ready for or were hoping not to be a part of, but that’s the job that was available to you?
Brent: It’s a very good question. I’m aging myself a bit here. 15 years ago is when I got started in the industry. The funny thing is the job that I found did not exist. It was with an independent boutique firm, literally four employees, that included the owner. I got in there and I found a true financial planning position. Now, I started as an analyst, I started running investment reports, but the great thing is the owner of that firm took me under his wing and said, “Help me build a great business and I will coach and lead and mentor,” and we worked as a team, he let me sit in on client meetings, do all the things.
Brent: The challenge I see … and Ian, you might know more about this than me, I’m a little disconnected from coming right out of college kind of thing … is I still see a lack of opportunities for those roles within the more boutique or smaller RIAs. I see a lot of opportunities at the Vanguards, at the Schwabs, and all that.
Brent: I will tell you this, and we see this at Facet actually, is their advisors from those firms, CFP professionals, calling us and saying, “I want to get back into real financial planning. We’re not looking at all facets of their overall financial life. I want to do something different.” So that’s why at Facet we’re doing some things that are quite unique, not only from a technology perspective, but ultimately real financial planning, quality, comprehensive financial planning.
Brent: But here’s the thing, if you want to get into financial planning, you have to start somewhere. It’s unfortunate to some extent that the number of jobs, the ideal job may not exist, but the industry is growing. It is advancing. There’s a lot of really amazing younger owners, innovators, leaders that are creating those positions. So it’s okay to go work at a larger firm and get a sense of what is real financial planning, how do I get some experience? If you’re coming out of college, how do you get the two years or three years? You need to actually have the CFP professional designation, and then at the same time look around and say, where can I find the right opportunity for me as I think about what is it that I want to be when I grow up?” kind of thing. By the way, you never actually find that answer. I’m only 37, but it’s still very difficult to do that stuff.
Ian: Right. So what I’m hearing you say is you reserve the right to change your mind. You graduate college, you take a job, get into the profession, and then reevaluate where you are and where you’d like to be. That’s okay.
Brent: It is 100% okay. The great thing, I would say, about the larger firms is they know this is going to happen. That’s why they sort of hire in large classes and they know that, hey, some people are going to leave. They have to understand that. I think actually one of the challenges for a more traditional boutique RIA, so you can say anywhere from 10, 15 even 30, 40, 50 employees, is that when they hire individuals, the cost of turnover is much higher. It’s hard to hire somebody who you think is going to be the next generation in your. Five years down the road, they go, you know what? I think there’s something else or another opportunity. That’s a hard thing.
Brent: I’m going to study group with a lot of really amazing financial advisors, building excellent businesses, and they say all the time, “I can’t find good talent.” Now, I look at them and say, “Well, build a build a better career path, number one.” But ultimately, they’re afraid to actually hire, invest in somebody for the next generation for 3, 5, 10 years, and then have them leave. That sets them back more than a decade sometimes. Especially from a financial perspective, that hurts their firms. So there are a lot of RIAs struggling with this. I want to find the right talent, but if I hire someone who’s 22, 23, are they going to be here 10 years down the road, help me build a healthy, sustainable future ready firm? It’s an interesting sort of dynamic that’s occurring there.
Ian: So I heard you say build a better career track. What else comes to mind for you from a firm perspective? Put yourself back in the previous life you lived if you’re hiring new talent in that style of a firm, how do you create successful talent if you find the right person?
Brent: So it’s an excellent question. I’ll give you my thoughts on it. There are many thoughts to this, but I can tell you what worked for me. The most amazing thing that happened in my career is I had at that time my boss who eventually became my business owner who believed in me and said, “I’m going to actually create what I call living classroom.’ It wasn’t, hey, go sit in this back room and do reports all day and go out there and find business even though you’re 24, 25, don’t actually know how to develop business. You’re not going to bring on the right kind of clients with that kind of thing.
Brent: We actually sat down and we did meetings together even when I was younger and he said, “Brent is the next generation of our firm, and he’s here to help me and assist me in building a better client experience for you, better outcomes, and to run the business as we go forward.” Clients loved it, actually. All of a sudden they actually started sending their children to us, because all of a sudden there was sort of a fresh, bushy-tailed person who could work with them.
Brent: But the single most important thing for me is we need the leadership to understand that they need to invest in the younger generation. So it’s about … I call it living classroom. Let them be involved in those conversations and assist. They’re not going to lead right away. That’s fine. Most advisors didn’t wake up one day excellent financial advisors, great business developers. It takes time to develop. So number one, give them opportunities. Second of all, challenge them. Everything I see the next generation, they want to be challenged. They’ll do what they have to do to get to the next step in their career, but challenge them, give them a leadership role or a management role or a project to run where they can learn.
Brent: By the way, let them fail. It’s okay to fail. Maybe not with the most important things for your clients, but give them little projects. Failure along the way is one of the best ways to learn and coach them through it. “Hey, Ian, you know, I know you tried that project, didn’t quite work out. Great work. What did we learn from it? Hey, by the way, I trust you. I’m going to give you another project and let’s learn from that and build it better.” All of a sudden you start to see the next generation really … first of all, they’re going to be engaged. They’re going to probably … they’re more likely to stay with your firm because they’re going, this is incredible. Look at the investment that they’re making in me. There’s some loyalty there, and it will help you build a better workforce, a better client experience, and a better business longer term.
Ian: The last thing on this same topic, what does that do for buy-in around the firm when you’ve got talent that you’re actually investing in and bringing up and doing what you’re supposed to be doing as a business owner, how does that reflect back to you?
Brent: Buy-in from … I just want to be clear I’m answering the right question. Buy-in for all the employees by-in for the younger generation to the firm?
Ian: For the employees that you’re employing. I guess the question is does that help with buy-in across the firms so that they better understand the mission and vision of the firm and produce more for you in the long run?
Brent: In my opinion, it absolutely does. I think you’re missing the point if you don’t do that. There’s three things that essentially that … and I forget the name of the book, so I’ll have to look it up after the fact or plug it in. There are three things that employees are typically looking for, and it’s MAP, mastery, autonomy, and purpose. So mastery means challenge them, let them be great at something. People want to excel and be seen as an integral part of your organization. If you do that, they’re going to love working for you. They’re going to find it to be a great, great culture. Autonomy. While living classroom is good, don’t micromanage. Let them experience it, but let them fail. It’s okay, give them the little projects. But then purpose. If they buy-in, if they feel like they’re building something with you, not something for you, they’re going to feel like it’s part of their thing and what they do. That creates purpose.
Brent: Look at our team at Facet Wealth. We have amazing talent across the board. The number one thing that comes up all the time is they feel a part of our mission. It’s not my mission, it’s not my story, it’s our mission, it’s our story. If you get that for your people, they will support anything that you do because it’s their story as well as yours.
Ian: The second thing that I want us to touch on, as you said, kind of good advice is not good enough. Can you help us understand more about what you mean?
Brent: Yeah, so this actually hit me just yesterday. I saw a marketing piece from one of the brokerage platforms. I won’t mention names to start a food fight there, but it was essentially it said small accounts, big opportunities. What these families really need is investments, better investments. I started going, is that really the right solution for these families? I just started thinking, why are we as an industry still doing the same thing we said 40 years ago when we’ve realized it’s not what those families deserve?
Brent: Now, my personal story, I think that I told in a conversation yesterday at FBA in many talks, it’s about Nanu and Pop. Those are my grandparents. I look around this country and go, Nanus and Pops of the world deserve better than just better investment advice. So when I look at this, there’s a couple of different things. Number one, if you’re giving generic or general advice, it’s no longer good enough. I think we should realize that.
Brent: Be an expert, be a specialist in something so when a family sits down with you … whether it’s military families, that can be very complicated. Maybe they don’t have wealth and need sophisticated trust and estate planning, but their benefits are very complicated. So are you working with military families and you’re not an expert in that. Number one, thank you for working with the men and women that serve. But second of all, think about it with other clients. If you’re not delivering excellent advice, ask yourself the question, is it good enough anymore? In my opinion, it’s not.
Brent: That’s why I think about investments only, investments is not the thing that … So this goes into the idea that more families need access to quality financial planning. Better investments is not the solutio when they’re struggling with … it’s not about retirement 30 years from now when they’re thinking about how do I pay my bills in 30 days? There’s a different way of thinking to get to that solution.
Ian: So I graduate from university, I go get my CFP, I started my job, I’m working. Where do I go next to get that above baseline level of knowledge that I need to be successful elsewhere?
Brent: There are a lot of ways you can do it. I think the first thing, in my opinion, is your firm has to create the culture and the environment to allow you to get that kind of expertise whether it’s a living classroom, whether it’s additional educational opportunities. To me, it was about joining other communities. Outside of financial planning, too, it’s always good to bring outside ideas in, that different experience. So when I was on a bunch of boards, which I could argue is a good thing and a bad thing, getting involved in local communities. I was on the thing called BJAC, Baltimore Junior Association of Commerce, became the treasurer. I got some really great experience in terms of just building relationships, professional rapport, which goes a long way to actually building trust.
Brent: There’s a research study that came out recently, and this is no surprise, the number one thing that clients are looking for in a relationship is trust, and then it’s knowledge and expertise, and then it’s service. Well, how do you build trust? You don’t at 22, no gray hairs and sometimes no facial hair. What do you do when you’re sitting down with a family who’s 55 or 65? Get experience outside. To me, once I got my CFP, I wasn’t necessarily concerned with additional letters after my name. I figured I’d try to figure out how can I actually deliver better experiences to my clients? How do I learn to evolve personally and professionally? How do I challenge myself externally? Joining boards, being on committees, meeting really amazing, different people that think differently than you, which that can lead into the diversity inclusion conversation. We need to challenge ourselves. That is the single best way we can learn.
Brent: This goes back to what I said about leaders letting their next generation advisors fail. Be okay with failure. Try things that seem a little crazy, because sometimes the crazy things are the things that lead to true innovation and disruption. But be okay with failure, that’s how you’re going to learn. Try things, test things, and find people who will support you and mentor you in that next stage of growth.
Ian: Awesome. So you said something at the end there I just want to ping on real quick. Innovation, where and how do we create space for innovation within the financial planning profession? So you’re doing it with Facet, some other firms are innovating. Where can I go if I’m a planner and I want to talk about innovative things?
Brent: I think it depends how you’re defining innovation. So whenever we hire individuals at Facet and we try to put them in classes so they can come in as 5 or 10 or 15 and feel part of a smaller community within a large organization. One of the things I say to them is, “Innovation doesn’t come just from leadership. You don’t have to be an executive or a manager to innovate.” Innovation, in my opinion, typically comes from the trenches. We go down and say, share them with us.
Brent: Now, we’ve created a culture of innovation. It’s just part of our core values. If we’re not innovating, we’re not advancing our company, let alone the industry. I don’t know all the specific places to go, but the really cool thing is you can go to fintech challenges, you can go to hackathons, you can go find places where people are thinking differently. What you shouldn’t do is go look at what’s been done for the last 40 years and say, “Oh, well, it’s just been done this way, so let’s just continue it.” Find the communities. I don’t know all of the communities, but look into them. You might know more than me, so if you have any, please throw them out here.
Brent: Where people, they’re different than you are me, or they’re thinking differently, they have different backgrounds. When you start to have those conversations, they’re going to give you the innovative ideas. Here’s the secret. A lot of the ideas that I have, I don’t magically come up with them. I just call people and say, “Hey, I love what you’re doing. Can I learn about it? Then can I pick your brain?” and say, “Here’s what we’re doing. Do you have any thoughts for me?” All of a sudden these people start to say, “Hey, have you thought about this?” Like, oh my gosh, that’s a great idea. I get to take that back to my business and my team. That’s where innovation occurs. It doesn’t have to be you. Involve yourself in the community of really smart, talented, crazy people to some extent, and that will drive further innovation.
Ian: My dad always says, “This is why we talk out loud.”
Ian: Keep these conversations out loud. So we’re going to move into the DNI conversation a little bit. So what comes to mind for you when it comes to financial planning in DNI? What are you thinking about there?
Brent: This is a tricky topic for me, Ian, because I will say this, I am not the expert in how to solve this this challenge. I can tell you what I’ve experienced in this industry and then we can talk about how I’m thinking about it. That may not be the right way to think about it, but it can at least give people ideas to then go, hm, maybe that is the way for me, maybe there’s another … my one thing is is doing X, Y and Z.
Brent: So at Facet, we’re hiring CFP professionals that typically … our average is like 12 to 15 years of experience. We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion at Facet. The challenge is if you look at the percentage of individuals that are diverse, that have 15 years of experience, that really doesn’t exist. Especially for the ones that we’re hiring. So we’re struggling with this, too, because we gotta go and say where is this diverse community that we can start developing and cultivating internally? Because again, I believe it’s part of our responsibility. Not just better for business, it’s our responsibility to the profession, to our country, all that kind of stuff. So we see that challenge.
Brent: Now what I’ve done, I didn’t wake up and say, “I need to start some movement in this.” I woke up and said, “Who are the people that are already doing it?” There’s a woman lives out of Braxton. Used to be in Baltimore, now she’s in New York City. I was bummed when I found out the other week that she lived in New York. I was like, “Oh, another Baltimore woman doing amazing things.”
Brent: But I’m still going to reach out to her and say, “What can I do to help?” Not, “How can I start a new thing?” I’m reaching out to the people that are doing it that already have the voice that are doing amazing things in the industry and saying, “What can I do to support you? How can I get involved?” Because I don’t know the answer. But they might come back and say, “Hey, Brent, there’s really three things where you can get involved. Which one resonates with you?” So find the organizations, find the people, find the communities, and just call them and say, “I’m really interested in this. I believe it’s the right thing to do. It’s my responsibility.” Just ask the question, “How can I help?”
Ian: That is the best advice there is out there. We don’t have all the answers internally. So you hear folks talk about, “I want to work in this and I have a solution.” Well, maybe, but there are people who are working on this and are experts, and we can be helpful to them.
Brent: Absolutely, awesome. Well, it’s the same thing. If you’re raising money for a private venture, if you ask for money, you’ll get advice. If you ask for advice, you’ll get money. If you call somebody and you say, “Boy, do I have an idea for you,” they’re going to go, “Wait, time out. How do you know this?” But they’re going to have questions for you. Versus if you call them and you have a question for them, “How can I help you?” Guess what? They’re going to say, “Hmm, this is interesting.” Then once you’re a part of the community, it’s like, “Hey, I had this idea a while back. Can I run it by you?” Don’t force it upon people. Get involved in the community and then allow that idea to then resonate as part of the larger group.
Ian: With that, the question then I think … I think you said five things, but I think in my mind I’m sort of combining two. So we’ve got the DNI conversation and then there’s creating access to real financial planning for every person in our country or elsewhere. From what I can see, and you tell me if I’m wrong, we are not exactly trained to work with every demographic and the circumstances they’ve grown up in. So the DNI conversation from an inclusion within the profession perspective is important, but I think what we’re talking about when we’re talking about creating access is creating a world where we’re actually providing financial planning to diverse communities who don’t currently have access. So what are your thoughts around how do we create access to financial planning? We’re back to kind of good advice is not good enough. Because if I worked with $10 million clients, and I got to do an estate plan for them, and then I have to go give advice to someone who’s struggling to make bills in 30 days, the advice is very different, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t do more harm than good.
Brent: It’s a very interesting point. The thing we … in my opinion, I should always say in my opinion. The thing that needs to be challenged is what is real financial planning for those families in need. Because to your point, that $10 million client, that’s a different planning solution that they need than a family that will never have $10 million and probably doesn’t care that they have $10 million. Obviously, it’s not about the number of zeros in your account, it’s about the moments that count. These families define wealth differently.
Brent: If we actually go back to the root … sort of creation of the word wealth, it’s health and wellbeing. Then we’ve created sort of the this materialistic idea around it that to be wealthy … which by the way then means you need financial planning, which is wrong. It’s a different definition of wealth. So I look at this, when I think about creating access, for me it starts with what I’ll say is financial behavior, financial identity. This is improving health and wellness for these families. Remember, that’s the foundation.
Brent: I think you know, if you don’t have good behaviors around this, you’ll never become a saver. There’s a difference between saying, “I am saving,” versus, “I am a saver.” If you change that identity, you think differently about your world. From there I think it goes into financial education, financial literacy. Then there’s financial coaching, financial planning, and then wealth management. That’s sort of like the stack, I would say, of what families need. So at Facet, what we’re thinking about is how do we actually create the next generation technology and tools that can focus on behavior and identity, focus on education and literacy, focus on coaching?
Brent: Then when they’re ready, when families are ready, then we can move up the stack to financial plans and say, “Hey, now you’re in a space where you’re no longer worried about your bills month to month. Now let’s start saving a couple dollars a month for college and opportunities for your children, for retirement 10, 15, 20 years down the road. You have to start at a fundamentally different space.
Ian: Yeah, no, and I think it’s interesting, because the more I think about this, the level of knowledge that I would need to have to be successful, I don’t know that my experience in the profession has prepared me for that. So what are your thoughts in terms of the types of education we need to provide for these folks to be successful? So if Facet is working with clients who are in underserved demographics, who have been trained up at RIAs in New York or elsewhere, working with million plus clients, and now they’re working with clients who aren’t even in that space at all and the advice might not be the same.
Brent: Well, this probably leads into the conversation around diversity and inclusion, because if I came in and said, “I know what you need,” that’s the wrong approach. The first thing we should be doing is saying … let’s go to individuals who have experienced this lifestyle and say, “Tell me your challenges. What matters most to you? What are you struggling with?” Asking the question, saying, “Well, how can I help and how can I support?” How can we support this if we don’t know what’s really causing the challenge.
Brent: This is why diversity is so important. Now, I don’t think diversity just from whether whether it’s racial or ethnicity, whatever it is, I think there’s also diversity of backgrounds in experience and careers, different ways of thinking that can then lead to a better understanding communities that don’t have access today.
Brent: Because I don’t know those answers, but I will tell you this. An individual came up to me after the … from the University of Illinois. I think he’s the president of the financial planning chapter at his school … came up to me afterwards and said, “How do I solve this challenge?” I think he also leads the Latino contingent with the University of Illinois. I said, “I actually don’t know the answer. I’d love to pick your brain in terms of what we can do to create better access.” So we’re setting up … I’m going to go out and speak at the University of Illinois and actually get more engaged. What can I do to help him? Like let him inform me as to how we can think differently and support him in the mission as well to do it. That’s how I’m approaching it, because I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to ask the questions to support people who might.
Ian: The last thing on our list of five here is we’re talking about the difference between being a generalist and being niche based practice. You seem to have some thoughts on that. So where do you lie?
Brent: A lot of thoughts.
Ian: Okay, sure. Lay it on us.
Brent: So I will say this. First of all, at my previous company, I don’t want to say I was a generalist by trade, but we did some general advice. We worked with a bunch of different families. Number one is I think if you’re providing real financial planning, even if it’s more general and not specific to any kind of family, first of all you’re doing a good job. It’s okay to do that. You can go out there because without you, maybe those families wouldn’t have access to it or they’d be with another, quote unquote, “adviser,” because there’s no real definition of what an advisor is. It’s like 17 things from mutual fund representatives to stock brokers to insurance agents and all that kind of stuff. So that needs to change, how do you define that? So that’s number one. I think you’re doing a good job.
Brent: When I think about if we’re advancing the profession, this is really about challenging the status quo. I don’t want to think the same way we did and started going, “How do we deliver better outcomes for our clients?” So we talked about how people rank RIAs and its growth, it’s AUM, all of the metrics, the profitability stuff. What about client outcomes? Is anybody really saying, “How are we delivering better advice and better results to the people that we’re taking care of?”
Brent: One thing I know is if you do have a niche, if you do specialize, you will provide a better experience, you will provide better outcomes. At the end of the day, if we’re advancing what we’re doing as an organization or as a profession, that’s where we have to go.
Ian: So do you think within financial planning there’s space for similar to a medical field where there’s a GP and then there’s a specialist for whatever ails you?
Brent: I absolutely do. I mean, it could be within your firm. I always call it building your dream team. So I know I don’t do taxes, I’m not a CPA, I don’t do estate planning documents. I know enough to be dangerous as a CFP, but I’m not going to write those darn documents. I’m pretty sure the CFP Board would have something to say about that too. But building a dream team, I do think that … here’s what I know. Top firms are creating sort of the relationship manager team approach where they’re going to have somebody who might be the expert in military benefits.
Brent: So at Facet Wealth, though, we’ve been thinking about this. We have an incredibly diverse team in terms of experience and expertise. So when a family comes to us, we can actually look at our team of CFP and say, “Oh, there is military service for this, whether active or previous military service.” Then we have a CFU came from USAA who understands those benefits. We can make sure we’re pairing them with the individual that can provide the right advice. To me, that’s the right way to do it.
Brent: So as you think about building a healthy, sustainable, future-ready firm, think about the people, your talent. That is your most important asset, by the way, as a business leader is the people that you have. Then find people who have areas of expertise and focus on that. You’ll deliver better experiences, better outcomes for clients in, and frankly, that’ll help you grow your business in a better way, too.
Ian: I think what we’re talking about is a future where our clients no longer look like me or you. They’re looking different and they’re going through different life experiences. So if you could give advice to leaders of firms, employees of firms, how they can impact change in their firm, and let’s stay with leaders of firms for now, how can they prepare for the financial planning profession of the future given that our client base is going to change?
Brent: I’ll go back to the point I just made around your people are your greatest asset. I think it’s even Mark Tibergien that said for decades that the best firms have the best people. So I’m putting myself in the shoes of the leader when I used to run the wealth management firm for a little over 10 years and sort of thinking about, how do I do this? What I realize is maybe I can’t solve it by myself, but I need to get involved, first of all, in the discussion and the community. It’s not easy. I mean, if it was easy it would already be solved.
Brent: So number one, realize it’s probably going to be a challenge to do it at your firm and to do it right out of the gates. The way I thought about it was how do I get in front of … how do I first of all find the diverse communities where I can find the right talent to cultivate the next generation of leaders at my organization and finding the people?
Brent: So when I think about … it’s a Wayne Gretzky piece. Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is. I go, “Where’s the puck going?” Well, I think we all have a good idea of where it’s going. So I go out there and say, “How do I prepare my firm for 10 years down the road, not two weeks down the road?” It takes time to invest in the business, to invest in really passionate, amazing, talented next generation people. They may not be advisors yet. People to build the right solution internally at your firm, because we may not have all the answers individually, but we can build a team in the community that can solve the challenge.
Ian: Thank you so much for being here, Brent.
Brent: Of course.
Ian: Is there any, anything else you’d like to share with our listeners before we let you go?
Brent: Ian, I think what I want to say is I’m just very proud of where this industry has come in 50 years. Being here at FBA National, especially getting involved frankly even with you and FBA NextGen. I will jokingly say even though I’m too old for FBA NextGen, I still love what you are doing, I still love what the entire organization is doing, what your team is doing. We had a little happy hour the other night. I’ll tell you the energy in that was so inspiring for me. So thank you, Ian, for the work that you do. I want to thank all the younger advisors out there who are working hard, who have different ideas. Don’t give up, don’t quit. There are amazing opportunities out there.
Brent: Last thing I would say just for me, because it’s my mission and not because it’s Facet, well, it’s just because I just believe when I look at the Nanus and Pops, bring it back to my grandparents kind of thing, think about how can we challenge the status quo.
Brent: I actually say this because Kayla Kennelly at our firm came from Pershing worked with Mark Tibergien for a while, says this all the time, that’s her whys like how do we challenge the status quo. I love that. Start thinking critically about how do we change what the industry has been thinking or saying for so many years and how do we develop this really diverse and thriving community that can create greater access to financial planning for more families that I would say need it. I don’t really like the word need, but frankly, my opinion, deserve it.
Brent: There is a way to do it. We can’t do it alone. Let’s build the community, let’s continue the movement that started 50 years ago in Chicago in 1969 to make it more affordable, to make it more accessible, to do our part. It’s our responsibility, in my opinion, and I look forward to meeting the people that are believers in that movement and want to help.