Everyone knows the advisors who have left their indelible imprint on the profession of financial planning.
Washington, D.C.'s Alexandra Armstrong was an early advocate of comprehensive financial planning and became the first female president of the International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP).
Philadelphia's Roy Diliberto was instrumental in negotiating the merger that created the industry's newly created Financial Planning Association, and emerged as an architect of the growing internationalization of the profession.
Del Mar, Calif.'s Jack Blankinship served as chairman of both the Institute of
Certified Financial Planners and the CFP Board of Standards and became an aggressive advocate of the CFP mark when its viability was in doubt, ensuring that the license would some day resonate with both planners and consumers.
These are just a few of the leaders who have played key roles at critical junctures of the industry's evolution. But who will be the next generation of leaders?
Are there young advisors with the vision, commitment and passion to take the profession and the public's perception of it to the next level? First and foremost, we wanted to find stellar practitioners, people who are excited about the planning work they do and the clients for whom they do it.
Financial Advisor also searched for planners who have built or contributed to smart practices, and are working for profitable businesses.
Last, but far from least, we wanted folks who are demonstrating a commitment to strengthening the profession, not just their firm. Membership and leadership in professional associations, outreach to investors who may not have the wealth to make the cut at some planning shops and even pro bono work figured prominently in our selection.
And, so, without further adieu, here are some of the bright lights who may lead the industry into the future:
Chris Cordaro, CFP, CFA
Wealth Manager, Chief Investment Officer, RegentAtlantic Capital, Chatham, N.J.
Clients: 80 Assets: $90 million
Specialty: Tax-managed, quantitative investing
Notables: Created a quantitative portfolio in 1999 that has provided clients with returns that have beaten the S&P on a post-tax basis three years running. Board member, N.J. FPA chapter. Pro bono work includes planning and assistance for September 11 victims.
The most difficult meetings Cordaro has ever had were with clients who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks. "These were people who went to work every day, and then one day, they just didn't come home," says the planner, who is helping three families on a pro bono basis file aid applications and develop comprehensive financial and investment plans. Cordaro, who employs his own variant of tax harvesting to create quantitative portfolios that beat the S&P, was a reluctant convert to planning.
He gave his father, the former owner of a broker-dealer, more than one sleepless night when he decided to attend maritime college instead of entering the family business. Luckily for his clients and his dad, shipping was slow, and Cordaro never set sail. Instead, he joined PaineWebber for a year. ("I hated it. You needed to have a stock and bond story every day.") Next, he jumped to RegentAtlantic (formerly Bugen, Stuart, Korn & Cordaro) and obtained his CFA. Cordaro, age 39, leads the investment charge at the firm. "We have very quantitative and pretty sophisticated planning and investment techniques. Even more unique is our explanation of them in understandable terms," says Cordaro, who created the firm's quantitatively managed portfolio, which seeks to beat the S&P 500 by aggressively harvesting clients' tax losses. "About 75% of funds fail to beat the S&P pretax, and post tax, their returns are much worse. We have been successful at matching the S&P's return and then beating it by being aggressive with tax management," Cordaro says.
This well-defined and disciplined approach to investing allows Cordaro to explain to clients how they'll perform in different markets. Erasing the element of surprise from client performance is always a good thing. The firm also uses Monte Carlo simulation in its portfolio management and has added it to its retirement and stock-option planning.
To excite other novices about the planning profession, Cordaro teaches the CFP investment module at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J.
Paula Hogan, CFP, CFA
President, Hogan Financial Management, Milwaukee
Clients: 35 retainer clients (60 hourly clients) Assets: $35 million
Specialty: Comprehensive planning and portfolio management
Notables: Chair, governance task force, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA); former board member, NAPFA; former president, Wisconsin chapter of American Association of Individual Investors (AAII).
"Clients may not always use the same words we would to describe a practice that puts a client's interests first, but I think that's what clients want and deserve and where they tend to migrate," says Hogan, who founded her firm in 1992. Today, she's set up operations and staffing to effectively free most of her time for working with clients and doing portfolio management, which are both her loves.
Beyond insisting on comprehensive planning for all clients, Hogan is also a leading light in harnessing academic research on where the markets are going and how to get the most from risk- and cost-adjusted returns. Today most of her portfolios are tilted toward small-cap and value mutual funds.
She works hard, she says, to get clients to focus on their goals instead of just performance. "We're pretty good at communicating," says Hogan. "And we tell people they don't have to beat the markets to win. They can do very well just capturing market returns year after year. In fact they'll be ahead of their peers, especially if we squeeze out excess cost and risk. If you need the market to go up as a planner, you're in big trouble. We do investments very well, but it's just one part of what we do," says Hogan, who believes the fact that she is a CFA is a definitive advantage for her clients.
Another advantage? Her high ethical standards. She not only refuses to accept referral fees for clients, she refuses to pay them, too. "Clients may not know the nuances of our industry, but we do," she says. "I think that's why clients feel comfortable here." That and of course the time Hogan spends aligning money management strategies with clients' values and goals.
Hogan will take her investing prowess directly to the public later this year when she launches a column for the AAII Journal (published by the American Association of Individual Investors). Despite success with high-net-worth clients, she also makes her services available on an hourly basis to any investor willing to hire her. "We're a little different that way because we'll work on an hourly consultation basis, but we won't do it without a strong planning foundation," says Hogan, who requires that all her clients have a financial plan done first.
Mark Johannessen, CFP
Senior planner, Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney, McLean, Va.
Clients: 75 Assets: $80 million
Specialty: Comprehensive, high-end planning
Notables: Former president, National Capital Area chapter of FPA, member, FPA's Chapter Leadership Resource Council, one of the founding architects of the FPA's national pro bono planning efforts to help September 11 victims.
Johannessen's leadership in creating a network of FPA planners willing to offer pro bono services to September 11 victims caught the attention, and admiration, of veteran planners. "He really grabbed the bull by the horns and became the point person, negotiating with both the FPA and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency)," says Alexandra Armstrong, principal of Washington, D.C.-based Armstrong & Associates and a former president of the local FPA chapter and the national group.
Johannessen, who has been instrumental in finding planners for the families of victims in the greater Washington area and at his own firm, says the experience has been humbling. "Giving back is part of this firm's culture," says the advisor, speaking of Greg Sullivan, one of the firm's founders who served as president of the IAFP in the mid-1990s.
Johannessen spent three years at Merrill Lynch before opting for independent planning, and he says he's never looked back. "Now I have the luxury of being able to concentrate on the relationship with clients without the pain of having to bring people in the door," he says. "It's a good life when you help someone realize their goals."
Still, he admits to having an entrepreneurial itch that he scratches by taking on leadership positions with the local and national FPA. "I like to give back, and it allows me to be involved with things that I might not always get to be involved with here with our partners." After a stint as president of his local FPA chapter, during which he eliminated the group's deficit and increased its number of programs, Johannessen will try to make life easier for the next crop of chapter presidents. He's recently been appointed to the FPA's Chapter Leadership Resource Council, created to provide resources to incoming local and state FPA officers.
Kathleen M. Longo, CFP
Principal, Accredited Investors Inc., Minneapolis
Clients: 180 Assets: $230 million
Specialty: Financial planning, wealth transfer and philanthropic giving
Notables: President-elect of the Minnesota FPA and board member of public relations and chapter leadership conference committees of the national FPA.
Just 32 years old, Longo (no relation to the author) has managed to do what probably few planners could do upon joining the firm founded by Ross Levin and Will Heupel 15 years ago-teach them something new. Since joining the firm as a full partner in 2001, Longo has worked to integrate philanthropy into the firm's overall mission. That's meant creating client communications, working to develop client mission statements, building tools for deciding on appropriate giving levels and even, when warranted, creating family foundations.
"I think September 11 has encouraged people to begin thinking about their values and what they want to give their children and pass on to charity," says Longo.
Her expertise in philanthropy and comprehensive planning, especially with affluent clients, comes from a broad-based experience that belies her years. She earned a bachelor's degree in financial planning and counseling from Purdue University. Longo started her career with a fee-only sole practitioner in Chicago. Prior to that, she worked for American Express Trust Co., KPMG and Deloitte & Touche. Most recently, Longo was a client advisor with a family financial planning firm and directed a team of professionals providing integrated financial services to high-net-worth families.
When the partners of the family firm decided to disband, Longo was left wondering what to do with her roster of wealthy clients. Going solo crossed her mind, but when she called Ross Levin, whom she'd known from professional circles, he asked: "Why don't you think about coming here?" She signed on as partner and says it was one of the best decisions she's ever made.
In her free time, besides being president-elect of her local FPA chapter, Longo is an active volunteer with Friends of PACER Center Advisory Board, a national advocacy organization devoted to helping parents of children with disabilities work with school systems and the medical profession. A single mom, she involves her 5-year-old daughter, Madeline, in charitable events whenever possible.
Donald P. Lord
Senior Planner, The Family Firm, Bethesda, Md.
Clients: 60 Assets: $98 million
Specialty: Team-based planning, communicating big-picture plans
Notables: Successful 20-year career in the Air Force managing more than 200 personnel and 10 areas. Climbed the ladder from an aircraft technician to a senior master sergeant, a rank which fewer than 3% of enlisted personnel achieve.
"Sometimes, I'd rather be lucky than smart," says Lord, who stumbled into a job working for one of the pioneers of fee-only planning by sheer happenstance. The boss who hired him is Mary Malgoire, the former NAPFA president who did as much as anyone to put the fee-only organization and its internationally renowned adherence to the concept of fee-only planning on the map.
Lord had no idea who Malgoire was. What he did know, after stints at American Express and CUNA Mutual Life Insurance Co., was that he wanted a career doing financial planning, not product sales. Three years later, as senior planner at Malgoire's preeminent firm, that's exactly what he's found. The problem-solving and communication skills he learned in the Air Force serve clients well, says Malgoire.
His communications skills and diplomacy were perfected in an environment where he had to communicate effectively to a fairly vast group, ranging from subordinates to superiors. "What I discovered early on is that not everyone processes information the same way. Different personalities take in information differently," says Lord. "There are bottom-line folks, people whose hands you have to hold, and others who need you to draw them a picture. Being able to communicate with each effectively is crucial in planning."
Today, being in an environment in which the only mandate is doing what is right for the client at all times is a reminder that ethics must lead the planning relationship. If doing what's right means leaving client money sitting in a CD, "that's exactly what it means," says Lord.
Dan Moisand, CFP
President, Optimum Financial Group, Melbourne, Fla.
Assets under management: $22 million
Specialty: Help clients invest to reach retirement, then recreate their paycheck.
Notables: Chairman of FPA's Professional Issues Committee; former board member, CFP Board of Practice Standards; former president, Central Florida Society of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners.
Moisand entered the planning profession via American Express Financial Advisors. After a few years, he had a growing desire to run his practice differently. "The realization hit me after spending 90 minutes explaining how I was compensated to a new client. It was as he left and I heard the door bang behind him that I realized I still didn't know a thing about him. All our time had been eaten up explaining how I was paid."
Soon after, he started his own fee-based independent firm with a fellow planner. They parted ways a couple of years later, and Moisand has been a sole proprietor in search of a partner ever since. His account of his travails, The Urge to Merge: Insights from a Sole Practitioner's Search for Partners, won him the Journal of Financial Planning's 2002 call for papers competition.
But flying solo hasn't stopped him from promoting his practice or the profession. "I think I have one thing going for me that people really, really want-I work for them," says Moisand, who numbers among his clients rocket scientists from neighboring NASA and a growing roster of local doctors. The fact that Moisand writes a column for Physician's Money Digest is a result of his physician clients. "I think that carefully choosing clients is key. They're the boss," adds Moisand, who still is looking for that illusive partner as he seeks out "responsible, strategic, quality growth."
How bright is the future? Whip out your sunglasses, says the 34-year-old Moisand, only half-joking. "The complexities of the financial world and demand for advice have never been higher."
Providing it will bring challenges. There will be competitors and possibly even a downward pressure on the fees that planners charge. But the better planners will be up to the challenge. "It's been a fabulous way to make a living, and it's only getting better," Moisand says.
Christopher Van Slyke, CFP
Capital Financial Advisors Inc.,
Clients: 50 Assets: $50 million
Specialty: Planning for entertainers and other high-net-worth professionals
Notables: Board member, LA Chapter of the FPA
If there is one thing Chris Van Slyke knows, it's how to get the word out about planning. As a founder of the Los Angeles FPA chapter speakers bureau, he regularly puts planners in front of members of the AARP, the Kiwanis Club and the American Bar Association. Every Saturday morning, listeners throughout Southern California can hear what Van Slyke himself has to say on The Financial Advisors radio show, which he does with another planner on San Francisco's KOGO (600 AM).
"I initially got into this business in my twenties because it paid well," says Van Slyke, "but I found that wasn't enough. My motivation in my thirties is trust. It jazzes me to have clients trust me as much as they do their doctors and attorneys. And that's what we tell clients: What we do here will ensure what kind of doctor and attorney you can afford."
Today, most of Van Slyke's clients are entertainers, business owners and physicians. One client, a plastic surgeon who teaches at UCLA, asked the planner to give a seminar on investing and planning for his graduating class of 35 surgeons. "I find doctors to be excellent clients," says Van Slyke. "They are as firm in their beliefs as I am in mine, which really works for both parties."
Although his orientation has been investments-his first job was with the buy-side money management firm Trust Company of the West-he works hard to bring a broad planning approach to his work. He credits getting his CFP as one of the chief motivating factors in his ability to offer insurance, tax and estate planning. "I think I went in thinking I knew just about everything I needed to know, and it forced me to realize I still had a good deal I could learn in the classes," Van Slyke says.