But that wasn't enough for Ellen. In his efforts to foster greater interaction with different professionals, he started creating other entities, starting with the Financial Solutions Alliance. "We believe the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals is great, but alliances are better. FSA meets once a month with business owner clients and asks, 'Where's your pain?' Is it retaining key people, reducing insurance costs, preparing for exit, estate planning?

"Developing relationships through our alliance allows each member and their clients to benefit from our collective knowledge, experience and independent point of view."

The experience of allying with others in the FSA eventually created the germ for the CSP platform. The CSP's compensation and benefit advisory team helps members analyze and implement executive compensation plans, allowing them to set up qualified and non-qualified plans and deferred comp plans, purchase custom group life and pursue other business strategies.

When joining the CSP program, reps working with executives discover opportunities they were formerly unable to exploit. Ellen says many advisor reps don't know, for example, that if they construct a deferred compensation plan for an executive client and delay withdrawals for more than ten years, they can pay state taxes on that compensation wherever they're living at the time of the time of withdrawal-perhaps in a state where it might be cheaper.

In other words: "Reps don't know that their executive clients can defer compensation in states where tax rates are high and take the compensation later while living in a state without an income tax.

"In fact," adds Ellen, "in working with Fortune 500 companies, we find we can do a lot of neat things at that level-like pay-for-performance plans, or 401(k) matching-that can be brought down to smaller companies."

For members dealing with corporate executives and key employees, the CSP offers a premium executive planning component, with a custom, comprehensive financial planning and wealth management program. Members also get an entrance into the FSA.

How does one join CSP?

"The cost is $7,500 to go through a one-and-a-half-day session," Ellen says, "more an exercise in collaboration than training, per se. We have an open dialogue about our successes and how to ask questions of business owners. Then we walk through how we deal with high-net-worth individuals, themselves usually business owners. Some reps say they learn more in those one and a half days than in their whole career."

The sessions are conducted by experts who have worked extensively with owners/executives of middle-market private and public companies and focus on four key practice areas: financial planning, asset management, risk management and corporate benefits.
How does the rep work with the CSP once he's completed the training?