Libby Cherrington, American Express Financial Advisors
An Ohio native, Libby Cherrington, a CFP and financial adviser with American Express Financial Advisors, has been attracted to the islands off of South Carolina since she first visited there more than 20 years ago. She likes the year-round mild climate, natural beauty and outdoor sports.
I had always wanted to live [in South Carolina], so I purchased a house in 1990 in Hilton Head in preparation for retiring someday, Cherrington says. But retirement is something I cannot imagine.
Instead, she decided to blend her career and her love of the locale. In 1995, she offered a seminar on charitable giving in Hilton Head. Id hoped to build a small client base, she says. I thought if I found four or five clients, I might go about once a quarter for a week.
The plan was successful from the onset, even more than Cherrington had anticipated. By mid-1997, she was spending one week each month in Hilton Head. She traveled frequently to nearby Kiawah and Seabrook Islands to see clients and decided to purchase property there as well.
Her firms top producer for 1997 and No. 3 for 1998, she currently spends two weeks of every month in Hilton Head and another week on Kiawah and Seabrook Islands. She dedicates only one week to the office in Columbus, Ohio, where she started as a broker.
She says the islands are fertile territories for expanding her retirement and estate planning business. Although Hilton Heads population is 25,000 and the other islands have just 6,000, the proportion of affluent retired people is impressive. Her average client is over 65 years old and has an average net worth of $2.5 million. Theyre all coming from another location, so they need the help, Cherrington says.
Her office is in a Hilton Head office park where she looks out at the marsh, the lagoon and wonderful sunsets. Shell soon be moving to larger facilities with the same view and will open an office in Kiawah as well.
Cherrington has two computers, two phone lines, an assistant and a licensed partner in South Carolina. In Ohio, she works with a licensed paraplanner, two assistants, and every year she has a new rookie working with her.
Although she could fly to the island with just one stop, she prefers to drive, making the 1112-hour trip alone. She puts a book on tape in the cassette player, and listens to one on the way down and another on the way back.
Cherrington finds the change of scenery energizing. It provides an impetus that really is motivating. And its a breath of fresh air going to Hilton Head where the sun is always shining. It doesnt feel like work even when Im there, she adds. She appreciates the more relaxed pace of the South.
Her experience indicates that upscale retirement communities present an opportunity for reps who would like to spend part of their time in such places. She cautions: Find out about other advisers who are already there. Be careful not to step on anybodys toes. Then test the waters. If it works, dont just give a seminar and leave. Make a commitment. Be sure that you can consistently provide the service people need.