QA3 is helping create interdisciplinary synergies from collaborative planning.

When he was chairman of Securities America, Stephen K. Wild elevated the firm to a major force in the financial services industry. But after selling Securities America to American Express in 1998, he felt compelled to launch a new broker-dealer.

When asked why, Wild replies, "I've looked at a lot of financial plans over the years, and the focus is usually on returns and bringing assets under management. When CPAs are involved in the financial planning process, the focus is on saving taxes. When estate planning attorneys are involved, the emphasis is on conservation of assets. What's missing for the [end] client is all three groups talking to each other and doing the best job of planning that can be done. I felt it was my mission to achieve this objective."

His new firm, QA3 Financial Corp., called "QA3" for short, hosts 326 reps, a number that's growing at the rate of 12 to 15 reps per month. Unlike many rivals, QA3 is growing not from aggressive recruiting but from the referrals of professionals already a part of the QA3 network.

QA3's distinguishing attribute is its platform of collaboration. Sophisticated planners, the kind QA3 tends to attract, understand that a useful financial plan must combine several allied disciplines in a client-centered team effort. To make this happen, Wild, along with Quantum Alliance President Ted Lange, acquired the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys and the Alliance of Professional Associations, an association management firm for CPA groups serving clients in specific niche markets. They put them all under the common roof of Quantum Alliance.

Is QA3 in competition with Wild's old firm and other progressive independent broker-dealers? "We don't really view them as competition," says Lange, "because we provide all the same support services and more." The "and more" is the above-mentioned collaboration and, more fundamentally, an emphasis on the reps' business development. "At QA3, it's not about products; it's about 'what do you need to grow your practice?' We've put together a remarkable group of people, a 'dream team,' to help our reps construct a business plan and then monitor that plan," says Lange. QA3's business development team incorporates the skills of various, allied professionals.

Phil Statz, a principal with Insight Financial Group Inc. in Arlington Heights, Ill., went through the business development process even though he'd conceived his desired business model before affiliating with QA3. "They brought in four or five people, each with a different skill set: computers, marketing, public relations, planning, products, etc. We discussed my model, and they were able to understand my needs," says Statz.

One of the goals of the QA3 business development team is to identify each rep's strengths and target market so they can introduce him to other network members. Says Statz, "I'd met a couple of attorneys who didn't share my vision, so QA3 connected me with their Masters Program of high-level attorneys, one of which had a client with whom I worked because the client needed my IRA planning skills. They also put me in touch with another QA3 advisor who wanted to duplicate my business model. I've helped him do this and I get an override from it."

Keith Johnson, a principal with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Pinnacle Financial Advisors, can attest to the potency of QA3's collaboration strategy. "Since 1981, I'd been with Sun America and Cambridge Investment Research, until joining QA3 in June of 2002. Two years ago I started implementing a [proprietary] strategy I call a Custom Benefit Plan, which requires a number of disciplines to bring it off." Already working with a QA3 network member attorney and an independent pension specialist, Johnson-with the QA3 business development team's help-found Florida-based Mark Clark, another QA3 rep, to complete his team.

Clark's contacts with a number of Florida law firms gave Johnson's team a target client group to which they could present their strategy. The team does a Web cast to a partner within each target law firm about its Custom Benefit Plan, a name the team has trademarked to describe a pension plan design that Johnson says is "outside the box for innovation, but well inside the lines of compliance, having received a favorable letter of determination from the IRS."

The innovations, explains Johnson, are a compilation of design features that give business owners and professionals the best of all worlds within the confines of 2001's Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. "The attorneys we present our plan to introduce the idea to their clients after looking at it to make sure it's solid. Then we strike an agreement [to help their firm implement the strategy]," says Johnson.

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