Financial advisor Julian Fensterheim feels it is important for clients to meet his new puppy, Stela.

That is because he wants clients and prospects to get to know him as a person, including the fact that he is an avid runner, in addition to knowing him as an advisor.

Because no matter how long they are clients of Fensterheim, they may never actually meet him in person. Fensterheim and his team of 25 advisors at Equitable, a financial services firm based in New York City, conducts all of his business, including recruiting clients and creating a financial plan for them, virtually.

This hands-off business model is one he started in 2018 before the current Covid-19 crisis hit and forced large numbers of people into online work. Now he is developing a career as a coach to other advisors who want to adopt totally virtual advice.

Fensterheim, who is 29 and heads a team composed of advisors largely in their 20s, said, “I was told, if you don’t sit down with prospects face-to-face you won’t be able to build trust and you won’t be able to onboard them as clients.

“But I saw an opportunity. By wanting to meet in person, many advisors were limiting themselves to a few states,” he said. Fensterheim is a vice president of the northeast region for Equitable Advisors.

“The industry as a whole seemed out of date,” said Fensterheim, a fast talker who is filled with enthusiasm. “A lot of advisors are older and rely on face-to-face meetings and a yellow legal pad. I saw digital advice as the future of the industry, and I wanted to be best-in-class in developing it.”

Fensterheim was named number one in the Equitable Management Development Awards last year, which means he and his team were recognized as top team created in 2018. He also was third in the Equitable Management Leadership Awards, meaning his team was at the top of every team in the company regardless of when that team was formed. Fensterheim went to work for Equitable shortly after graduating from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

While reaching these achievements competing against traditional advisory teams, Fensterheim and his team did not have a single client meeting in person. It was all done virtually through online meeting programs.

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