When it comes to building trust with clients, what better way to do it than through outside involvement in the community.
That’s a lesson many advisors are taking to heart through the various volunteer opportunities they participate in. For these advisors, boosting business isn’t the main motivator, but they say it does help paint their companies in a positive light and, in many cases, has led to referrals they might otherwise not have received.
"You do good things in the community and it will come back to you in other ways," says Randy Brown, chief wealth strategist at Briteline Wealth Management Group in Fullerton, Calif.
For example, Briteline purchases blocks of seats at a local non-profit theater and provides the seats free-of-charge to senior facilities whose residents wouldn’t normally be able to afford the shows.
The firm also regularly runs seminars at nearby senior facilities on topics that appeal to the aging population such as financial literacy, social security benefits and precautions one should take when asked to spend large amounts of money.
"None of it is about selling product; it’s just about education. The reward comes from the referrals down the road," says Brown, who estimates that 34 percent of the firm’s referrals are from work specifically done for seniors on a volunteer or pro-bono basis.
Many advisors can’t directly tie their community service efforts to a tangible increase in business, but they say the reward comes from the work itself, as well as the opportunity to promote their brand.
For example, Paul Jacobs, client service manager in the Atlanta office of Palisades Hudson Financial Group, has made presentations in classrooms about various finance-related topics.
"I think it’s just a rewarding experience being able to use what I know to help others even if it’s not a situation where I’m being compensated," he says. "It’s a good way to raise awareness of my company and our brand."
Eric Zeitlin, managing director of Provenance Wealth Advisors, LLC in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agrees.
For the past several years, Zeitlin and his firm have been involved in "Take Stock in Children," a Florida-based mentoring and scholarship program for at-risk youth. Serving as a board member, hosting golf tournaments, and being in charge of fundraising for the organization provides great exposure for him and his firm in the community. More importantly, however, it’s a great cause.
"Who would not want to support educating underprivileged children?" Zeitlin asks. "I believe in this cause, and to me that is the most important aspect of charitable giving."
John Vita, a financial advisor with AXA Advisors in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., doesn’t even mention his firm when he’s soliciting contributions for a yearly golf tournament in Dutchess County, N.Y., which raises money for the Special Olympics. Yet he knows that over the years his involvement in this and as a major sponsor of the Polar Plunge, which also benefits the Special Olympics, has brought him business.
It really helps for clients to know that you are a part of the fabric of the community, Vita says.
Andy Rice, chief financial officer of Money Management Services, an RIA in Birmingham, Ala., also stresses the importance of the work his firm has done for the community, regardless of whether or not it has brought in business. "Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t. We don’t have a way of tracking that to find out."
One of the ways the family-owned firm has reached out to the community is by helping fund the creation of a local Christian high school in Sumiton, Ala., in the late 1990s, as well as donating the property on which the school was built and providing continuous financial support over the years.
Over the past several years, during the Christmas season, the firm has also, through a local children’s hospital, sponsored families of children with cancer, providing money for meals and gifts that they otherwise couldn’t afford, Rice says.
What’s more, the firm is in the process of launching an adoption fund that would allow the firm, its clients and others to make tax-deductible donations. The fund would be set up to perpetually provide interest-free loans to couples looking to adopt children, but who don’t have the money to front the costs associated with adoption.
While this type of fund could lead to referrals, he says, that’s not the motivating factor. "If we’re doing it for business, I think that our values are out of line," Rice says. "It wouldn’t mean as much that I helped somebody if I was doing it just to get business."
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