How Asset-Map Serves a Multi-Service Financial Organization
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Earlier this year, as part of maintaining an awareness of fintech tools, I came across Asset-Map, a relatively little-known tech newcomer to the financial planning space. Asset-Map is both the fastest growing and highest-rated financial planning tool according to the T3/Insider Advisor Tech Survey 20211. The company also recently collected its third WealthManagement.com Wealthie award and second win for Best Specialized Planning Application2 and is getting great public advisor support with a 4.9 G2 rating in financial wellness3.
The high praise moved me to learn more. I read available material, reviewed its website, saw a demonstration, attended a three-day boot camp, and used the tool for myself. Asset-Map has a process and capability that’s clear and understandable because of its visualization and the logic it employs to tell clients exactly where they stand in their financial lives and what they have to do, if anything, to improve it.
My next step was to speak with advisor users to get the “real deal” perspective. Getting a field perspective became a key part of my exploration, i.e., research on why advisors are using Asset-Map. I arranged to interview several financial professionals and see how they are using this technology. This is one of several articles of Asset-Map users that I’d like to share with you.
Asset-Map, a brief introduction
For those who have already read other articles in this series, feel free to skip this section. I recently had the privilege of speaking with several users of Asset-Map software.
To me, the most interesting thing I get from speaking with financial advisors is the sincerity and caring they show in talking about who they work for and what they hope to do for them. The advisors I spoke with are good human beings who care about their clients and work hard at living up to their fiduciary responsibilities as they offer their financial services to the public.
For those that aren’t familiar with Asset-Map or haven’t any of my four previous articles published on Advisor Perspectives,
- Asset-Map visually organizes all a household’s finances in a clear graphical layout, allowing advisors to apply their professional insight in real-time.
- It defines a household’s most important financial priorities and track their progress with interactive target-maps.
- It intuitively allows users to search and filter an entire advisory practice by staying on top of households that need attention.
As its website states, “A financial picture is worth a thousand…”. An Asset-Map report is a visual experience that displays all of a household’s members, entities, financial assets, liabilities, cash-flows, and insurance policies. This provides an advisor with a straight-forward way to quickly address gaps in a financial plan as well as uncover new opportunities to elevate their clients’ condition.
Here is my interview with Eric J. Negron, AWMA, CEO, who is a managing partner and wealth advisor at Forefront Wealth Partners, a Texas-based wealth management firm.
Eric is an advisor who put his “big hairy audacious goal” (BHAG) into place when he was first old enough to read. He is not a guy who accepts other people’s way of being or colors in the lines. He is a gentleman with a big vision and is well on his way to reaching it. Listening to Eric’s back story, it was clear he is not only a capable professional but an excellent decision maker. Some quick facts about Eric:
- Leading salesperson for Brooks Brothers nationally early in his career;
- Found a mentor who encouraged him to focus on personal development;
- Voracious appetite for learning through reading;
- Studied economics and finance in college;
- Participated in the executive training program at the bank where his mentor worked; and
- Moved into wealth management of Forefront where he became an instant star.
Eric loved wealth management at a young age, and wealth management loved him.
While Asset-Map fits well within his thought process, his thought process and actions go well beyond what the process and tool does in his firm.
Eric’s wealth management firm and his three other financial advisors work with about 160 households who have about $115 million in AUM. He also directs three other firms including:
- Forefront Insurance Partners, a national firm that offers insurance solutions to fee-only FAs;
- Forefront Tax Partners, which offers tax advice and preparation nationally to his clients and others; and
- Your Divorce Made Simple, a national firm that offers services both in divorce and pre-divorce financial planning as well as in divorce mediation.
The synergies are obvious as financial wealth management is a function Eric’s objectives for full service, creating a firm that fulfills his vision of building an organization that is a financial guide and advisor that can answer all the questions that clients can ask about how to create their best version of financial wellness. Words like “comprehensive” or “holistic” are shallow. according to Eric. He strives to be his client’s best friend, the place where they would turn when anything happens finance-related, whether tax, legal, investing, or divorce.
His vision about being his client’s best friend is reflected in his desire to “have his firm’s clients know they care more about them, their family, and their goals more than any person that doesn’t share their last name.” Eric says his firm is a “learning and service organization, one that learns about their clients, as fast as possible, so they can educate them as needed, thinking deeply about their needs, and servicing them better than anyone else.” He brings the same goals to developing his team. He wants to “build an organization that has caring and respect for each other and works with every day.” His goal is to “help make each team member the best they can be.” His vision is as a helper and inspirer. As examples, he describes his president of Forefront Insurance Partners as the “Michael Jordan of insurance solutions.” One of his best friends is a pal from NYC who he helped become the CTO of the firm. The firm employs the latest technologies including Asset-Map, eMoney, Riskalyze, PreciseFP, and other fintech solutions.
Clients and growth
Eric’s clients tend to be in the early stages of their affluence, so his organic growth potential is high. In addition, his marketing focuses on introductions from existing wealth management clients as well as clients of his other three businesses, strategic partner relationships, along with his aggressive prospect strategies working with Snappy Kraken, conducting webinars, using video technology, blogging, etc.
Eric’s services also include strategic relationships that support his clients as a one-stop shop. As an example, he plans for an in-house attorney to support all four businesses, centralized support for his divorce mediation business where needed for real and business property asset division, plus outside relationships with specialists like therapy, custody, co-parenting, etc. Given the unfortunate statistic that almost 50% of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation, and that it’s a money in motion event, this is a growing business. Though some divorce rates may be dropping, “gray divorce” rates are rising.
Eric said that the leader of the firm must be aware of “creative destruction,” the “process of industrial mutation that continuously revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Wayne Gretzsky put it more simply – skate to where the puck is going to be.
Though Asset-Map is not the only financial planning in use at Forefront, he saw it as a structured tool that provided what he was doing manually using whiteboarding. He got a demonstration, spoke with the Asset-Map team, showed an Asset-Map to a large client who loved it as much as he did and bought in. His buy-in was not solely the software tool but, as Eric saw it, it was a driver of deep conversations as part of a complete process to understand the client or prospect:
- Current financial position, all components of income (current and future), assets, insurance, liabilities.
- What components of income and assets, personal and real, are missing from the map?
- Who “owns” each map component, individual or joint?
- Wants and needs.
- What components that should be part of the plan, the gaps in the plans, that are identified by the tool itself and the use of “stencils” (templates) that allow the user to post placeholders on the map as conversation starters.
- Where they hope to be at some future point and when they hope to be there?
- Who were the people and entities that are part of their financial well-being?
As previously discussed, the Asset-Map process helps the advisor think through the frames to consider four different professional points of view when reviewing the client’s financials:
- Investments – "Who manages it?" "What's your risk tolerance?" "Are investment meeting goals?"
- Insurance – "Your #1 asset is your earned income. What coverage do you have if that goes away?"
- Legal – "Who is the beneficiary of this [financial]?" "Are wills in place?"
- Tax – “What is asset location? “Should this asset be in a trust?"
The process also reminds the FA to consider six lenses when viewing the maps, the “6 Ls” or, “Are we good if this happens?”
- Liquidity (Emergency funds) needs
- Long-term disability events
- Loss of life events
- Long-term care events
- Longevity situations
- Legacy and changing wants and needs
Eric knows he was on top of most, if not all, of these needs and considerations…but…now he has a process and tool so every client and every prospect and every advisor in every business line has an enriched and common way of delivering the quality discovery and advice for 100% of his business. His training for new FAs can also be brought up to speed quickly, the process itself is not only consistent and complete, but also fast. The capabilities bring a higher level of “democracy” to the financial planning marketplace as it can be used for emerging affluent as well as affluent and HNW families. Every prospect walks away with their Asset-Map and a logical understanding of their financial position whether or not they become a client.
The essence of the deep conversations is that it drives actions that lead to results. It allows the firm to develop an implementation the path to financial wellness. The process adds value to every meeting whether the first or any subsequent annual planning meeting all driven by Asset-Map at the core.
Forefront also uses eMoney for some in-depth calculations of tax implications, and retirement cash flows, as well as a Monte Carlo analysis.
Asset-Map has made prospect meetings more effective with its digital onboarding capabilities and its approach to identifying gaps in the client’s financial needs. The fact is, just like kindergarten and “show and tell,”
- 65% of people are visual learners.
- 35% of people are auditory learners.
Talking through and showing Asset-Map in initial meetings effectively involves how 95% of how people learn.
Because my interviews are with advisors who use Asset-Map, it might appear that the product is the central element to the success of the firms with whom I met. That was not my intention. While Asset-Map is clearly a valuable cog in the wheel that drives these companies, it is not the hub.
As it turns out, the hub of the wheel is the firm’s principal and her or his vision and drive to what best serves their clients. Asset-Map is one of the spokes that delivers the right kinds of service, but the focus of all efforts is on client satisfaction and advocacy. The spokes that firm leadership adds to the wheel include the:
- Business plan and forward-looking strategy.
- Employees who are as client centric as the leader, certainly the other advisors, but as importantly, all the service, operational staff, and training programs.
- Complete tech stack that supports client centricity and value delivery.
- Structured client service model.
- A well-defined and documented set of processes that provide a consistent high level of service.
- BD support.
- Physical plant in which the team operates.
- Financial strengths of the organization.
These are all parts of the puzzle of a successful firm. Asset-Map is a valuable puzzle piece that delivers the entry point to the client relationship by being a powerful conversation enabler and illustrates to the client visually that their advisor understands their situation and is prepared to drive actions that will lead to the results the client is seeking.
David Leo is founder of Street Smart Research Group LLC. He is an author, speaker, coach, consultant, and trainer to financial professionals. David is an experienced business manager who works solely with financial advisors, Planners and firms who want to organize, structure & grow their businesses by attracting, servicing, and retaining affluent clients.
David had a 30-year career at IBM including as a business process reengineering consultant and engagement manager for the financial services industry. He also spent seven years at UBS/PaineWebber working directly with financial advisors to assist them in productivity growth.
David received a Bachelor of Science degree in commerce and engineering from Drexel University and an MBA from New York University.
If you would like additional details or have any questions about his articles or an interest in coaching schedule a free 45 Minute Strategy Session @ https://calendly.com/davidileo or contact him @ [email protected]. Call 212-598-4229 (Office) or 917-379-1249 (Cell) and visit @ www.CoachDavidLeo.com.