QA3 uses interdisciplinary conferences, among other ways, to promote the kind of collaboration Johnson has benefited from. "We just had a Las Vegas meeting of all disciplines," says Lange, referring to the Quantum Alliance "Collegium" held October 20-25, 2003. "Each discipline had its own educational meeting followed by interdisciplinary meetings. It's always been our feeling that the different disciplines don't understand each other too well, so the conferences are designed to promote the formation of new alliances."

These alliances-which are virtual because the professionals may be geographically separated-work within as well as across different disciplines. "A small-firm advisor needing specialized retirement planning assistance can refer his client to another advisor with the requisite expertise and share fees," for example, explains Lange.

Why is the collaborative feature of QA3 so attractive? Don't many advisors establish successful relationships with attorneys and accountants on their own? Not necessarily, argues Statz. "I came from a situation where accountants and attorneys were deal-breakers. Attorneys, specifically, are often afraid of legality issues. Illinois is a unique state when it comes to fee sharing. It presents a lot of obstacles. QA3's been helpful because I can call their folks, say this is what I'm experiencing in trying to collaborate, what should I do? Because QA3 has created this collaborative environment that automatically breaks down barriers-such as attorneys being suspicious about my wanting to take a client-I have plenty of professionals I can call on. In my area of Chicago, QA3 reps get together each quarter to share knowledge without egos getting in the way. At our last meeting we had four accountants, three attorneys and a number of advisors."

QA3's secret in getting diverse professionals to cooperate is based upon understanding what each professional's needs and objectives are. "The CPA might want to participate with the advisor in structuring a deal for the client rather than looking at it after the fact and being perceived as killing the deal because he doesn't agree with its structure," Lange says. "We've heard a lot of CPAs say to us that if an advisor has a particular product or solution, he could ask the CPA how to structure it so it will work best. In short, we simply understand the protocol for working with accountants and attorneys." And what is that protocol? "Respect," says Lange.

Their internal process for hooking up the various professionals has been an informal one, but that will change this month when QA3 rolls out a tech platform it will call the "QA3 Advisor Registry." The registry will categorize all reps by their area of expertise.

Explains Lange, "When they find each other through the registry and wish to provide needed expertise to each other in the service of one rep's client, the reps will sign an agreement to service the client for the requested engagement only so there is no fear of the [outside] rep stealing the other rep's client. Before the engagement, the reps will also work out their fee split."

All of the reps contacted for this article were quite serious about wanting a broker-dealer open, if not actually willing, to fostering a collaborative environment. Mike Owens of Strategic Legacy Advisors Inc. in Lincoln, Neb., says, "Before joining QA3, I had helped two law firms set up investment advisory practices so we could collaborate for their clients and share fees and revenues. My former brokerage wasn't against collaborating, but didn't promote it, either. Any BD can clear trades, but we wanted one that could be a value proposition to us. That's what independent, high-spirited, entrepreneurial financial advisors are looking for. I kicked the tires on two or three other BDs, but Ted Lange came along and sold me."

Owens cites as an example of his firm's collaborative efforts the time one of his partners was brought in on a case with an attorney's client-a single, 82-year old retired professor. "The attorney had talked to her about setting up a CRAT because she wanted to leave something to her university's foundation. They decided upon an 8% CRAT along with a wealth replacement trust, and we got rid of three highly appreciated stocks in the process." The team also found out the client had an irrevocable life insurance trust she'd been funding at $30,000 a year towards a $300,000 benefit that they were able to improve upon, all because "we started out with a collaborative attitude," says Owens.

In a team effort like this, the attorneys were doing the trust documents and Owens' firm was doing the life insurance for the wealth replacement trust and handling the investment products. "We manage investments," says Owens, "but we'll work on cases like this for a fee even if they don't result in a long-term engagement. We're serious about planning."

And that's the caliber of advisor Wild and Lange hoped to attract, one who's client-centered. Wild says, "I have a real passion for the industry [which] ultimately extends to the clients of the advisors. I felt with my business career I'd achieved success but never a goal, rather an outcome. My goal was to do the best job we could as an industry to serve the advisor and the client." Lange adds, "This vision of Steve's has tied us all together. We have a lot of talent and experience in our firm and can finally build the firm we've always wanted to build."