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Educate, entertain, advise
Lisa Joyce, 07/31/2019
A diversified portfolio is critical to successful financial planning.
Todd Feltz, President and CEO of Omaha-based Feltz WealthPLAN and WealthPLAN Partners, is proof that diversification is key to running a successful advisory business as well.
Feltz describes his business as a three-legged stool. One leg represents the original private client/wealth management business that Feltz started 30 years ago, one leg is the qualified retirement plans business, and the final leg is the independent advisory firm WealthPLAN Partners, launched in 2011.
Nurturing all three legs and marketing to the right channels keeps the business balanced and has propelled substantial growth. Since launching his one-man shop in 1989, Feltz has grown the business to $2.1 billion in assets under management with 30 affiliated advisors, 40 support staff, and 15 offices in eight states.
Evolving employer models
From day one, Feltz chose to focus on retirement planning through tailored investment and wealth management strategies. That focus is still a big part of the firm's business today.
About 12 years ago, Feltz saw an opportunity to expand into employer-sponsored 401(k) plans. Feltz's firm already managed a few 401(k) plans for small business clients but lacked an in-house expert. Enter Wade Behlen as Director of Retirement Plans/Foundations.
Today, Feltz WealthPLAN oversees 160 plans and $600 million in assets. “401(k)s are a big part of our business, and growing every day," notes Feltz.
“Years ago, an advisor would simply deliver a canned presentation about 401(k) options to employees," explains Feltz. Feltz WealthPLAN provides customized plan designs—including a Roth option—based on the number of participants and ensures that the options offered by each employer is an appropriate match for increasing participation. “We screen the plan, ensure funds are appropriate, low cost, and diversified, and provide the investment models," says Feltz.
“But with regulations from the Department of Labor and conflict of interest rules, the retirement plan business has gotten much more complex," Feltz continues. Employers now face increased risk, which can be addressed by offering employee education into the options that are available. The firm's Auto-Educate ® tool requires employees to sign an annual attestation that they have been offered education on the risks of their 401(k) plan. This process helps employers avoid litigation attempts on the part of dissatisfied employees during a market downturn.
Spreading the word
An unorthodox approach to marketing helped propel the wealth management business to steady growth. From 1989 until 1999, Feltz's “Financial Focus" call-in radio program aired on 350 stations across the U.S. He and his advisors were also business editors for Omaha's News Radio 1110 KFAB, a move that Feltz says “put us on the map."
Feltz's radio work was a game changer partially because at the time, there were few financial gurus on the airwaves, meaning little competition for listeners. Plus, the compliance landscape was less stringent, which allowed Feltz to give more targeted financial advice to callers and even be a little irreverent. He recalls playing Pink Floyd's “Money" and “Back in the High Life Again" by Steve Winwood as lead-ins to his program. “Today, I would be sued," laughs Feltz.
Would he do radio—or even television—today? Probably not, says Feltz. Crowded airwaves and increased regulatory scrutiny have driven Feltz to other forms of promotion such as events, targeted emails, social media and more reliance on referrals. “It was a good run," says Feltz about his radio days, “but it was time to move on to other types of marketing," adding that he does not believe there is as much opportunity in traditional media for today's advisors.
But no matter what type of marketing an advisor chooses, Feltz has this advice: Don't give up. “It takes time to build an audience," he explains. “You have to educate and entertain at the same time."
Advising (and learning from) advisors
Feltz licensed WealthPLAN Partners as a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) in 2011 to offer a turnkey asset management program (TAMP) for advisors. In addition to handling account administration, billing and reporting, WealthPLAN Partners provides advisors with marketing support, social media tools, compliance, prospecting and onboarding of new clients, staff training, and access to what Feltz calls world-class technologies to assist with customer relationship and inventory management and financial planning and risk assessment.
One market for WealthPLAN Partners is breakaway advisors who leave the wirehouse to run their own firms, which can be an overwhelming proposition at first. “For many, it's like drinking out of a fire-hose," says Feltz. And in today's regulatory environment, it's difficult for small firms to make it on their own, he adds.
But education works both ways. Feltz says WealthPLAN Partners benefits from the wisdom of the advisors it brings onto its platform. “We look for like-minded advisors who want to grow their business the right way. And we learn from them as well," says Feltz. One tech-savvy advisor introduced WealthPLAN to applications that help with account opening, while another has shared marketing innovations. “It's a true partnership," Feltz says.
WealthPLAN Partner's TAMP manages $900 million on behalf of the advisors on its platform. The three models and eight model variations are proprietary. The next step is to expand the TAMP to advisors who are not affiliated with WealthPLAN Partners. Explains Feltz, “Advisors can stay with their current broker/dealer but use our TAMP. We can trade on any platform and can offer advisors our TAMP for up to 50% less than our competitors," notes Feltz.
Feltz loves his business and clients and is in no rush to retire. “I will always keep involved in both firms," says Feltz, although he's currently formalizing his transition to take a less active role in running the business.
Feltz is sure his firm will continue to thrive, as his employees care just as much as he does. “We have long-term employees with strong management talents who think like owners," says Feltz. “I'm so proud of our staff."
Through strategic and mindful growth efforts, Feltz and his team have created a three-legged approach that ultimately serves a wide swath of clients, from recent grads with their first 401(k) accounts to RIAs committed to growing their own business. While client needs and expectations may differ, the goal is the same, notes Feltz. “What gives me the greatest personal satisfaction is seeing how much anxiety we eliminate from our clients' lives."
Content provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be advice for any firm.
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