Impact Communications, speaks with Tim Wyman, CFP, JD, and Matt Trujillo, CFP, partners, Center for Financial Planning, Inc. They talk about internal succession planning for financial advisors and how the 35-year-old firm creates career paths and partnership opportunities for next generation talent. They also offer "tuck-in" opportunities for advisors with an established book of business who are tired of working on their own and would like to be a part of something bigger.
Watch this 25:38 minute video to learn about this client-centered financial planning firm.
To learn more about the firm, please visit: CenterFinPlan.com
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I was a tuck-in 20 years ago. Matt was a tuck-in roughly seven or eight years ago. We were financial planners. We wanted to do good work for our clients. We also knew how darn hard this business can be. And so, to surround ourselves with other people who are trying to accomplish the same thing for their families and their clients, we joined Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Today, we are second, third and even soon-to-be fourth generation ownership partners here. [All of our people] have an opportunity to become a partner. And one of the key strategies [now for the firm] is looking for other advisors who want to tuck-in with us." ~ Tim Wyman, CFP, Managing Partner, Center for Financial Planning, Inc.
Marie Swift: Well, hello everybody. It's Marie Swift, back with you for another great Swift Chat. I'm joined today by Matt Trujillo and Tim Wyman of the Center for Financial Planning, Inc. This is a wealth management firm based in Michigan. And I guess you guys are right outside of Detroit. Is that right? In Southfield, Michigan?
Tim Wyman: It’s fair to say we are a suburb of Detroit.
Swift: I'd love to come up and visit sometime, but maybe in 2021. It sounds like beautiful country. I was looking at the website and you guys have a lot of great information there. I was looking at the history of the firm and I'm curious about the 35-year history for The Center. It looks like the firm was started by three people - Dan Boyce, Marilyn Gunther and Estelle Wade. And that was in 1985. So, you guys have been around for a while?
Wyman: Yes, we're celebrating our 35th anniversary this year. We have a nice client event coming up at the end of the month, obviously virtual, because of COVID. But it's been a great 35 years. And those founders that you mentioned are just fantastic people. Fortunately, they're still in our lives here at the Center.
Swift: Well, congratulations on 35 years, that's really something. So, the practice, the foundation 35 years ago seems like you've stayed true to financial planning at the core, long-term relationship. So, if you fast forward 35 years today, you're a big, robust team. And I'm going to put up some graphics. Your infographic from your website, 30 team members. Is that still about, right?
Wyman: We're at 30 team members.
Swift: And 13 Certified Financial Planners.
Wyman: Yes, professional growth and development is one of our core values. So even folks who are not necessarily lead financial planners, take that seriously. They've gone through the CFP® program because it helps them help clients and there’s a lot of satisfaction in getting those extra degrees and designations.
Swift: So, your number one mission is improving lives through “financial planning done right.” I want to hear about what that means as we get into the conversation. What is “done right” when you're working across, 40 States, as it says on this infographic. So maybe you've added a state or two since this infographic went up and about $1.2 billion under management. Is that still about, right?
Wyman: Yes, obviously, depending on the day, but we're teetering closer to $1.3 billion as we speak today.
Swift: Congratulations. So. Matt, I wanted to start with you and to hear more about your journey, it looks like you've been a team member since 2013. You meet with clients as a senior financial planner. You serve on The Center's investment committee. You write frequently on investment topics for The Center's blog. You're a CFP® and you've been in the business about 10 years. You also have a love for chess. So, tell me a little bit about your journey. How did you find The Center? What are you doing at The Center? And are there any parallels to be at a chess player?
HOW MATT TRUJILLO BECAME A PARTNER AT THE FIRM
Matt Trujillo: Well, thanks Marie. So, my journey started when I worked for about a year, year-and-a-half, for a large life insurance company. I'll say I did it under the guise of financial planning. I knew that given my chess background, I love taking different pieces of the puzzle and trying to figure out how to make them work together. So, I've always been enthralled by comprehensive financial planning, understanding how taxes affect investments, how investments affect your estate planning, so on and so forth. But unfortunately, at the time that I got in the industry, I'll say the firms like The Center typically wanted someone with some experience. So, you kind of had to go wherever you could find a fit. So, I started with a large life insurance company and it basically was, we do financial planning, which is basically sell annuities and insurance to all your friends and family. So, I started to, you know, get a little bit jaded from a very young age I'll say and say, man, do I really want to even do this?
I actually ended up leaving that company and going out on my own, taking the good with the bad, but at least I was my own boss at that point. When times were good, they were really good. And then when times were lean, they were tough. But right around the time when my wife and I started having babies, she said, “Hey I'm not a huge fan of this. You know, January, February, March are great and then in June we’ve got to stay at home and watch movies all the time.” I said, “Uh-huh alright well, I can put the feelers out there, but I don't think there's anywhere I can go to really make a career on this. The profession I've chosen is you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” That's just what I had always thought. I started looking for some likeminded individuals that embraced the same values that I share. I view treating clients and treating people what I hold near and dear to my heart. Some might call it divine providence. Some might call it pure dumb luck, but I stumbled upon The Center and I reached out and made contact and we started having conversations about how do we make this work?
Wyman: Right, it's interesting to think about Matt and my experience years before I was trying to be a financial planner. There were generally, very few jobs with RIA firms. Firms that were focused on financial planning. So, you either went with a wire house or you went with an insurance company and even, you know 10 years prior to Matt, that was my experience as well. So, I think it's really great as a profession that we're providing more opportunities for folks like me, folks like Matt, who want to do great financial planning on behalf of clients. There are more opportunities and Matt and I have joked because our backgrounds are very similar in the terms of how we grew up in this business. And, you know, Matt, I'd say your experience with the insurance companies was it all for not, right? You learned some valuable skills as an advisor, perhaps business development related, is that fair?
Trujillo: Yes, there was certainly a component of that. And I don't want to take that for granted because you can be the best financial planner in the world, but if you can't get people to work with you, then all those skills are for nothing. So, I did learn a fair amount of business development skills and how to motivate people in order to move forward and implement the plan. There definitely wasn't a complete waste that's for sure.
Wyman: You know, I personally take a lot of, I guess I'll call it, pride. You know, Matt started in 2013, doing a great job with clients that he serves our team members. Matt has been offered a partnership in the firm at the beginning of the year. So, it's really exciting to see someone else be able to come here, build a career, become a partner, and hopefully have all the rewards that comes with being a partner over time.
Swift: Wow. Congratulations Matt! That's awesome.
Trujillo: Thanks Marie.
Wyman: He still hasn't taught me anything about chess.
Trujillo: He's a lost cause, Marie. [laughter]
HOW PLAYING CHESS IS SIMILAR TO FINANCIAL PLANNING
Swift: So, I was reading on your bio, Matt, that you won this chess tournament and it seemed like a grueling thing. I mean, that would not be for me. Can you draw some parallels or give us a lesson from playing chess that you bring to your work?
Trujillo: Yes, there are many of them. I don't want to take up all our time, but you know in financial planning there are a lot of different tools. For instance, I view the tax code as a tool. Your asset allocation, I view that as a tool. Your distribution rate in your portfolio, I view that as a tool. Your estate planning, and how you designate your beneficiary so that you can transfer wealth on a tax efficient basis. All of these things are different types of tools and to me, when I approach a new situation or even someone I've been working with for a while, maybe it's just the way my brain has been hardwired over the years, I see a Knight. I see a Bishop. I see a King. They all have a purpose. They all have a reason for existing and when used properly in the right context, they can be very effective.
So, chess has helped me immensely not only professionally, but personally as well. I mean learning to think before you act. I mentor about 500 kids over here in Redford. I'm their chest teacher at a school for underprivileged kids. And these are the lessons I try to impress on them. Think before you act. Just stop for two seconds before you do that thing and think about the consequences. Hopefully, it's had an impact on some of their lives.
Swift: That's pretty awesome. I did not know that about you. Well, so Tim I've been following your work for a while now, and you're a CFP®, a JD, you're the managing partner at Center for Financial Planning and you've earned a ton of accolades. For instance, Forbes Best in State, Wealth Advisors list in Michigan, a couple years in a row. And also, I see Financial Times 400 Top Financial Advisors last year, maybe even this year. Fingers crossed. Also, national board for the 28,000 member FPA, the Financial Planning Association. So, you're pretty busy guy. And look at all of the media attention you've got, I mean, my goodness, Good Morning America. You've got to tell me that story sometime when we can sit down together over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, but you know, you've got a lot of accolades. You’re also the managing partner of the firm. So, talk to me a little bit about your journey. How did you find The Center? What do you do? What do you enjoy most there? And I’d just love to hear more about how things occur for you as the managing partner.
HOW TIM WYMAN BECAME A PARTNER AT THE FIRM
Wyman: I, fortunately, joined The Center in 1999. Like Matt, I was doing financial planning on my own, hung my own shingle up and actually was going to law school during the evenings. I was trying to raise children as well. And in 1999, graduated from law school, passed the bar and it was a natural time for me to make a change. I didn't have any interest in practicing law full time. Even though I loved law school and I was really looking for a collaborative environment and an environment that would benefit me personally and my career obviously, but the clients that I was serving as well, and I thought in a team environment that I was going to be able to create that win-win for myself and for clients.
Through the FPA, the Financial Planning Association, and the predecessor organizations, actually, and by getting involved with that organization, I ended up meeting my future partners. I didn't join FPA to think that I was going to meet future partners, but we had become known to each other from committee work. So, when I was introduced to them, there was an instant, I'd say credibility, if you will. And, our three founders, I can't say it enough for three of the most generous people, that you'd ever meet. And so very fortunate that I had the opportunity to join here 20 years ago.
So, day-to-day today, you know, I mean, still busy, still trying to raise kids. I do split my time between being a lead financial planner, and running a 30-person firm. We have great leaders though. I've been telling the team that I should be making maybe three decisions a month, not three decisions a day because we got great people who can really lead the team day-to-day. And you know, I have had such an experience where people invested in me and mentored me that one of my goals as managing partner is really to build on that brand of developing people, developing careers. I talk a lot about succession planning, continuity planning in our profession. And I'll tell you what, it's really hard. And it's because developing people takes time. It takes money and it takes intention. And I was given that opportunity. So, I'm trying to do my best to give that opportunity to others.
Swift: I’ve seen some of the articles that you've been writing for the industry trade publications, ThinkAdvisor, Wealthmanagement.com and the Journal of Financial Planning, which is great because of your ties there and the story you just told about the FPA and how meaningful that's been to you. But you actually say something like this: when it comes to successful succession planning, meaning advisors thinking about their career and their path forward, if it's successful, it's a triple win. A win for clients, a win for the professional, and then a win for the retiring partners. So, if you would just talk a little bit about that philosophy and this thing that you call the “tuck-in opportunity.”
BUILDING FOURTH GENERATION OWNERSHIP IN THE FIRM
Wyman: We are second, third and even soon-to-be fourth generation ownership partners here. So, what I say is we haven't done it perfectly, but we do have some experience, a successful transition of ownership. And I think any conversation as it relates to succession planning has to focus on all the stakeholders. I mean, as a retiring partner, I can focus on the monetary awards and that's just me, but that might not be the best thing for my future, you know, next partners. And it might not be the best thing for my clients. So, I think you really have to balance all of the different stakeholders to truly have what I believe to be a successful succession plan. And again, it, it takes intention. It takes a commitment to develop people and, you know, it's the Matts or heroes of the world. It's, Nick, it's Lauren and Angie. People who were mentored, fortunately, and have an opportunity to become a partner. And one of the key strategies that, you know, in the beginning years, I can't say it was intentional, but this idea of tuck-ins.
I was a tuck-in 20 years ago. Matt was a tuck-in roughly seven or eight years ago. We were financial planners. We wanted to do good work for our clients. We also knew how darn hard this business can be. And so, to surround ourselves, with other people who are trying to accomplish the same thing for their families and their clients, it’s so important. And so, we really made that a focus, you know, someone who again is doing good financial planning. We want to welcome them into our practice, our family, if it's a good fit.
Swift: So, Matt, anything you'd like to add? Has this been like the awesome best experience ever? I mean, what are you going to say because I'm putting you on the spot but tell me about it. What's it like boots-on-the-ground inside of The Center on a career path and now going to be partner?
Trujillo: It's actually been a great journey. I mean, sure there are some ups and downs, but I'd tell you coming from my background and my experience the downs to me are almost nothing. I mean it's all relative, right? So, you know, compared to the downs, I used to experience, the downs at The Center are very minimal. It was wonderful being a sole proprietor early in my career, but the client service associate was me. The associate financial planner was me. The senior financial planner that was me too. So, there weren't enough hours in the day. It's just not humanly possible to try to live a balanced life. Try to make time for your wife. Try to make time for your kids and be a phenomenal financial planner on top of it. You just can't do it all. And that's what has been wonderful here is that I'm surrounded by very competent professionals, from our client service associates, associate financial planners, lead planners and partners, that I'm more than comfortable delegating work. It's going to get done. It's going to get done right and it allows the planners to focus on what they do best, which is, you know, providing very high-level advice to clients. So that's been nice.
When I came here, I started actually as a support planner and believe it or not, I actually supported someone that might be on this call with us [laughter]. Someone once asked me, “Hey, if you could pay a fee to train with one of the top advisors in the country, what would that be worth to you?” You know, and it kind of made me think for a second, like, “wow, that's a great question. You know, I'm not sure I'll have to get back to you on that, but it's certainly a very valuable thing.”
And that's essentially what I got. I mean, I thought I knew a lot, Marie, when I came here and then I realized you don't know what you don't know. I mean, I learned more in my first year here at The Center than I did in my entire career prior to that. It's been great for knowledge. We get together once a week. That's something that we adhere to religiously. Once a week from 12:00 to 2:00, every single lead planner. Now we're doing it via Zoom. We used to get together in the conference room, but just to talk about, “Hey, what have you read? What's going on? Has there been changes in tax law? Are there new proposals being put out by Congress that should be on our radar? What are some interesting new planning strategies that you've encountered from a conference you went to?” It's kind of like having 12 proxies of yourself going around collecting knowledge and reporting back to the group. So, it's really invaluable to have that collective wisdom.
Wyman: It's a little like the white jacket doctors; you know, have their cases that they review. And so, we're just trying to ultimately have a better result for our clients. And one way we do that right, is by sharing our knowledge and increasing our knowledge.
Matt, you said something earlier that I think is really important as we talk about tuck-ins -- that through trial and error we've been able to put together both a professional development plan or a career path. Someone may start as a financial analyst or an associated advisor. And there's a clear path towards a partnership. And we also do the same thing in our investment department and our operations. The firm has had operations folks start as a client service associate and become a partner. Sandy Adams is a great example of that. So, I think it's really important for others to get to a place where there actually is a plan to develop people.
FOR ADVISORS WHO’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE
Swift: This is all fascinating to me. So, if I'm an advisor and I'm curious about this, what would be the next step, Tim? How would people make an inquiry or start a conversation?
Wyman: I field calls all the time of people just looking to pick my brain. So, they absolutely can call me and I might say, you know what, I don't think The Center’s for you, but here's an idea for what you’re wrestling with. I love to do that. Certainly, go to our website, www.CenterFinPlan.com. You'll find my contact information there. Reach out via telephone, email, and I'd love to have a conversation. And even if it's just for 15-20 minutes and it goes nowhere, I'd be happy to make that investment.
Swift: Great. So final question. Thank you both by the way, for being here, it's been fascinating, but I want to know about the client event that you're going to be hosting. Tell me a little bit about that.
Wyman: So, we have, we had about 300 people scheduled in a big outside, I'll say, Colosseum, if you will. And this thing called COVID-19, you may have heard of, suggested that it might be a good idea to cancel. So, instead we have a virtual event where we have hired the Detroit Historical Society to provide a presentation on the history of the Detroit Zoo. People who lived around here all remember that going to the zoo for a day in the summer was a big deal. Right? How can you not put a smile on your face? So, I needed to come up with something creative to tie things together; you want your animals wild, but not your financial planner [laughter]. We're going to have a virtual 35th anniversary celebration; you know it's a long time and a lot of people supported us and we want to make sure that, even during these times, we give thanks to the people who've helped us get here.
Swift: Wow. Well, very cool. Thank you to both of you for your time and insights today. I've really enjoyed the conversation.