Other valuable assistance planners can provide: Helping executives understand what their job is actually worth so they can clearly evaluate golden handshakes, early retirement and job changes. "We had a client who was offered $10 million in a sign-on bonus at a competing company," says AMG's Wright. "We crunched the numbers and went back and told him that if he stayed put for two years, he'd make up the $10 million in vesting. Our question to him was, 'Why take the risk at another company?' He ended up staying. Which has had huge value for him and the company.

Getting Your Foot In The Corporate Door

While the dust is still settling on the scandal-ridden implosions of Enron, K-Mart and Worldcom, to name a few, the cautionary lesson for the human resources departments charged with vetting planners for companyís preferred list is this: Look for independent firms. What HR executives really want is planning competence and protection from scrutiny and legal backlash. To find it, theyíre seeking out independent planners, who they believe are free from the taint of conflicts of interest. The plus for planners who work with corporate executives is multifold: Itís a lucrative market where annual fees can range from $5,000 to $20,000 per executive. And itís a homogeneous market; the executives at a given corporation have the same comp plans, risks and opportunities, which gives you a chance to serve them particularly well. So how do you get the chance to tell your story? ìThe key is getting to the right person, who is the internal promoter of planning at the company,î says Greg Sullivan, president of McLean, Va.-based Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney. ìOne of the best people to work with is the head of HR. Weíve done that at Fannie Mae,î says Sullivan, whose firm is on the preferred list at Fannie Mae and also works with executives at Microsoft and AOL. Remember, however, that this is a two-tier sale, says Earl Wright, the president of AMG Guaranty, which works with executives at 69 different Fortune 100 and 500 corporations. At the corporate level they want to ensure that you have the resources and depth to deliver high-quality, pothole-free services. Executives tend to be more oriented toward results and performance. On both fronts, however, itís important to deliver. ìYou have to have the resources to a good job,î says Sullivan. ìExecutives talk. If you slip up with one, everyone at the company will know about it.

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