Many financial advisors will tell you that everyone could use some financial planning in their lives. Chris Panagakos, however, isn't just talking-she's building an entire company around this belief.

Panagakos' startup, BeniVest Inc. of San Francisco, is setting out to market financial planning to companies and their workers as an employee benefit. The reason: She feels financial and retirement planning have become such basic needs that companies are becoming compelled to help their employees get access to them.

The messes created by bankrupt companies such as Enron and Global Crossings have only underscored this need, she adds. "In light of all the financial turmoil, companies are really struggling on how to help their employees take control of their financial situation," she says. "They don't know what to do."

The strategy behind BeniVest has yet to be put to the test. Panagakos says she has been laying the groundwork for the company the past two years, and is just getting ready to launch the service. She expects to be serving her first corporate clients in early 2003.

The basic plan is that BeniVest will charge each company a flat annual fee in return for financial planning services that will be provided at the company's work site. Three tiers of service will be available initially, with the highest tier including extras such as estate planning services.

Although she wouldn't divulge the entire fee schedule, Panagakos says the middle tier of services will cost companies annually $1,600 per employee who take the benefit.

It will be up to the companies to decide how they split the fee with their employees. But she expects that companies will, on average, pick up 60% of the cost.

BeniVest currently has a staff of less than 10 people and expects to start hiring its in-house advisor staff before the year is out, Panagakos says. The company's vice president of client services, Tim Anderson, joined the company after 14 years with American Express Advisors.

After coming from a commission-based background, Anderson says he was attracted to BeniVest's fee-only structure. "The company's focused on financial planning solely, as opposed to financial planning as a means to generating assets," says Anderson, who is also a partner in the firm. He adds he expects much of the company's advisor staff eventually will be lured for the same reasons. "There's a whole pool of people out there who love financial planning," he says. "They love just doing financial planning."

Starting salaries for advisors will range from $60,000 to $150,000 depending on experience, and there will be performance bonuses based on client satisfaction and the recruitment of new clients, Panagakos says.

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