WealthManagement Magazine

Staying Sharp

Where you find retail investment professionals is expanding. In years past, most brokers inhabited wirehouses, but today financial professionals could be with H&R Block, which plans to offer full-line financial services in some of its 9,000 offices. Or you could find advisers at E superscript *Trade Zone - a department within a Super Target discount store outside Atlanta - or E superscript *Trade's

Where you find retail investment professionals is expanding. In years past, most brokers inhabited wirehouses, but today financial professionals could be with H&R Block, which plans to offer full-line financial services in some of its 9,000 offices. Or you could find advisers at E superscript *Trade Zone - a department within a Super Target discount store outside Atlanta - or E superscript *Trade's new 30,000-square-foot Madison Avenue location in New York.

This kind of encroachment shouldn't affect your traditional business model or client base. These new players are going after the do-it-yourselfer crowd with smaller pools of assets than your desired high-net-worth individual.

But you do face a challenge for your clients from a different angle. About 90,000 members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offer some type of financial advice beyond accounting or tax services and about 10,000 hold the esteemed CFP designation. While those numbers may not seem impressive compared with broker ranks topping 500,000, the desire of CPAs to serve retail investors is very strong. They are willing to give up the abacus to help clients with investment needs - clients with whom they already have a trust-based relationship.

I find more and more individuals from insurance and tax arenas at the many conferences I attend during the year. In many cases, they're already conducting some level of business with your client.

What can you do? Begin by simply asking your clients about their involvement with these other professionals, and make sure you understand the depth of the services the new competitors offer.

Next, educate yourself. In the past, you could have done well staying in your office and not attending industry gatherings. But today, financial professionals who want to be successful must commit to honing their skills and knowledge.

A key event designed to do that is coming up in two months - the Financial Advisor Conference, presented by the SIA, March 2-3. Check out the agenda at www.sia.com/financial_advisor_2001. It covers the hot topics of fee business, teams, asset management and more. For additional information, contact John Maurello at 212/618-0541. Conference organizers have put together a forward-looking event. Find out how to do as the theme suggests - seize the future.

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