Implementing Wealth Management in a CPA Firm: A CPA’s Perspective

 
Michele Tremblay, champion partner of WABC Wealth Management Services, an affiliate of Weil, Akman, Baylin & Coleman, P.A., a corporation of CPAs in Timonium, Maryland, discusses her history as a CPA working at a respected CPA firm with an in-house wealth management advisor.
 
1. What was the single most important reason you decided to begin offering wealth management services to your tax clients?
The single most important reason was to help implement the planning process because as CPAs, we normally were touching on all of these areas anyway, giving advice on investment planning, insurance and so on and so forth, but since we had no control over implementation, the clients never got it done. So the single most important reason was to get the implementation done—to provide the whole full service—because really, we were already doing it anyway.
 
2. What obstacles did you need to overcome to become a successful financial planner?
There was certainly a big personality issue, but also just getting in place the systems and the processes—both administratively and how you treat the clients—was a big one. It seemed as if every time we met with a client we did things a little different, so first we had to understand how 1st Global did things. Then we had to figure out how to streamline things here, and third we had to make sure everything became a process that was standardized yet allowed for customization. By doing this we made it so that every client meeting didn’t have two hours of follow-up.
 
3. Many CPAs have a sales/marketing aversion. How did you and your partners overcome this aversion?
We did a lot of partner Lunch and Learns and staff meeting-type things about how to address clients. We did a lot of role playing, and we still do a lot of examples at staff or partner meetings about how to talk to clients. A lot of it was reminding the partners that all they had to do was what they normally do: ask the clients questions about their financial information and then offer the consulting service of reviewing their financial situation.
 
4. How did hiring a dedicated professional financial advisor change your wealth management offering?
It is just much easier because when a client is in the office, we can simply introduce the client to our financial advisor on the fly and set a meeting right away or get her on a conference call with the client. The availability of our financial advisor physically being here and knowing her schedule at a moment’s notice has dramatically—dramatically—increased the number of appointments. Also, we are able to attend many more meetings because the resource is in-house and we no longer have to travel to different offices for meetings.
 
5. Many CPAs obtain their securities licenses and “go it on their own” as financial planners. What are your thoughts on this approach?
We find that we are experts at what we do, and although financial planning spills into what we do, we aren’t experts in it. It’s like trying to write a will—I can tell you what I want in it, what provisions I want, but I can’t write it. I can sit with a client and listen to their concerns and worries and look at their numbers and say what I think the best thing is for them, but I have no idea which annuity, for example, to put them in. It’s a body of knowledge that we know enough about to know that we don’t know enough.
 
6. How has adding wealth management to your offering changed your succession plans?
We don’t know yet but we do know there’s something different here. We briefly touched on it at our partners’ retreat, and we realized it’s different now regarding dollars and cents and working until whatever age. It’s changed but I don’t know exactly how yet. We have three partners going to retire in the next five to seven years, so it’s a big topic in a lot of meetings. We also know that we have to have a succession plan for our financial advisor, and because of our firm partner demographics, we have to make sure all the younger partners get licensed. There’s another whole set of issues out there now we need to address.
 
7. What advice would you offer a CPA firm that is considering offering wealth management services to their top clients?
Definitely go with 1st Global—no question! Other than that, just really go with the program and make sure you know the advisor. My analogy is that we had a shotgun wedding, and I would have rather dated for a while. We were getting out of a bad relationship and had decided to change, and because we had made that decision, we just wanted to get on with it and the only decision left was hiring the advisor. But I really recommend that you do some dating—check up on that person, go to lunch with them, go to dinner with them, appreciate what they do, how they act and who they are. We’ve come a long way and improved our relationship but in the beginning it was really rough. You have got to let them know upfront that this not a two-week process. Even if you meet one you just fall in love with, take a while before you make any type of decision. Really—you’re getting married; you’re getting hitched. Once you introduce them to your clients you don’t want to do that again.
 
8. You chose 1st Global to be your business partner. Why?
The whole thing is exactly right. The organization is perfect; it’s all turnkey. The only thing that is out of your control is that advisor, and 1st Global does a good job of making sure they are capable, but you still need to test-drive them to make sure the relationship is there. After all, when people go into a partnership—any partnership: doctors, lawyers, whoever—they don’t go in with strangers; they go in with someone they respect, trust, went to school with, knew for many years. The truth is, the better you know that person, the more successful you’ll be.
 
For more information about offering wealth management services as a CPA firm and how strategic business partnerships with accomplished partners like Michele Tremblay 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, (214) 265-1201. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at
www.1stGlobal.com
 

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