The Path From CPA Firm to Comprehensive Wealth Management
Peter W. AdamsChampion Partner, HPG Financial Services, LLC
Oct 21, 2011
1. What was the single most important reason you decided to begin offering wealth management services to your tax clients?
As CPAs, we were already giving business advice to our clients. We viewed providing wealth management as a natural expansion of this. Instead of sending them down the street to get life insurance, for example, we could provide what they needed, ensure they were treated correctly and implement the actions needed. Adding wealth management to our practice just made sense. So, when North Carolina was able to do this in 1999, we got in.
2. What obstacles did you need to overcome to become a successful financial planner?
Understandably, most partners wanted to see how it worked before buying in. They wanted to protect their clients from anything negative. Plus, CPAs are used to a certain amount of independence in our business and were uncomfortable losing some of that by providing these new services. It took awhile to overcome. But, in the long run, we showed it was the right thing for us and our clients.
3. Many CPAs have a sales/marketing aversion. How did you and your partners overcome this aversion?
Our firm was already doing sales/marketing to prospective clients. So, that wasn’t new to us. What was new was marketing new business to existing clients. We wanted to make sure any marketing to them was done with sensitivity and integrity. At first, everyone wanted to critique each mailing. But that got complicated. We eventually earned everyone’s trust by doing things right from the beginning.
4. How did hiring a dedicated professional financial advisor change your wealth management offering?
When we decided to provide wealth management services, we looked at three ways of doing it:
- Get a license and learn to do it ourselves
- Get a license and sign agreements with financial pros to do it for us
- Get a dedicated financial advisor to add to our firm who knows the business best instead of CPAs trying to learn this
We chose the latter. It was really the only way that made since to us. Plus, if for some reason, the advisor didn’t work out with our clients, we could always get another advisor – not have our clients leave our “family” over it. Our 1st Global Advisor Steven Katzenstein has worked out great from the beginning for our firm and our clients. Now, folks ask what we’ll do if he ever leaves us!
5. Many CPAs obtain their securities licenses and “go it on their own” as financial planners. What are your thoughts on this approach?
I’d never pass judgment on our peers who do this; we just didn’t want to go that route. Being a CPA is already a full-time job.
6. How has adding wealth management to your offering changed your succession plans?
Actually, it’s given our partners two revenue streams: income from being CPA and income from offering wealth management services. That means a bigger retirement check and we’re all happy with that.
7. What advice would you offer a CPA firm that is considering offering wealth management services to its top clients?
We are very glad we chose to do this. Not only does it allow us to service our clients better, but we are able to do so through the best experienced professionals in the field.
8. You chose 1st Global to be your business partner. Why?
Before entering into this, we checked out the companies providing this service. There were only a few, and even fewer who tailored it to accounting firms. We chose 1st Global for two reasons:
- It deals primarily with accounting firms, so it knows our business and holds the same mind set (conservative product offerings).
- It provides thorough and ongoing training for its broker/dealers.
These things set 1st Global apart and have made our experience with them completely positive.