Although there were several speakers that covered economics, markets and portfolio construction topics, my thoughts expressed here are geared more toward the planning and operational aspects. All of the break-out and general sessions I attended reaffirmed my enthusiasm with the deep bench that Commonwealth brings us in terms of technology, community, advance planning and practice management.
Technology: One of the main reasons we made the decision to move to Commonwealth is that they are the industry leader in terms of technology – for both us and for you. Their investor 360 client portal is the best I’ve seen (and I’ve been around the block). It’s easy to use and has many functionalities for viewing your accounts, retrieving and storing documents – and my favorite, adding outside assets. The portal allows clients to link assets held at outside firms (banks, 401k’s mortgages, brokerage accounts at other firms) It is valuable for you to see all of your financial life on one landing page and it is extremely valuable to us as we complete financial plans, analyze asset allocation, sector exposure, etc. from a big-picture perspective. It takes only a few minutes of your time to set up. If you need assistance from us, give any of us a call!
In addition to the technology for our clients, at Michael Roberts Associates, we are now driving the “Ferrari” of back office technology. Through Commonwealth’s technology, things that used to take Michelle half an hour can take 3-5 minutes. Their “Community Link” platform allows us to streamline and track work in progress, process many things without going back to you with a piece of paper to sign, easily move money in and out of brokerage accounts to your bank and execute trades in accounts in an efficient and organized way-to name a few. Their technology training is state of the art. In Denver, I spent half an hour getting one-on-one training from the head technology presenter later in the day after I attended his session. (He had either gone a little fast – or, more likely, I was a little slow). He gave me one on one hand holding until I understood. Along with welcoming me to Commonwealth, he offered to do a call with Bethany and Michelle after I got back to the office. WOW!
Community: Commonwealth walks the talk. Deeply imbedded in their culture is the sense of providing a welcoming community to their advisors but they also have many initiatives where they give to charitable causes and allow us to partner with them to do so as well. At every conference, they partner with a charity and offer the opportunity for advisors to participate as well. Their give-back sessions are the first to sell out!! Sometimes they build and fix up houses. Other times, they assist with community farms or assist with natural disaster relief. At last week’s conference they partnered with Conscious Alliance, a food relief organization headquartered in Boulder. I was fortunate enough to work with 200 other advisors for a few hours where we prepared 3,300 soup kits (over 13,000 meals). These meals went to under-served communities both in the Denver area and at native American reservations in Wyoming and South Dakota. I am proud to be part of a community that cares about others. Stay tuned for a launch of our “Michael Roberts cares” flag program!!
Advanced Planning: Commonwealth’s Advanced Planning Department is unique as far as Broker-Dealers go. Their staff of experts includes professionals specialized in estates and trusts, complex tax issues, legal issues, Social Security Planning and insurance Planning to name a few. Recently, I spent a few minutes on the phone with one of their experts on Social Security planning. He was able to advise me on a strategy for one of our couples whereby they employed a restricted application strategy that based upon their ages and their differing primary benefit amounts will allow them to take better advantage of their Social Security benefits versus if they had both just filed on their own record at their full retirement age! I attended an advanced Social Security workshop in Denver that made me aware of a few strategies that I had not previously known of. We are thrilled to be able to pass along the value-added of Commonwealth’s Advanced Planning team to our clients!
Practice Management: Commonwealth’s practice management group allows us to tap into resources that help us run our business as efficiently as possible so that we can spend the majority of our time serving you. Some of the aspects that they offer are assistance with human resources, succession planning, websites and social media use, staffing and workflow templates, skills assessments, motivational workshops and my favorite – study groups. Practice management believes that the collaboration with other financial advisors is key in growth and development for us as professionals. Through my connections with individuals that I have met at my first two conferences along with support and structure from Practice Management, I have formed a study group with 6 other individuals from across the country. The opportunity to network and share with these people has been invaluable. We have both structured calls with a defined agenda to discuss a myriad of topics as well as a network of people we can reach out to if we want to get another opinion or have a listening ear. I attended several practice management workshops in Denver. I look forward to many more!
Happy Autumn, everyone!! Give me a call if you’d like any more information on anything you’d like to hear more about.