Best of 2019: Actionable ideas to take into the new decade

Episode 96: If you’re new to the podcast or simply looking for some inspiration, this episode should act as a great refresher to jump start ideas as we enter 2020.
January 2020

Nate Stading

Director, Regional Sales, Intermediary Distribution


Thomas Petric

Associate, Internal Sales, Intermediary Distribution


Manshi Shah

Associate, Internal Sales, Intermediary Distribution


Diane Jones

Director, National Accounts, Intermediary Distribution


Best of 2019: Actionable ideas to take into the new decade

Our guests in 2019 came armed with invaluable lessons for your practice and your clients alike. If you’re new to the podcast or simply looking for some inspiration, this episode should act as a great refresher to jump start ideas as we enter 2020.

We’re joined by four BMO colleagues who work with financial advisors on a daily basis. Together, they share the information and ideas that stuck with them – and the advisors they work with – long after they listened to the show.


In this episode:

  • News you can use: Updates on USMCA
  • Concepts for identifying  your ideal clients and how to market to them
  • How advisors can influence change in client behaviors
  • The importance of 529 plans and life insurance
  • The future of the independent financial advisor

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Ben Jones – Welcome to Better Conversations. Better Outcomes. presented by BMO Global Asset Management. I’m Ben Jones.

Emily Larsen – And I’m Emily Larsen.  On this show we explore the world of wealth advising from every angle, providing actionable ideas designed to improve outcomes for advisors and their clients.

Disclosure – The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates, or subsidiaries.  

Ben Jones – Is it 2020 already?

Emily Larsen – Hard to believe, Ben.  It’s a new decade.

Ben Jones – Before we start our first segment of the year, we wanted to bring you our News You Can Use segment.  Now, we’ve been following the USMCA, a revised trade agreement between US, Mexico, and Canada, ever since episode 74, where we covered the history of NAFTA and the current USMCA in-depth.  

Emily Larsen – We last updated you that Mexico had ratified the agreement, but that the incoming US Congress had yet to take up the issue. In early December 2019 House Speaker Pelosi announced that the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the White House had agreed to a deal on USMCA, meaning it’s all but assured that the new agreement will become law.  Even though final votes are yet to be cast, this news has created a sense of relief for business leaders who were uncertain if USMCA would ever come to pass.  That’s it from News You Can Use.  We’ll keep you updated on further developments.

Ben Jones – At the end of each year, we like to reflect on some of the most impactful episodes of the past year.  This year we invited associates from across our team to share some of their favorite episodes, actionable ideas, and the invaluable lessons learned throughout the year.  If you’re new to this show, this might be a great refresher and a good place to start.

Emily Larsen – Our four colleagues share the ideas that stuck with them and their clients long after they listened to the episode.  As you will hear, many advisors are looking for better ways to become known by the types of clients they would like to serve.  Our first guest had a lot of conversations with advisors around developing their modern marketing techniques, from episode 82 with David Armstrong, and episode 88 with Matt Halloran. 

Nate Stading – Hi, my name is Nate Stading.  I am the director of regional sales for the upper Midwest, covering from Wisconsin all the way out to Montana. 

Emily Larsen – And what type of clients do you serve, Nate? 

Nate Stading – I serve primarily RIAs, independents in various channels, as well as some of our own internal financial advisors.  My favorite part of the job is every day I get to meet new people and help them solve their problems, and it doesn’t necessarily mean investment problems all the time.  Each conversation I have, it could be a conversation about their practice, how to make that better, or maybe how to make their strategies a little bit more efficient with our own solutions.  A lot of the conversations I have with clients and prospects are around marketing efforts because that’s a big challenge people face, is how do I differentiate myself in this sea of sameness that everybody has out in the marketplace.  So often I get asked questions like, what else do you see working, what are the different marketing tips or tricks that you see each other advisors leveraging.  The couple that I gravitated to this past season had to do with modern marketing techniques and different ways to differentiate yourself that way.  Two episodes in particular were episode 82 with David Armstrong and episode 88 with Matt Halloran.  And in both of those episodes, really focused on that idea of marketing from an advisor standpoint. 

David Armstrong – In today’s world, people will not walk into a firm looking to learn more about them.  If they walk in my front door, they already know everything about me and they’re ready to talk about nuts and bolts. 

Nate Stading – From a broader perspective, I think often where advisors get tripped up is they try to market to everybody, and I think what’s important is to start with the end in mind.  You have to really first identify who it is that you’re talking to, or what is my ideal client.  Which I think a lot of advisors may have in their subconscious, but they don’t really take the time to clearly articulate what that is.  And once you identify who your ideal client is, then you can really start crafting a marketing strategy to get to that destination. 

Emily Larsen – Have you seen any advisors implement that idea, or get greater clarity on who their ideal client is? 

Nate Stading – A couple actually do come to mind.  I have two very different advisors.  Both happen to be actually in the Twin Cities market.  One has started doing a video blog on a weekly basis where he’ll videotape himself, either at an educational event where he is increasing his own education so that he can communicate out to his peers and his clients what he’s learning and why it’s important to them, and I think that’s really a novel concept.  And the key for him is he does it all the time, so people get used to seeing his video posts two to five minutes tops, but he talks about what he’s doing, what he’s learning, and all those types of events.  The second is more analytical advisor.  He’s a CFA and he writes a blog that’s really, really detailed and well-organized and he takes very complex topics that may be in the news and simplifies them, and does it more from a cognitive bias standpoint, which allows his clients hopefully to read through it and understand what is or isn’t important about the issue that you’re hearing about in the news headlines at the time. 

Emily Larsen – That’s great, and also makes it feel like that advisor’s more accessible, right?  Instead of having to have a meeting with him, you get his insights from just looking at the blog or looking at the video from the other advisor. 

Nate Stading – That’s definitely the case because I think before somebody goes in to see them, they really know that person a little bit better than if you’re just going in cold to see an advisor off the street.  Or if you’re already working with that person, you maybe get a lot of your questions answered or developed new questions that you would have never thought of just based on what you’ve seen that person post or write about in the past. 

Emily Larsen – You’re saying that end customer’s getting a sense of the advisor’s personality and approach to their clients before they even get to the meeting, aq2nd therefore in the meeting, instead of the client really interviewing the advisor, they’re really able to focus on their plan? 

Nate Stading – Their plan, and they can also talk to their peers about what they’re learning from their advisor when they’re not going to see them, which I think is a huge differentiator because not as many advisors take advantage of that medium to communicate out.  But at some point, you’re spot on, is, I don’t have to come in to learn what’s going on in the marketplace today, and in an economic or data perspective I’m able to dive right into what’s driving my goals and my vision for my wealth.  The biggest other thing I think I’ve taken away from various marketing episodes we’ve done is the focus on consistency and not giving up too quickly. I think a lot of advisors don’t set the table for –  I’m going to do this for a year.  I’m going to do it once or twice a week and I’m going to give it a year because at first I’m not going to see any fruits of this labor.  It’s going to take a while.  And I think that’s the key, is if you’re diligent and if you’re committed to it, that’s when the payoff comes.  But I think a lot of advisors and I think many people in their personal lives give up too quickly on changing behaviors.  It takes a while to see some of those things pay off. 

Emily Larsen – Sure, and I expect that not only having the commitment to gain the audience will take time, but also you probably get more comfortable in executing some of these marketing ideas or tactics.  They get more comfortable; they get better; they get more efficient and all these learnings take a bit of time. 

Nate Stading – And I think you find your voice because everybody has to find their own voice.  I think often early in writing or early in podcasting or blogging you try to mimic your favorite, and after a while you find your own authentic voice that allows you to be you and all of a sudden that becomes your style versus trying to mimic somebody else’s. 

Emily Larsen – Which again, is differentiating yourself from the sea of advisors. 

Nate Stading – You got it.  

Ben Jones – We received a lot of positive feedback on episode 90, featuring Wendy De La Rosa of the Common Sense Lab.  There was real interest in the behavioral interventions that Wendy and her fellow researchers employed to help people learn about how to save money.  It’s always fun to learn about what makes people tick, especially if you can harness that knowledge to help them.  Our next guest, Manshi Shah, found Wendy herself to be very relatable.  That incentivized her to personally adopt some of the financial habits Wendy suggested. 

Manshi Shah – I am an associate internal sales for our intermediary distribution team, and I covered territory 101, which is Illinois and Indiana, so I have home territory. 

Great.  What do you like about your job?  What do your love about your job, Man? 

Manshi Shah – What I love about my job? I think it’s really just my clients, the relationships that I’m able to cultivate with them.  It’s great that I have home territory and I’m able to get out there with them.  They know me and I know them and it’s not even just about the funds and the products, but it’s also they’re calling me on their birthday and I’m doing that for them.  They know about personal things and we really build friendships.  At the end of the day when you go home, I feel like, okay, I’m making an impact. 

Emily Larsen – In their personal lives and then that– 

Manshi Shah – Mm-hmm. 

Emily Larsen – Develops into a relationship and you can help them from a business perspective. 

Manshi Shah – Yes. 

Emily Larsen – Great.  As you know, we’re here today to talk about 2019 podcasts, so what’s an idea you put in practice from a 2019 episode? 

Manshi Shah – One of the ones that I really liked is our how advisors can influence change in client behaviors.  It’s a recent one.  It was just done in October.  

Wendy De La Rosa – So whenever we create an intervention, we think about what we call the three B framework.  What is the behavior that you want to incentivize?  What are all of the different small barriers that get in the way of someone getting to that behavior?  So is your sign-up flow difficult?  Are there too many screens?  All of the little nitty-gritty barriers.  And then what are the benefits to someone enacting that behavior?

Emily Larsen – When you’re talking to FAs, these are practices that they can use and talk to their clients about — that are relatable and also can impact change and help them have a better future, the end clients, I guess.

Manshi Shah – I thought it was a great episode.  She also talked about how just her own personal backstory on talking about getting a raise or just really going into her resources and finding areas where she can save a little bit more.  I think all of those are relatable because she’s very true to probably half of the people that our advisors would be speaking to. 

Emily Larsen – Absolutely, that’s great.  I love that and I love that the episode was so powerful for you. 

Manshi Shah – No, yeah, I really enjoyed it and I thought I’m definitely going to try to implement it more with a lot of my advisors. 

Emily Larsen – Manshi certainly isn’t our only listeners whose personal finances have been affected by what they’ve heard on the podcast.  Our next associate recently had a dramatic, joyful change occur in his life, and he was well-prepared to handle some of the financial implications after listening to episode 86 with Alison Salka and Jeremy Barlow and episode 77 with Mark Kantrowitz. 

Tom Petric – Hey, it’s Tom Petric.  I am on the internal sales desk here at BMO Global Asset Management covering the Southeast.  My wife and I just had a child this year, so the episode on risk management and life insurance,

Jeremy Barlow – Personally I don’t know how you can create a comprehensive plan without having some really courageous conversations around difficult topics.  

Tom Petric – I learned a lot from that episode and recently bought term life insurance on myself for my family.  An interesting thing from that episode is that a majority of people who say they don’t have life insurance, it’s because they think it’s too expensive.  But actually, they think it’s about five times as expensive as it actually is.  

Alison Salka – But I wanted to make a quick point about those who do say it’s too expensive.  A lot of times that’s a function of them not knowing how much insurance costs.  Because we found that most consumers estimate the cost of coverage to be more than three times what it actually costs.  Almost half of millennials overestimated the cost at five times the actual amount.  So again, here’s how — or here’s an opportunity for an advisor to be very helpful because, one, if you don’t understand something and you have the misperception that it’s expensive, of course you’re going to be avoiding it or have to be forced to consider it.  And I think that this is where a little bit of education can be helpful.   

Tom Petric – It’s much more affordable than most people would assume. 

Emily Larsen – Are you telling all your friends who have newborns as well? 

Tom Petric – Yeah, I’ve helped family members already and friends with newborns or who are expecting newborns.  Definitely. 

Emily Larsen – We chatted a little bit before we turned the mic on, and I know that you are also interested in the 529 episode.  Perhaps that will come up someplace else, but I’m assuming that has to do with your newborn as well. 

Tom Petric – Yep, same thing.  Already contributed to the 529 plan.  I know Illinois has a good one, and an interesting fact with those is that over 30 states allow you to have some sort of tax deduction or tax credit. Earnings in a 529 plan grow tax-free, and will not be taxed when the money is taken out to pay for college.  Those are a couple great things about 529 plans.  I really enjoyed that episode as well by Mark Kantrowitz.   

Emily Larsen – It was really a pretty dense episode, so what you got out of it, it was just the importance of it and just some of the rules around it? 

Tom Petric – Right, the importance, the rules, and all the benefits.  It’s very flexible.  Unlike Roth IRAs, it’s open to anyone.  And it’s also very low in maintenance. 

Emily Larsen – Yeah, after I interviewed Mark I came back and talked to some people in the office, and one of the tidbits was about the fact that you can actually open the 529 before the baby is born and before they’re named.  I had talked to some colleagues and they had done just that, so that was fascinating too. 

Tom Petric – You can open it in your name and transfer it to your child’s name at any point. 

Emily Larsen – Yeah, so a lot of good nuggets in that one. 

Ben Jones – Our final guest gave us her take on episode 92 with Bernie Clark.  The information she walked away with was a broad overview of the independent channel, which has grown considerably over the last 20 years.  As head of advisor services, Bernie was well-versed on the future of this business and obviously managed to pass along some of his wisdom. 

Diane Jones – My name is Diane Jones and I’m a national account director for BMO Global Asset Management in the intermediary distribution team.  My job is to work with financial services’ firms, broker/dealers and the large custodial and clearing platforms, private banks, for example.  What I do is work with them to get our investment products on their platforms in their models and on their recommend lists.  The best part of the job for me is building relationships, over time just working with people the relationship becomes quite deep and ideally and where possible the goal really is to get close enough to know each other’s strategic goals, plans, and then really see how the two firms align and where we can see each other grow.  The podcast that resonated for me was Forces shaping the future of advice with Schwab’s Bernie Clark. 

Bernie Clark – Keep in mind, though, the only way to go independent is not simply to come in and hang your own shingle with your name.  You can come out and join a firm now.  You couldn’t do that 20 years ago.  That’s opportunistic.   

Diane Jones – Bernie Clark is the head of advisor services at Schwab, and advisor services is Schwab’s RIA channel.  Schwab was the first one getting into this market back in 1987.  One of the things that Bernie talks about in the podcast is going from a cottage industry back in ’87 to where is the industry today and where will it go in the future.  I think most people probably listening to this podcast understand that there’s been tremendous growth, but they might not know why or they might think it’s a trend.  Bernie is of the opinion it is not a trend.  This is here to stay.  It’s a better way of doing business.  And so that is what has contributed to the growth of the industry he believes, that the RIA model, the independent model, if you will, is a better way of doing business, that there’s more transparency, that it allows advisors open access to investment products so not being told by a home office what they must sell.  It gives them the flexibility to be able to choose the products that they feel are the best for their client.  As this industry becomes more and more crowded, additional advisors are breaking away from their existing broker/dealers and so forth or just getting into becoming an independent advisor. It’s going to be harder and harder for these firms to differentiate themselves, and those firms that do this well are firms that will succeed down the line.  The other thing he talked about was diversity and the importance of diversity.  Again, people who listen to this podcast realize that this industry is dominated by men versus women, and he talks about the importance of bringing diversity into every firm with gender, ethnicity, even age.  I think the average age of an advisor is 58 or 59, so how do we get younger advisors into this industry as something that matters. His thought is it’s going to be important to be diversified.  Additionally, it’s going to be really important to be efficient because there’s more and more competition, so how do you use technology to gain efficiencies to scale your business?  And then lastly, services.  It’s advice not just investment products.  It’s on things like trusts and all the wealth management pieces, even to like life coaching.  It’s those firms that can do this and do it while maintaining their revenue margins that are going to be successful. 

Bernie Clark – The asset flow that we’re seeing in the fast-growing independent space, the scales will tip heavily towards more assets obviously residing within that space.  And I do think you’re going to see consolidation, but not to the levels that some would have predicted a couple of decades ago in a mass consolidation, because it is a relationship business and the growth will continue.  I love when the analysts like to ask me questions: is the trend over?  It’s not a trend.  This is a way of doing business.  Technology is certainly going to become more important to it.  We thoroughly underestimate how much artificial intelligence can mean within this space and probably holistically across financial services.  And certainly the value added services of the future are going to be different than today.  Many feel it will be the complexity or the higher complex functions that will rule the day in the depth of the relationship.  You might be talking about estates and tax and those kinds of things as opposed to portfolios, which is a significant shift from where this industry had started and I think where some of the captives still live in the return space as opposed to the life wellbeing space.  The key thing I would say next generations need to embrace — and it was the same with the boomer and probably the silent and everybody — is that when in need is not the time to create the relationship.  You need to start it sooner.  And I think that’s what advisors — quite honestly, that’s what Charles Schwab deals in, is creating a lifetime of relationship, that you have a continuum of services that will help people when they need little, all the way through when they need a lot.  And you need to have it at the ready. 

Diane Jones – The reason why I picked this podcast is because I think there’s a lot of advisors that are still wondering where they’re going, whether they’re going to make this change and move to independent, and there’s a lot of things to consider.  If you’re thinking about jumping into this industry and going independent, my take-away from it was that you need to think hard about how you’re going to differentiate yourself, and that comes from is there is a niche that you’re particularly good at.  Do you want to target surgeons or lawyers?  And then you go all in on that and you service them the best of your ability and that will differentiate you and allow you to survive going forward. 

Ben Jones – Now, Emily and I could not help but share a couple of the common themes that we picked up on across many of our discussions with guests throughout the year.  As you think about the New Year and the new decade, these are areas I hope will help you better achieve all of your goals and objectives in the year and decade ahead.  Focus.  Who is your ideal client?  Spoiler alert: It’s not people with over 500K of investable assets.  You need to get really specific about who you work with.  One example might be retired business executives who live on the Wasatch Back and want to delegate the management of their wealth, so that they can focus their time and energy creating a richer life with the people and organizations they love.  So who are you and your fund focused on? 

Emily Larsen – To stand out requires a combination of services that make you unique at solving the challenges your target clients face.  Making sure you’re able to articulate that in the way that you do things and not just what you say is something we heard from Julia Carlson with her example of the love binder.  

Ben Jones – Team, it’s not about the how, it’s about the who.  Are you building your team to bring diverse thinking, complementary talents and skills, and create a high performing team in pursuit of your vision.  Check out the accountability matrix from Carson Wealth for an example of what this looks like in practice.  Technology.  How can you use technology to augment your services and enhance the client experience?  Where can you leverage tools or systems that reduce friction in the daily work and allow you and your team to focus on the highest and most valuable work that you do.   

Emily Larsen – We may be closing the book on 2019, but 2020 is just getting started.  Stay tuned for some incredible guests over the coming weeks including Sarano Kelly talking about center of influence, a panel of advisors who have doubled their practices who will share how they did it and our 100th episode with Michael Kitces of Pinnacle Advisory Group and Nerd’s Eye View Blog dissecting financial planning tools and more.   

Ben Jones – BMO is excited to be the premier sponsor of the Retirement and Longevity Summit in New Orleans March 22nd through 24th this year.  We would love for you to join us at this amazing learning event.  E-mail [email protected], to receive a discount code for the event, as well as a special invitation to an exclusive workshop with three time podcast guest Dr. Amy D’Aprix.   

Ben Jones – Thank you for listening to Better Conversations. Better Outcomes.  This podcast is presented by BMO Global Asset Management.  To access the resources discussed in today’s show, please visit us at www.bmogam.com/betterconversations.   

Emily Larsen – We love feedback and would love to hear what you thought about today’s episode.  You can send an e-mail to [email protected]  

Ben Jones – And we really respond.  

Emily Larsen – We do.  

Ben Jones – If you thought of someone during today’s episode, we would be flattered if you would take a moment and share this podcast with them.  You can listen and subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, or whatever your favorite podcast platform is, and of course, we would greatly appreciate it if you would take a moment to review us on that app.  Our podcasts and resources are supported by a very talented team of dedicated professionals at BMO including Pat Bordak, Gayle Gipson, Derek Devereaux.  The show is edited and produced by Jonah Geil-Neufeld and Sam Peers Nitzberg of Puddle Creative.  These are the real people that make the show happen, so thank you, and until next time, I’m Ben Jones.  

Emily Larsen – And I’m Emily Larsen.  From all of us at BMO Global Asset Management, hoping you have a productive and wonderful week.  

Disclosures – The views expressed here are those of the participants’ and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates or subsidiaries.  This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry, strategy or security.  This presentation may contain forward looking statements.  Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements and actual results could vary.  This presentation is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute investment, legal, or tax advice, and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service.  Individual investors are to consult with an investment, legal, and/or tax professional about their personal situation.  As with other investments, there are generally fees and expenses associated with participation in a 529 plan. There is also a risk that these plans may lose money or not perform well enough to cover educational costs as anticipated. Most states offer their own 529 programs, which may provide advantages and benefits exclusively for their residents. The tax implications can vary significantly from state to state. Past performance is not indicative of future results.  BMO Global Asset Management is the brand name for various affiliated entities of BMO Financial Group that provide investment management, trust, and custody services. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of Bank of Montreal.  Further information can be found at www.bmogam.com.

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