The Evolution of a CPA Firm into a Wealth Management Firm: A CPA's Perspective

By 1st Global

Jeff Neher, champion partner of CNC Financial Group, LLC, an affiliate of Cordell, Neher & Company, a premier accounting firm in Wenatchee, WA, discusses the firm’s evolution into a client-centric wealth management firm.

1. What was the single most important reason you decided to begin offering wealth management services to your tax clients?
At Cordell, Neher & Company, PLLC, our accountants’ firm, we pride ourselves on providing the best possible service by establishing a long-term, respectful and trusted relationship with our clients. All too often we saw our clients were not correctly planning their financial future. Many clients were not properly diversifying and developing a financial plan for the accumulation or withdrawal of the money they were trying to save. We decided to take charge of our clients’ investing future so that they would get the quality of advice and service they deserve.
 
2. What obstacles did you need to overcome to become a successful financial planner?
The biggest obstacle was changing our perception of financial services. We didn’t have the expertise alone to be the firm our clients needed. By partnering with 1st Global we could develop a new business plan and get partner buy-in. We also were able to work with 1st Global to create our new wealth management firm with new training, systems, processes and procedures – all different from our accounting businesses and something we had to get accustomed to.    
 
3. Many CPAs have a sales/marketing aversion. How did you and your partners overcome this aversion?
We had to come to the realization that we didn’t have to sell anything more than we already were selling! It isn’t selling when you are providing what is best for your client. We were already good listeners, so we could easily determine what our clients’ needs and wants were to develop their financial plan. When we began informing our clients that we were providing financial services, we received an overwhelmingly positive response that continues to this day. Our clients appreciate that we already know their financial situation and they are comfortable in allowing us to provide all of their tax and wealth management services.
 
4. How did hiring a dedicated professional financial advisor change your wealth management offering?
Success hinges on having a dedicated financial advisor. As champion and firm partners, we get caught up in other business. However, our dedicated financial advisors always keep wealth management services top of our minds. Our advisors also ensure that we continue to provide the best service available to our clients. Selecting an advisor who is the right fit for the firm is very important. Just as important is creating a model process within the firm for the advisor to follow. The advisor needs to be placed in the position of equality in setting policies for the firm’s wealth management services. In addition, the advisors also needs to be treated as the firm’s subject matter expert in order to have the ability to lead. 1st Global can provide guidance in whatever the advisor needs to know, thus allowing the advisor to be positioned as a true leader.
 
5. Many CPAs obtain their securities licenses and “go it on their own” as financial planners. What are your thoughts on this approach?
The partners don’t have the time, expertise or sole focus necessary to be truly successful as financial advisors. Adding the dedicated advisor and dedicated administrative assistance for the advisor to the accounting firm shows the clients you are serious about their business. It demonstrates that you have a business that will continue into the future and will always be there when your clients need you. Trying to provide financial services without dedicated support sends the wrong message to your clients. When you don’t have the focus of a dedicated advisor in your practice it is likely you will be successful at getting low hanging fruit of financial planning services but will have difficulty sustaining success in this arena.
 
6. How has adding wealth management to your offering changed your succession plans?
Our succession plans have become more complicated. We have many more products and services to sell and we have more new future partners interested in buying into the firm. There was a synergy in adding financial services that not only increased the wealth management business but increased accounting firm revenue. We are able to add more significance to our clients’ lives; thus we have more positive energy and are happier. Our younger team can see this and the positive energy this creates makes the whole firm more productive.
 
7. What advice would you offer a CPA firm that is considering offering wealth management services to its top clients?
Your clients are going to ask why you didn’t do this earlier. My advice is if you want to keep your clients and really care about their welfare and future, offering wealth management services is the best answer. Getting started is hard work but the value is well worth the effort.  Your fear of losing clients or referral sources by being a financial advising firm is not rooted in reality. Our experience is that clients love the idea of you being a one-stop-shop. They trust you and want the additional service you provide. You need to really look at how many referrals you received from other financial service providers. Since providing wealth management services for about seven years we have actually gained many competitors as tax clients looking for great tax and business advice. 
 
8. You chose 1st Global to be your business partner. Why?
We chose 1st Global because of their understanding of the CPA firm practice, available training, and their well-established and proven Business Management Services (BMS)* model. We saved a lot of hard work in starting our business based on the model and leveraging available with the advisor in our office and the home office team providing support and technical assistance not available on other platforms. The training and resources are excellent and the processes are easily adopted into our firm.
*1st Global’s Business Management Services (BMS) is based upon a two-person team model, affiliating a champion partner and a dedicated financial advisor within a new or established firm.
 
For more information about offering wealth management services as a CPA firm and how strategic business partnerships with accomplished partners like Jeff Neher can impact your growth plans, contact 1st Global at (800) 959-8461 or LearnMore@1stGlobal.com.
 
This article and its content have been provided by 1st Global. With more than 500 firms affiliated with 1st Global, it is one of the largest wealth management services partners for the tax, accounting and legal professions. 1st Global delivers the required capabilities essential for wealth management excellence including progressive ongoing education, which places the firm in a unique position to offer wealth management knowledge.
 
1st Global was founded by CPAs on the belief that accounting, tax and estate planning firms are uniquely qualified to provide comprehensive wealth management services to their clients. Each affiliated firm is provided with education, technology, business-building framework and client solutions that make these firms leaders in their professions through dedicated professional client relationships built around wealth management.
 
1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 8150 N. Central Expressway, Suite 500 in Dallas, Texas,
75206, (214) 265-1201. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at www.1stGlobal.com.
 

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