After a successful career as a wirehouse advisor, René Nourse went independent nearly a decade ago, establishing Urban Wealth Management. Though based in Los Angeles, René has built up a national clientele that she has been serving virtually in many cases, long before it became a COVID-driven necessity. René offers a master class in how to combine technology that helps them serve clients holistically combined with a great deal of personal service and empathy that helps them become indispensable to their clients in ways that extend well beyond investment management.
While Urban Wealth Management expertly serves busy professional women in urban centers around the country and that has become a hallmark of their practice, their business process and service offerings clearly appeal to a broad swath of clients of all backgrounds and wealth levels. René also shows us how powerful a diverse team is in terms of attracting a diverse of clients. And for the advice tech providers out there, René has a few thoughts for you on how you can better serve the advisor community.
Urban Wealth Management's culture and ethos is a direct reflection of what makes René so special: authentic, personal and aspirational. She and her partners clearly care deeply about their clients. Their value proposition articulates their purpose exceptionally well:
At Urban Wealth Management, we strive to create a supportive and secure environment where our clients are encouraged to be engaged in their financial affairs and take ownership in creating the life they desire and deserve. Our vision is that everyone live a life of their design, using their wealth to fulfill their dreams and follow their passion.
Press play and join the conversation.
· The Urban Wealth Management Origin Story [1:52]
· The Urban Wealth Management client profile [6:38]
· Urban Wealth Management's tiered client engagement levels and why they have no account minimums [8:45]
· The importance of leading with planning [11:27]
· The client journey and client experience [14:17]
· A diverse team to serve a diverse clientele [18:18]
· The client onboarding process [21:26]
· UWM’s risk-based approach to investment management [26:05]
· Virtual practice management and engagement and how René has built a national business [33:30]
· How René and team leverage CRM [36:30]
· René’s advice for Advice Tech firms [39:20]
· The importance of team diversity to achieve growth objectives [43:30]
· Why the future is advice and planning-centric as asset management continues to be commoditized [46:22]
Wealth Management v2.0: The AdviceTech Revolution, Episode 13
with René Nourse, CFP®, Founder and Managing Director, Urban Wealth Management
Gavin Spitzner (President, Wealth Consulting Partners, LLC):
Welcome to the "Wealth Management version 2.0: The AdviceTech Revolution Podcast," where we are focused on the business of the business, the business of advice. And specifically, we study and celebrate firms that are leveraging the combination of technology and humanity to deliver better advice to more people, and better outcomes for more people through that combination. Ever since I moderated an RIA panel over the summer that included this episode's guest, I've been dying to get her on my podcast. So I'm thrilled to welcome René Nourse, Founder and Managing Director of Urban Wealth Management. You're in for a treat. Get ready to take notes because René and her team run an outstanding practice in so many ways.
I love René's value proposition. She actually has it posted on the site. I love it so much I want to read it as kind of a way into this conversation: "At Urban Wealth Management, we strive to create a supportive and secure environment where our clients are encouraged to be engaged in their financial affairs and take ownership in creating the life they desire and deserve. Our vision is that everyone live a life of their design, using their wealth to fulfill their dreams and follow their passion."
René, it's so authentic, personal, aspirational. So with that, René, I begin with the way I begin with everyone. René, tell our listeners your origin story. And then we'll get into it. Welcome, René.
René Nourse, CFP® (Founder and Managing Director, Urban Wealth Management):
Well, thank you so much, Gavin. This is great. I enjoyed our session earlier this year when we were doing the Summit for Riskalyze, so really appreciate that.
I've been in the industry for a very long time. And after being in the broker dealer wirehouse for 25 years, I knew that it was time to move along, because my passion really wasn't just about managing people's assets. It was helping them to manage their financial life. And there was oftentimes questions about, I just got an inheritance, or I'm divorced, or I'm widowed, or I got a job change and it had very little to do with what their investment and asset management needs were. And so I haven't had my CFP since 2003. And so they were always reaching out to say, "Can you give me advice?"
And of course, at the firm that I was with, there wasn't a way to be able to create a financial planning platform where I would be able to charge clients. And so they would always ask me, "How much do I owe you?" And I'd say, "Nothing. You're filling up my karma bank because I can't charge you anything for this." So it was going to be coming much more clear, especially after we had the downturn in 2007 to 2009. And there was definitely a much bigger emphasis on helping people with their financial life. And that was when I started thinking about, "I think I need to really exit. I really want to focus on financial planning."
So I left in 2012 and started Urban Wealth Management. And the reasons why I came up with that name is because we do focus on working with women. That's our area of primary specialization. Women are overlooked and underserved. And I came up with the name "urban." A lot of people don't feel that that is the right reason because that is where women have become very successful because we are working primarily with professional women. That was a key component of why I came up with that name. So at the end of the day, even though we still definitely manage assets, we really don't know what to do with someone's money unless we know what their timeline is, their goals are, what their objectives are. So we always start at the financial planning door. And, as a result, it has been extremely beneficial to our clients. And we have picked up a lot more clients since leaving the wirehouse.
Gavin: Fantastic. And it's funny, we hear clients say, "You charge me for the part that doesn't really matter and you give away the advice for free. It should be the other way around."
René: Right. But it really helped to build out the foundation and the direction for where I want it to be and go. And it was interesting when I left the firm, 80% of the clients came with me. There were a few that stayed behind and they were, like, they wanted to stay with that major firm name. But the majority of them came back over in two years, within a two-year, 18 to 24 months later and said the most important thing that they realized was that I really did a deeper dive into their financial life. It just wasn't what their assets were. And that was exactly what was happening with those advisors, they were just focused on their financial…their finance, their investments.
And one of them actually, it's a gentleman, his mother was a longtime client of mine, she passed away. He's in his 60s. But he was one of my biggest clients. And he stayed but then he called me back within 18 months and said, "I am so sorry, I should have left because this advisor only wants to talk to me about my money. He doesn't care about my health, he doesn't care about what situation I'm dealing with my daughter." Those are the kind of conversations I would have with clients is, "Tell me about what's going on in your personal life."
Gavin: Right. And you were fairly early, but certainly now, to some extent then, you had unlike way back, you have all the same capabilities and tools of those large firms. And we'll get into the technology side, the planning tools, and all that, but tell us about the profile of your practice, what the client profile, how do you charge? Do you have minimums? How do you know as you're talking, say, to a prospect who's a good fit for the firm, who might not be a good fit? You mentioned a focus on females in urban centers. So everyone has woken up now to having a focus on women, some kind of a part of the firm focus on that. But this has been a core to you from the very, very beginning. So let's talk about that as well. And I'm curious, do you think of women as a market segment, from a needs perspective, the solutions, the approach, how has that focal point for your practice impacted what you're doing?
René: Very good point. And I remember giving a public speech one time and saying working with women is not a niche. We are a major network and we make up more than half of this country's population. That number is picking up quite a bit. And, yes, there are some firms that are saying, "Yeah, we want to really focus on working with women." But as women and an all-woman team, we get what the needs of women are. And at the end of the day, the primary focus is, number one, we don't have a minimum. That was one thing I wanted to kick out of having that and I know many firms still do that. They're starting to shift a little bit. And the ones that are going to be most successful, I think, will be those that will be stepping back from that because you're going to have Millennials who don't have hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars if that's a minimum, but they will have it years later. We have...
Gavin: Especially if you're there to help them in those pivotal years make the right move.
René: Exactly. You know, there's a lot of people that don't have that kind of asset level available, but it doesn't mean they're never going to have it. And at the end of the day, one of the things I really want to make sure that people are aware of is how do they build out their financial life so that they will be able to grow their assets, grow their wealth over time. So we don't have a minimum. Now if someone has nothing or very little, their big focus is and as we tell them, "Let's focus on your financial planning piece." Because, as an example, no matter how much money someone makes, everybody knows what their salary is, how much money they're making, where they have problems, figuring out where the money is going. They don't know how they're spending their money.
So we have a great accountability with our financial planning software, where we can see everything that's being done, help them build out cash flow, budgeting. And that actually helps them to do a number of things, which is increase their overall savings, difference between savings and investing. But they need to start at savings, and helping them to figure out what is their priority when it comes to building up your financial life. So we don't have minimums. We do primarily focus on financial planning. And we have a variety of platforms. One is called our Essential GIG, which is for basically Millennials, younger ones who are coming into the profession. Our Deluxe, which is for individuals who are a little bit more complex, they've been working, they've been in the profession for a while. They might have a home, they have kids that they're saving for college.
And then our Deluxe is for ultra high net worth individuals who might have a business, several pieces of property. They have very high net worth. And there's a lot more complexity with that. So at the end of the day, that's just for the financial planning. If for asset management, and this is a low figure I know compared to other firms, as long as someone has $250,000 or more with us, they get financial planning included with their asset management, at no additional cost. And that's made a big difference. So at the end of the day, again, we want to make that as a priority. What's your financial life as opposed to just your money?
Gavin: Right. Such a need for that. And when you think about other than the RIA channel that you live in, the fastest growing channel for many, many years, is just direct retail. And big part of that is if you're doing okay, markets are going up, and all your focus on is the investment side, that might be okay, but there's so many other needs that people might not even...They don't know, they have until it's too late, and something comes up and bites them. So advisors are really, frankly, they're doing those clients a disservice by not leading with planning and advice and helping them see the blind spots, think through things, anticipate things before it becomes a problem.
René: Absolutely. And the other thing which I think is really important, when markets go down, and they always go down, but they always go back up, if your primary focus is just on asset management and your clients are looking at it and said, "Okay, why did you go...You underperform based on the benchmark. You didn't do a great job of manage my assets. I'm leaving." But if you broaden out the relationship and the connections with them, just because you're down, they're going to stay with you because of the fact that you are in a bigger part of their life, which is on the personal side. And not had any clients that have exited just because you've underperformed being in the investments because other advisors. And we've had some people, a number of people have come on board with us since last year saying, "We're with a financial advisor, and all they focus on is managing our assets. I only talk with them once a year. They don't know what's going on in my personal life." And they're like, "I don't want to work with anybody like that."
Gavin: They're going to live and die based on best performance, to some extent, but then also just the lack of communication. Study after study shows that's the number one driver of attrition is their lack of communication. And if you're a one trick pony, and that's all you have to talk about, that's not going to take you too far versus if you're engaged the way you've spoken about, René, you'd become indispensable because you're going to be viewed as almost as a life partner that's helping them along as they encounter the inevitable things that happen in life and helping them think through the financial implications and making better decisions.
Gavin: Let's look at the client journey and the client experience. You touched on some of the different tiers depending on where a client might be in their life and finances, but give us a sense of what that experience is and when you're dealing...maybe we just start with a prospect that maybe you get a referral from another client. We can talk later about where your sources of new business are. But what's that like? How do you begin the engagement? And maybe this gives us a little bit of a pivot into the advice tech that you have at your disposal and how that helps that engagement.
René: Sure. So whether they're referral or they connect with us on social media or they come into our website, we offer a complimentary 30-minute session. And during that time, we pretty much will shut up and let them talk to tell us, "What are your primary objectives?" And we might just ask a couple of questions initially and take the last five minutes, five to seven minutes to give an overview of what our services are. So our primary questions are, "What are your goals? Why do you want to work with a financial planner? Have you worked with someone in the past? What was that experience like?" And then let them just talk about what it is that they're trying to achieve.
Majority of the time, the primary things are cash flow, "How can I build up my financial life?" I have some debt management. We have a number of people who are well into adulthood, who have still a significant amount of student loan debt. Or someone that doesn't have the appropriate levels of cash flow to pay off their debt. So we will take them through that process. And then after we get an idea, we take notes and get an idea about what their needs are, then we take that last five to seven minutes and do an overview of what our services are. So we have a virtual vision of our brochure. And we go through that.
We talk about the pricing at the end. The most important part is that we talk about what our process is, first. We help them organize, prioritize, strategize so that they can thrive. So we go through that and we explain what that looks like and how we do that. Then we also have some quotes from some experiences that our clients have had. Obviously, we can't say by their name, but the good thing is now SEC is going to allow us to do that. But it also gives them an idea about how we have assisted other people because oftentimes within that brochure could be with somebody who has been widowed, who's changed jobs or whatever. And then they can see, "Oh, yeah," that's what they're thinking, "that's what some of my needs are."
Gavin: People are hearing about their peers and how am I doing versus others? And what are they...someone in my situation, what are the types of things that you help them with? I advise my advisory firm clients, have some samples or some case studies where you can show them, "This is the type of something we might do over the course of could be a year or two with a client like you," where it's not just conceptual and vague, but like, "Oh, I see, there's a path here… there is a process."
René: And that is something that I think that is really important because people want to work with individuals who have similar experiences, who have an understanding, people who look like them so as women, and also is African American. We have Latinx. We have a diverse team. And so our intention is that we understand what some of the key challenges are as women in general because we're multitaskers. We're never just doing one thing at a time. And we're caring about a lot of other people. So our initiative and our goal is to make sure that they care for themselves. You can't take care of all these other people unless you take care of yourself first, and make them be strong in that regard.
Gavin: You've got a picture, by the way. Maybe when I post this out, I'll take a screenshot of your homepage picture. I just I pulled over to it for a second here. I just love it. The women arm in arm. It is just so fantastic. I mean, it's on brand. It's aspirational. It's the sense of we're in this together. And to your point, people want to work with people that understand them and are empathetic and people that have dealt with the issues that they're dealing with.
René: Yeah, it has definitely made a difference. I just had a conversation with someone yesterday who's very well known, works for major bank and he's also an entertainer, and has a male, a CFP. But his primary focus is really on the asset management piece. And her primary thing was, "I want to work with a woman because women understand what challenges that other women have." I don't have to explain to this person and she's been working with this man for four years. So I don't have to explain to him because he looks at our little strange when she is saying that this happened and her competence level is down. And he's just like, "Well, you're pretty smart, how come you don't..."
We already have that understanding and to really be able to support women in that way. Now, we have a lot of men, so we specialize in working with women, but not at the exclusion of men. And what we're finding often is that women are starting the conversation about the planning and bringing in their husbands or their significant others, and there's single women. There's a lot of single women too. But I'd say we probably have about half and half in terms of our client base, about 50%, maybe 60% women, but still 40% to 50% men.
Gavin: Fantastic. You talked about that 30-minute complimentary consultation, you get to know them, they get to know you a little bit. You've finished that meeting, they're like, "René, this feels like a great match. Let's proceed." What's the onboarding process look like? Then maybe get into some of the technology, then how you create a more formal plan. I don't know if you have a client portal. Things like that.
René: Sure. So we do have a follow up meeting after that because in addition to the brochure, we have to send the ADV’s. Because all of our emails obviously are archived. We got to make sure that we are following through with that rule. So we will do that. And occasionally, someone will say, "I want to move forward." But we say, "You got to get this stuff first. We have to acknowledge that you've got our ADV’s, you have our brochure." And we also have copyright on a number of things. One is called The Life Heat Map. And it's a single page that outlines a variety of different financial related topics. It could be their estate planning, and we have a number of checkpoints under that. Another one is on personal risk management, insurances. There's check marks on that.
So we always send that out to them too because during our conversation, they might have talked about a number of issues but The Life Heat Map will help them to identify some other areas." So, next, we do schedule a follow up call within a few days, so within a week, and then that's when we begin the process if they want to move forward. During our conversation the first time we'll ask them, "Okay, is your primary focus on financial planning or asset management or both?" And then when we have the second call, then we can tell them, "Okay, this is what our process is." Everyone has custody that the same custodian. And so we do explain that to them. And we have a financial planning agreements, if they're going to be financial planners. And if they're a couple, both of them have to sign it.
We have it set up too if they decide they want to pay because it's a retainer for a year and the financial planning side. They can pay it all upfront, and then get a 10% discount on that pricing. Or if they want to pay it monthly, we ask that they pay 25% of that upfront because we do a lot of work at the front end by getting their dashboard set up using money and then they can pay the balance of it over a monthly period for six months. And that is actually outlined in the brochure anyway, which we would have first conversation with. And then from that, once we know which direction that they're going in, then we set this up to have our first online meeting with them with themselves or with their spouses.
If they're straight financial planning and at the end of the year, when we've done a full financial plan, we have what's called as a check-in gig. A lot of times the clients still want to work with us, and they will pay a lot less, but we check in with them on a quarterly basis to see...to check in with them. Because life never stays the same, there's always changes. So we may open enrollment times. They might have changed jobs. There could have been a change in their family. And so we will cover those things on a quarterly basis and still be able to continue to work with them and they still have access to their dashboard on the money.
And once somebody decides to exit, we send out notifications if they're strictly financial planning about 45 days before the end of their periods to let them know that after if they choose not to continue to work with us, that we will be shutting down their dashboard. And if they have some important content in the vault, that they should download it. But we give them...there's about three different choices that they have. They can still be on the check-in gig where they're checking in quarterly. If they're doing asset management, again, we have no minimums, they can still keep the dashboard, or they can pay a flat fee annually to just keep their dashboard. And so we give them them those options.
Gavin: Just a quick tangent on the asset management side, not that that's the core focus, but I'm just curious, what are you doing there? Do you have your own sets of model portfolios? Are you using outside models? When a client brings over assets, are they liquidating? Do you have some kind of a tax transition piece of it? Tell us a little bit about that.
René: So with that, there's a few areas. So, obviously, when they transfer their taxable accounts over, their background history does show up in the account, so we'll know when they bought it, what they paid for it and make evaluations. For the retirement accounts, obviously, we don't have to worry about what that is. But, and here's where we’re a big fan, we use Riskalyze because we want to make sure that their risk tolerance score is the same as what they have on their portfolio because even before we can make a recommendation about making any changes to their portfolio, we need to know what their risk tolerance is.
So we don't even go down that road yet to tell them what to do with their investments when it transfers over until we go through that process. We also make sure that it's just not looking at the risk report. But we turned that… it is an investment policy statement and we have them sign off on it and we as the advisor sign off on it. And it's part of my compliance motivation for all clients that we have in their files. So once we get that, then we can make some recommendations.
Now, as far as what options investment options, I have created a few models. Two of them are socially responsible, which I started about five years ago and they have been consistently outperforming the S&P 500. So, yay. And now for sure we're getting more and more people who really want to focus on ESG and SRI.
A couple other portfolios, one is growth and income…and then the balance of them are third party asset managers that we use on the Envestnet platform, and identify different third party asset managers. Now for some people that they have some issues of, like a lot of the clients that transferred over...When I started my firm, we had individual stocks in there because, obviously at the broker dealers, there's a big focus on asset management. And I couldn't sell the Apple that they bought for $2.50 years before based on the cost basis. So I still have a lot of portfolios that are individualized and customized and have individual stocks and individual bonds in them that I oversee. So, yeah. I would say that with those...the vast majority of my clients have been with me 15 to 20 years.
Gavin: You mentioned the risk score and I want to pivot a little bit to new business you touched on referrals, social media, are you using things like the risk score and some of the lead gen capabilities to kind of put that out there as a way to pull people in? So online marketing, is that part of your marketing plan?
René: We actually have it on our website. So when somebody comes in and they just want to kind of stream through there to see what we're doing, we do have it on our homepage. And we do talk about that, let's say, when it's an initial conversation too with clients, prospective clients that we talked to them about, "Here is something that we can also give you an idea about if the investments that you have are aligned with your risk score." So, yes. We have been having some people that have come into the site. And I think, for this year, because I do expect that we're going to see a bit more, I mean, volatility works on the upside and the downside, this will be a perfect time for us to really promote their risk tolerance because so many...Last year kind of reminds me of 1999, where things were doubling in pricing every couple of months. And then, of course, we know what happened after that.
Gavin: I rode a lot of stocks all the way up the roller coaster and then right down the roller coaster, I remember it well.
René: Exactly. But there's been a lot of younger people that have started investing, and they've never put trading, as opposed to investing or trading. And I think that this is going to be a key time for people to really get an idea about what their ability to invest in because of their buying something, like, Zoom, and it's gone up 400%, 500%. They think that that's the way it's always going to be and it's not. Although I'm a big Zoom girl. I love Zoom. But, anyway, from an investment perspective. But I think we will very likely experience a major downturn, and it is a time for people to be began to understand what their risk and their idea of investment directives are when they get to see because they haven't experienced the down. They've only experienced up. And once they experience down, then that's where there's tons of pain.
Gavin: It can be dangerous. I mean, a lot of people that went through that in '08, '09 have not come back to the markets. And they're missing out…they're not keeping up with inflation because they don't have somebody like you to help them say, "Look, these times don't go on forever."
René: Although I did have one client in 2009 during 2008, he was freaking out. He actually had inherited...he and his brother inherited some money from his mother who had passed, and she had been a client for a while. But, anyway, I kept telling him, "Just hold on, hold on, you're going to be fine. Markets, yes, they are down, they are down." So he called me up in March of 2009, and that was the doubt, and he cussed me out. He said, "Get me out of here." And that was the down day, the day that he asked for it, which I think was March 10th, 2009. That was the day. The next day the markets went up. So he called me back towards the end of the year, around September, October that year and apologized and said...He didn't transfer his funds. He just removed everything and put it in the cash and I kept telling him, "Don't do that." And he apologized. He said, "I'm so sorry. I should have listened to you." And I said, "Okay, I get it. Take your money and put it in the bank." Yeah, which he did.
Gavin: Well, you mentioned Zoom, you talked before about doing some online meetings. I know, even pre-COVID you were already very oriented towards supporting clients outside of any local geography. Talk about that a little bit. How did that begin? How's that played into your business growth and also just the whole virtual engagement part of the product?
René: Well, this is definitely the next new normal, this virtual. But I do have clients all across the country. So obviously they're not going to be coming in here. So having the virtual meetings. But even here in the Los Angeles area, everybody knows in this country how awful the traffic can be. And obviously, it's dropped a bit. But I would tell people who might be coming in from another city or coming from out of state and they're coming to visit, said, "I'll be staying about 10 miles away from you." And I say, "Okay, depending on the time of day, that could be an hour." "An hour? Are you kidding me?" "No, I'm not. I'm just letting you know that's how L.A. is."
So now that we are in this face and we have been...Obviously, this is the requirement now. And I think that whether people decide that they physically want to be in meetings, some of them are going to be saying, "You know what? I'm okay without having to drive and pay for parking and be stressed when I get there." And they're fine with doing these virtual meetings now, and I think that that's definitely going to be the next normal for us in our practices for sure. So, thankfully, we've been pretty strong...I'm using technology for our platform anyway, for our business. But that is definitely going to be the area that will make a difference in continuing not just us, but within the industry, continue to be forth going, profitable, and engaging. And now being able to have a broader space. Even if you are in Nevada, California or Texas, you can now have these meetings with clients all across your state. They don't have to be physically close by for you to meet with them. And that's going to help, I think, a lot of businesses to broaden their base, their client base as a result.
Gavin: And it'll help you in terms of market specialization, the ability to really match up advisors with clients based on even a really deep connection. The geography out the door. It just creates so many more opportunities. We've talked about the tech stack a little bit before, one thing that didn't come up. It's only is three letters but for some people, it's a four-letter word, CRM. I'm curious, you get to know your clients so well, do you have kind of a prescribed approach to make sure you're capturing things in terms of in-depth knowledge about them, their interests? Do you use CRM that way?
René: Yeah, absolutely. And we use Salesforce which can be a little bit challenging, unless you have somebody that can help specialize and create that for you. It's good in a lot of ways to which with our Back Office admin that does our billing and provide us with tech support, they did customize the CRM. We were on a different one before, and which I really liked, but because they weren't integrated with other different platforms, I decided, "Okay, we need to go over to Salesforce." And it made a big adjustment in a lot of ways. However, knowing that now on the Salesforce, we can put in their address and there's a map that pops up to show where they are. We have their social media sites where we can drop that in. We have their websites, if they have a business or something, we can drop that in there. And obviously, we can take really good notes, create campaigns, and we can see that.
But we also for notes of our meetings, we use REALbasic. I've been using it and dictating on Microsoft Word. But I also have been using Copytalk for a long time. And it is integrated, thankfully, with Salesforce so that I can just call, leave a message, and then it will drop the content into the notes for the Salesforce too. But that has been really helpful because we need to be able to look back at a meeting when we're getting ready to meet with a client again and see what were the notes from our last meeting so we'll know how to direct and what are areas that we need to focus on in that upcoming meeting to go back to those notes from the previous meeting or from six months ago or whatever so we can go to the next stage of our conversation.
Gavin: Yeah. So we talked about a lot of different tech tools. While mostly the people that will be watching listening this or your peers, there's a handful of tech providers that listen and want to understand their clientele, what advice would you have for them when you think about the different tools you use, how they integrate, from a workflow standpoint, from a data standpoint? You don't have to get any specific names, but just in general, kind of, what's your take on where we are, where we need to get to?
René: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things, honestly, you can have an outstanding app, but to be integrated with other platforms is absolutely key. And when they're developing their apps to be able to touch basis with other major apps in our industry so that it makes it easier to be an increase in business for them as well as making our jobs a lot easier by having this integration with these different platforms. The other thing is, and there have been a number of them that have this is to have like an advisory council or meetings where you're getting feedback from your network of advisors. What are some of the things that they're experiencing on their app? And I know some of them send out surveys.
But it's kind of nice if you are able to meet them in a group. Now, I've been on a couple of advisory boards for some technology platforms and they would have meetings. And it would be over maybe a day or a couple of days. But to get that feedback from other people to say and share it with the rest of the folks that were in that network, "Here's some of the things I think y'all should include and update your platform with." So, yeah, because this is going to definitely be, I think, the area that is going to be key for any of our practices is having a strong tech base and making sure that our needs are being met in the planning and the advisory services platform. That obviously if you're with a major broker dealer, they're the ones who are in control of that. But since the RIA space is really picking up and individuals are wanting to be in the independent space. That is going to be key, I think, for a lot of these tech platforms to get feedback from their network to see how they can improve or if they need to improve or make updates or changes to their tech platforms.
Gavin: Absolutely. Pre-COVID, did you go to any industry conferences or vendor conferences? And I'm curious during the lockdown with the lack of that, how have you stayed engaged with the community?
René: Well, everybody's doing virtual. The big difference is, is that instead of the conference being over three or four days, it might be over a whole week because they're only going to have so many hours per day. So it still pretty engaging and it's important. That's one thing I do miss about going to these conferences because you have an opportunity to talk to other people and meet other people. But the content itself in terms of the speakers and the information that you are learning about is still the same, but you just don't have an opportunity to build out and meet a lot of other people. That part, I really kind of miss.
Gavin: Right. As you look ahead to your own practice, look out, say, two, three, four years, any changes you foresee in terms of what your service offerings, what you do internally versus what you might outsource? Anything on the horizon as you think about it?
René: I feel pretty good about our service platform. The way that it will, I think, definitely improve as I want to be able to expand our staff, our team and get individuals who have different lifestyles, habits who are diverse because people like to work with people who look like them, who have a similar lifestyle that they have. And that is where, I think, based on the things we've experienced here in the last few years, that that is going to be a priority for our consumers. And we are seeing, for example, people that are coming into our site are looking for women, specifically. Somebody comes to the site and said, "How did you find us?" I Googled women, "I want to work with women." I Googled, "I want to work with Latina." I Googled that, "I want to work with an African American." That is the initiative now. And so, I think, as we begin to expand, and I would like to get some younger advisors on our team, then that will give us also an opportunity to be able to expand our base and get our footprint out there into the communities with people who really do need our financial assistance.
Gavin: To that point, there's been a great deal of very needed focus on making the advice industry, more inclusive, more diverse, both in terms of – to your point -- the clients we serve and in the composition of our firms to really be able to match up with them and give them the kind of relationship that they're looking for. There's millions, we touched on this… with all the clients that don't work with advisors, There's millions who need advice that historically have not had easy access to it. So it's absolute kudos on what you've already done And then your aspirations to be even more diverse. Any thoughts in terms of what you see going on in the industry from a progress standpoint, success stories, areas that we need to focus on to an even greater extent? A lot of work to be done.
René: Yeah, I think that, and again, the primary reason why I left the brokerage firm is because their primary focus is on asset management. And they're finally starting to shift. There is now recognition that it isn't just about asset management, it has to be broad-based enough to really be into someone's financial life. So I think that that is going to be something we're going to see happening here over the next 5 to 10 years, where there is going to be much more of an emphasis in that space. So any of us who is IARs or RIAs, we're doing that. Get out in front everybody else who's doing that because you will as an initial leader will have a stronger opportunity to have a broader client base and network and people know you, especially now that since the SEC is allowing us to be able to promote ourselves, finally.
That is going to be something that's really important. And one of the things even in our social media, we do host monthly webinars. We very, very rarely talk about assets management. It's really more lifestyle-related things. And that has made a big difference with connecting to people who say, "Okay, I didn't understand what long term care is," or, "What about the cybersecurity," or, "How do I dress?" "What's yoga?" I mean, we're doing different things that really impact them so they can see us on a more personal basis. And they want to raise their hand and work with us because of that.
Gavin: You know, on the asset management side, okay, can you outperform the benchmarks do slightly better than someone else by 200 basis points, but ultimately, those differences pale in comparison to all those other issues where you might have to make a decision around wealth transfer, something around estate planning or insurance that has magnitudes different level versus what you might be able to do on the asset management side?
René: Yeah. And that's really made the big difference. And again, as I mentioned before, if your primary focus is on asset management, but you underperform, people leave you as a result of that because that's your primary focus, that's your only focus. And I think now that we also have a very engaged and involved network, especially with our Millennials, our XYZ-ers who are saying, "That's not my primary initiative. I want to work with somebody who really cares about my life goals." And yeah, that's good, they can help me manage my assets. But that is more of a demand that we're seeing. And we're seeing a lot more people who are interested in ESG and SRI, which is going to be huge I think going forward.
Gavin: I see it just in my personal life, people, friends, family, they know I'm in the business in some way, shape, or form. And when they're looking for somebody to talk to, it's… not one time has it been about anything to do with investment management? Not one time. It's, "I'm going through this change… It's usually some life event catalyst. And can I talk to somebody that is trustworthy and an expert and has been through this situation with people like me?" That's it. 100%.
René: We're shifting. This is the shift that we are experiencing and hopefully, the financial industry will -- the larger firms -- will now begin to understand that I know some of them are transitioning over to that, but they still have a primary focus on that, and you don't have to have a CFP. And that's one of the things that is really important. Anybody that's going to work with me has to have their CFP or they have to be in the process of getting their CFP because we always want to start at the financial planning door.
Gavin: Well, we started there. Let's end there, René. This has been fantastic. I've really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much.
René: Thank you. It was pleasure to be here.