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Michael Kitces' #FASuccess Podcast: Alexandra Levi on Combatting Fee Compression

Element Financial Group's Alexandra Levi details her business strategy split 50/50 between investment management and financial planning services.



Welcome back to the 169th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!

My guest on today’s podcast is Alexandra Levi. Alex is the founder and managing partner of Element Financial Group, a hybrid registered investment advisor with the Commonwealth platform that oversees nearly $430 million of assets under advisement for 170 clients. What’s unique about Alex, though, is that, with a firm providing both investment management and financial planning services, she, in fact, has been able to grow her revenue to be almost 50/50 between the two with a $4,000- to $11,000-a-year annual retainer fee for financial planning. And that she did so specifically as a strategy to combat the risk of fee compression by more clearly and separately articulating the value and the price of each service.

In this episode, we talk in depth about Alex’s approach to financial planning and how she prices it with her clients. The way she does a demo of the eMoney Advisor’s dashboard in her prospect meetings with potential clients to show them the way she’ll keep their lives organized on an ongoing basis. The way Alex shortened the upfront financial planning process with clients to just two meetings but then conducts ongoing quarterly meetings with all clients in recognition that financial planning is much more about the ongoing planning process than the upfront plan itself.

And how, thanks to technology, Alex’s quarterly meetings with her clients have increasingly become virtual while leveraging video conferencing software, but how the reduction in physical in-person meetings hasn’t impeded her retention rate that remains in the high 90% range for her multi-thousand-dollar-a-year annual retainer fee.

We also talk about Alex’s journey through the advisory business itself. Why she chose to start out her career working for a major mutual life insurance firm instead of a wirehouse. The reason she ultimately decided to make a pivot to the independent broker/dealer channel for back-office compliance and other infrastructure that a b/d can provide. Why she hired an independent recruiter to help her find the right b/d to work with. About the partnership she almost entered into with another advisory firm for support but had to bail out of at the last minute. And the way she eventually found her ideal business partner, so she didn’t have to be a lone wolf responsible for everything and not feel so alone in building her now jointly owned advisory business.

And be certain to listen to the end, where Alex shares her perspective on why she thinks time in the business is such a major determinant of success. Why it’s so crucial to be proactive about networking early—and always—in an advisory career. And why she views the entrepreneurial opportunity of owning and building your own advisory business to be especially appealing for women who want to control the direction and duration of their careers.

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