Tips for Financial Planning in Your Practice, with Joe Tucciarone
Thursday, February 1, 2001
Visit the AccountingWEB Workshop Calendar for upcoming sessions.
Joe's session included the following:
- Defense against Competition – Small and medium size accounting firms are seeing increased competition from a number of areas including large firms and others providing services to clients. Accountantss can protect themselves against competition by offering financial planning services.
- Marketing Opportunities – Launching any new business is an opportunity for publicity and marketing.
- Clients are asking for it – Many clients are confused and don’t know where to turn when looking for a financial services advisor. The accountant can easily fill this role.
- Seminars – With new financial services, accountants can offer a wide variety of seminars.
- Publicity – Every accounting firm should use the launch of new services to attract attention and press.
- Increase tax and other consulting business – Financial planning services can open the door for business in the traditional areas of accounting.
- Referrals – Because the CPA is the most trusted advisor, many CPAs gain a great deal of business from referrals from satisfied clients.
- Additional fees (Commissions and Fee for service) – No matter which method of payment is selected, additional fees and income result in more profits.
- If you don’t, who will? – With technology and competition, accountants need to offer more services. Offering financial services is one option.
February 1, 2001 Session Sponsored by Intacct
Session Moderator: Hello everyone, and welcome to another AccountingWEB workshop. Today we are happy to present Joseph Tucciarone, CFP.
Mr. Tucciarone is the founder of the National Network of Accountants, an organization that trains CPAs in the communications, marketing, and technical aspects of financial planning. Today Mr. Tucciarone will share his tips for financial planning in your practice.
Welcome Mr. Tucciarone! The floor is yours!
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Every CPA today is talking about how to enhance their bottom line with the use of financial planning and I believe too many are not focusing on the compliance and regulatory issues involved in fees and commissions. Most CPAs are involved in either reviewing client investments, raising money for clients, or creating their own syndications. This is known as selling away in the investment community when a registered rep is licensed as a series 6 or series 7 representative.
William Corbett: Where does conflict of interest occur or is there an ethical problem involved with taking commissions?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: The normal function served by most CPAs in the investment area is in direct violation of the NASD section concerning sales or recommendations of products, which have not been approved by a broker dealer.
The second part of your question concerns the ethical problems involved in taking commissions. I believe as long as there is full disclosure, proper engagement letters and approval of these activities by the state regulatory authorities there should be no problem. Many CPAs in various states have reported no real conflict with their clients, in fact many feel they are performing a valuable service to their clients. Most clients of CPA firms that are actively involved in this activity report that their clients are asking them "why haven't they done this before".
Perhaps it would be important to many, to understand the fee and commission licensing issues?
To sell insurance related products it is necessary to obtain a state insurance license. This is a license that is controlled at the state level and usually requires a certain amount of CE credits each year.
Kelly: For each state you plan to sell in?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Most states allow reciprocity and will give you a non-resident license. It is important to get licensed in the state where your client or clients reside.
An individual obtaining this license can have all insurance related fees paid to an entity. This is important if you want commissions paid to your current accounting firm or another entity. To receive fees for financial planning or assets placed under management, it is necessary to register as a registered investment advisor and pass a federal exam. These fees can be paid to an entity as well as an individual.
William Corbett: I understand that you can register as an RIA on the state level is this correct?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: If you are handling less than $25,000,000 worth of assets or a limited # of clients, you can register and be supervised on a state level. When you exceed your maximum state level, you will need to register on the federal level.
Grahamkj: What's the simplest way all this can be incorporated together?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Going through a large broker dealer or a firm that specializes in assets under management, can simplify registration and compliance.
The real issue facing CPAs today is whether they want the fees and commissions to flow into their CPA firm or a separate entity. You must remember you have requirements from your state accounting society, as well as you will now be subjected to supervision by the state insurance dept. and the NASD. With all these levels of supervision there is no single answer that serves all firms.
Kevin James: What are the first steps a firm should take to add financial planning services as a client service?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: As a small practitioner, I would recommend most partners receive their state insurance license, their RIA, as well as a series 7. Once you have decided to add financial planning services to your firm, you will need to receive some training so that the financial planning becomes a process. I do not believe financial planning is solely about selling product, but is really designed to assist clients to reach their stated objectives. You need a process to help clients clearly identify their goals and objectives and then a process to present your recommendations based upon the input you receive from the clients.
Kevin James: Can I offer these services if there are no CFPs in my firm?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: You can offer these services if there are no CFPs in your firm by partnering with a firm that provides these services.
Session Moderator: Does this have to be formalized training, from a university, or are there courses available on-line?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Most of the training can be found at a local level through various financial planning associations.
Session Moderator: How much training are we talking about?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: If you are looking to expand your knowledge you will need to register with the AICPA, PFS program, or the University of Denver CFP program.
Session Moderator: PFS?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: PFS stands for personal financial specialist. It is a designation conferred by the AICPA and is similar to the certified financial planning designation.
We have found that through approx. 1 week of training and the proper partnering relationship, we can prepare a firm to offer financial planning.
The real question that I submit to you is would you enter this or any other endeavor without really building a business plan? Once you have some initial training and understand the issues, the next step would be to build a business plan.
William Corbett: Why do you think CPAs should incorporate financial planning into their practices?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: In today's competitive environment I believe CPAs should add financial planning for a number of reasons. I believe many of your competitors are offering these services and to stay competitive you also need to offer these services. I also believe you can increase your bottom line substantially by adding these services without a great amount of expense or additional staff. I also believe that your clients expect you to provide this service and you are the most trusted advisor to your clients.
Kevin James: Please elaborate on the type of process you mentioned that could help clients clearly identify their goals and objectives!
Joseph W. Tucciarone: We teach our CPA firms by using a questionnaire. Our questionnaire entails both quantitative and qualitative questions that you should ask your client. If you would like I can forward you a copy - please supply your e-mail address so we may get back to you.
Any other questions?
William Corbett: In the last few years have you seen CPA firms moving into this area?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: In a recent survey conducted by the AICPA CPA firms indicated that they are providing this service to their clients. In fact, 42% indicated that they provide financial planning. The survey went on to indicate that 74% of the clients of the accounting firms would prefer to buy their insurance from their accountant rather than an insurance agent. I think these numbers clearly indicate that there are opportunities to leverage your business.
Session Moderator: Can you describe what is entailed in financial planning, beyond recommending a good mutual fund?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Financial planning is really a comprehensive process, which involves recommending tax strategies, insurance related products, estate planning techniques, many investment vehicles, as well as constant awareness for changing tax laws and government legislation. We don't believe financial planning is recommending only mutual funds.
Session Moderator: With the goal being to help someone make as much money as possible from potential investments over the rest of his life while minimizing taxes?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: I think the key to achieving the goals you stated might be the incorporation of a comprehensive asset allocation program which will provide for risk management. We believe that if you can control your risk, you can therefore maximize your gains. Risk tolerance also runs into the use of risk aversion products like insurance. The game with regard to investments and taxes is to create a strategy which allows for deductions, deferrals, and conversion from high tax rates to lower.
Session Moderator: What advice can you provide for encouraging clients to think about planning for the future, while they're trying to meet today's expenses?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Clients are like small businesses. To achieve success, they need short term as well as long term planning. You cannot ignore the future and focus only on today. And conversely, you cannot only focus on the long term. A proper use of 401K, 403B, IRAs and systematic monthly investments are necessary strategies for long term planning. As the government shifts the burden and responsibilities from the federal level to the individual level each person needs to take stock of his individual position and future.
Recent surveys have indicated that the average financial planner earns in excess of $144,000 annually, and the bureau of labor statistics indicates that this is one of the fields of choice in today's economy.
William Corbett: There are many people soliciting CPA firms to get into this area, how do you know which one is right and which one works best?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Talk to fellow CPAs. Make sure the organization you get involved with can supply you with your required level of support and education as well as the proper compliance procedures to fit the size of your firm.
Beth McKimm: This is so much information, how can I get the transcripts to read and distribute?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Beth, thank you for your comment, this information will be posted within the next couple of days on this site, or you can contact me at www.nnaplan.com, or 800 234-PLAN.
William Corbett: Have you trained a lot of CPAs?
Joseph W. Tucciarone: We train between 150-200 CPAs annually. Of this number approximately 20% actually participate on an active basis in financial planning. The firms that have participated have seen a substantial increase in client satisfaction and income to their firm.
Session Moderator: We have only a few minutes left - are there any additional questions?
Kevin James: Joe, thank you for the informative workshop. We appreciate all the information you provided us today.
Joseph W. Tucciarone: I would just like to wrap up by saying that I believe this area will continue to grow and eventually change the role of the CPA in the future. CPAs have for years been thought of as the most trusted advisor. Providing financial advice is something the general public desires from their trusted advisors. They are tired of being sold products by salesmen which may or may not fit their planning objectives.
Session Moderator: Thank you all for attending today - and thank you Mr. Tucciarone for providing an extremely informative workshop!
Joseph W. Tucciarone: Thank you.
Joseph W. Tucciarone, CFP, is the founder of the National Network of Accountants, Woodbury, N.Y., an organization that trains CPAs in the communications, marketing, and technical aspects of financial planning. For further information, contact (800) 234-7526 or www.nnaplan.com.
Voice of the Editor
Which isn’t completely true. I mean, occasionally I drop by when I manage to sneak out of the nonstop frat party over at Going Concern, but I’m mostly a wallflower over there. I’m happy to say that I’ve been given express permission (or explicit orders, if you like) to wander over here to AccountingWEB more often.
Why is that, you might ask? My job is to replace the irreplaceable Gail Perry as Editor-in-Chief. What does that mean? I don’t really know! I think it’ll be fun getting a feel for things, throwing in my own thoughts here and there, and listening to the discussions you’re having about the accounting profession.