Financial Planner, CPA Join Forces to Assist Clients

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Accountants are often allowed to sell financial products, but most hate it. Financial planners enjoy selling, but maybe too much.

According to CPA Nick Hodges and financial planner Keith Offel, a different philosophy is required to help clients solve their problems. Hodges and Offel, who both have offices in Fullerton, Calif., have teamed up and directed their focus toward their clients' needs.

Some may want to reduce taxes; others may be looking to protect assets; still others may seek long-term care but also the ability to pass down investments to their heirs.

Offel and Hodges told the Orange County Register that if accountants and securities dealers join forces, clients are the winners. Offel and Hodges find out what the client's problem is first instead of offering a prepackaged solution that would generate a commission but may not be the best answer.

Hodges, worried that his clients were getting bad financial advice, thought about adding financial services to his CPA practice in 1996. His research led to a book, “Adding Financial Services to Your Tax Practice,” and continuing education seminars for tax professionals.

"I train 3,000 tax professionals a year," Hodges said. "I have never had one say, 'How can I sell more product?' They constantly say, 'How can I solve my clients' problem?' "

Offel, president of a Money Concepts office, started giving free seminars to local accountants after getting referrals from tax professionals. Money Concepts has hundreds of broker-dealers who can help guide tax professionals through the intricacies of getting started in financial services.

Hodges and Offel refer clients to each other and share commissions. For example, Hodges can send a client to Offel if that person needs a tax deduction and asks for a limited liability company to be set up. Offel may have a better tax-savings idea.

Now Offel and Hodges arrange training and match tax professionals with broker-dealers. Some accountants may embrace the Money Concepts' ideas and start their own financial-planning business. Others send the investment business to Money Concepts.

The arrangement is good for clients and good for business. Offel says his practice has grown about 58 percent this year. Hodges said his has doubled.

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