The Transformational Decade Ahead for the Planning Profession

On April 20, 2021, at approximately 12:45pm ET, this article was revised to indicate that FP Alpha offers tax and estate planning as part of its offering.

I’ve been a futurist in this profession for almost 40 years. My track record neither perfect nor terrible. I predicted that fee-only and the AUM revenue model were going to become mainstream at a time when everybody in the profession was being paid by mutual fund and limited partnership commissions. My long-ago prediction that life planning would become a mainstream part of real financial planning has held up well. I forecast that brokerage firms would lose market share to independent financial planners, although I expected it to happen faster than the incremental pace we’ve seen so far.

But in 40 years, I’ve never seen as many signs of change in the planning/advisory profession as I see right now. And no, I’m not just talking about more clients being comfortable with Zoom calls or a growth in the number of staff members who might be working remotely on a permanent basis. Entrepreneurship and creativity across the advisor ecosystem will result in big changes down the road.

For example? In my newsletter, I just wrote about Morton Capital in Calabasas, CA, which has a practice model that puts the interests of its staff members first, and which mandates 4-5 hours a week of personal learning and training. Every week. For everybody, including the people who answer the phone. Company CEO Jeff Sarti tells me that his staff gets more work done in 35 hours than he has seen other firms do in 40, and their morale is soaring. Oh, and one of the company’s “core values” is “enjoyment.” It’s an entirely new way to run a planning business, but as more advisors see how the clients are infected with the staff enthusiasm, I expect to see a lot more of it in the near future.

Professional consultant Matthew Jackson and I recently spent a month interviewing thought leaders from around the profession for an upcoming whitepaper. It will describe and define a number of new evolutionary developments in the way planning firms manage and market themselves, and the services they offer and the technology they use. What we heard about technology was especially interesting. For the last 20 years, our profession has experienced a slow progression of siloed software (CRM, financial planning, portfolio management, document management), each silo adding new features incrementally.