CPA Firms Need More than Good Relationships to Grow: A Journey to Wealth Management

Shelley Yates, Communications Senior Advisor
August 7, 2018

During the AICPA conference in June, 1st Global’s David Knoch and Ryan George had the opportunity to sit down with Jody Padar, CEO and principal of New Vision CPA Group and author of “From Success to Significance: The Radical CPA Guide,” as well as Maggie Beach, CPA, a consultant for New Vision, to discuss their choice to grow the firm by adding wealth management. 

According to Padar, her wealth management journey began when she was starting her own CPA firm and was contracted by another CPA firm, so that its owner could focus on the booming wealth management side of the business.

“I watched how it changed his practice, and so, it kind of planted the seed,” Padar explained. “I said, ‘Someday I’m going to do wealth management.’”

However, as her firm grew, the complications of getting licensed to offer wealth management services kept it at the bottom of her to-do list. But as she saw loyal clients leaving for CPA firms that also offered wealth management, she realized that despite having strong relationships, wealth management was the key to keeping clients for the long-term.  

“It didn’t matter that I had these relationships for all these years … because I didn’t have wealth management,” she explained. 

Padar knew it was time for a change and brought in Maggie Beach to move things forward.

“I’d been with Jody for about eight years, and I was doing individual and trust tax, and it just got to the point where we found we weren’t servicing our clients. They had made decisions throughout the year prior to talking to us, and we’d have to deliver the bad news,” Beach said.

She saw the value in offering wealth management as a way to be more holistic in the advice they were providing. It was time to get licensed and coordinate financial planning into their business. They turned to 1st Global.

“The thought about being involved in those discussions in the beginning versus the end—being more proactive—was really appealing,” she said. “1st Global’s just been huge. Not being involved in the industry prior to this, I [now] had coaches and mentors and support walking us through the process,” Beach added. Later, speaking about a 1st Global peer business-building program, she expressed gratitude that “the top advisors are willing to sit down with me and give me advice.”

Padar added that 1st Global was also integral in helping to choose a business plan. 

“Because we do a lot of fixed fee [tax] advisory work with our business clients, it seemed like we really wanted to lead with fixed fee.” She continued, “1st Global fit right in with seasonal planning and helping us figure out how to create that plan and put the fixed fee around it. … We see that’s where the future is going, because we’re really coming in from an advisory spot first and then the assets and everything will come with it.”

Ryan George explained that “the seasonal model gives you a consistent process to meet with clients on specific topics throughout the year, of which taxes are one of them, so tax planning is already integrated into that. … That really helps set your client service model up for success.” Click here for more on seasonal planning.

Padar also noted that offering cutting-edge technology plays an integral role in helping the firm better serve its clients’ wealth management needs. “The other thing I think that’s really changing with financial planning is the technology is catching up to being radical ... with tools like eMoney and the ability to market and to do really cool cloud tech. … That’s really what New Vision is about … using technology to get closer to your customers now. Having those tools to do it has really made it like ‘Okay, we really can do financial planning in a new way and still be successful,’” she said.

She went on to mention that her firm’s Redtail account was even used as a “best practice” example in a session at the AICPA Engage event. “If it’s not tech-driven, it’s not happening, and that’s just the way we operate.”

When asked by David Knoch what advice she would give to a CPA who’s not in wealth management and what she would do differently if she could do it all over again, Beach responded, “I think I would not be too cautious. As an accountant, I just wanted to have all the answers before jumping in. So much of it is learning as you go and having that network of people who can support you and those other advisors that you can talk to. … I would say to any new person starting out: jump in. Trust your knowledge and your expertise.”

George reiterated that many CPAs struggle with the shift from knowing the answers to asking the questions when shifting from tax into financial planning.

“You have to remember you’re building a new company,” added Padar. “Even though you’re using your CPA referrals and that network, it’s a whole new company and it has that whole journey with it of starting a new company.  Remember that things take time when you’re starting something new.”

Beach spoke about how integrating wealth management has changed their focus as a company, saying, “We’re no longer [just] doing tax planning; we’re doing life planning.”

What Do Investors Really Want?

Learn surprising insights about the current state of professional financial advice with an exclusive report.