On Becoming an Elite Advisor: Insights from Tony D’Amico of Fidato Wealth
MARIE SWIFT: Well hello and welcome back to Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry. This is your host, Marie Swift, and I’m joined today by Tony D’Amico from Fidato Wealth, a fee-only firm that provides comprehensive fiduciary advice. Tony has just crossed some very interesting milestones and is now in what I call the “elite advisor group.” I wanted to have Tony today on the show to talk a little bit about his career progression and how he’s built his team and why he is now in this elite category. According one of the industry’s top coaching organizations, he’s meeting the standards that the top 1% of all advisory firms who are in this category are meeting. So, it has to do with growth, but not just growth for new growth’s sake, but also expanding relationships with existing clients and retaining the clients you have. It also has to do with, of course, growing the team so that there is not just the same client experience, but maybe even a better client experience. So, Tony, welcome.
TONY D’AMICO: Hi, great to be with you today Marie.
SWIFT: Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with me here this morning. Maybe you could just start by telling us about how you got started in the business, how long you’ve been an advisor and take us through where you are today.
D’AMICO: Sure, that’s great. I first started in personal finance in 1999. I first started out in life insurance, long-term care insurance and disability insurance. I started in that avenue of personal finance and things kind of grew very gradually from there. In early 2010, I obtained my series 65 and basically, I started my own RA and began working with clients in a much more comprehensive manner. It’s been a great journey. I started off in one aspect with personal finance and just grew very gradually over the years to now be providing comprehensive financial planning and wealth management.
CLIENT FOCUS, BUSINESS SUCCESS
SWIFT: So, you’ve recently crossed over a certain threshold of assets, you’ve added new team members, a new position and improving the client experience. Maybe you could talk a little bit about how you begin with that client focus and how’s that helped with the business success.
D’AMICO: Sure, when I started off, I started off as a solo practitioner, which I really enjoyed. Our focus has always been to help clients achieve their financial goals in a proactive manner and, with that focus, forged some really good relationships with clients and enjoyed providing that comprehensive planning experience. As things grew as we attracted more clients and expanded relationships with existing clients, there was the need to add staff members to make the client experience consistent and also to continue to improve each step of the way. That’s kind of the nice benefit of growing as a firm and adding the team members, support financial advisors and administrative support to ensure that client experience continues to be successful and improve. Part of that improvement is having multiple team members that allow for multiple perspectives and also allow for more services to be provided. I think we are able to go a little bit wider in the service offering as far as what we are doing and the standards of care we are providing. It’s been a very nice and important part of this process for us to continue, not only in growing new clients but more importantly expanding existing client relationships.
ELITE ADVISOR INSIGHTS
SWIFT: In this report I was referring to it says that the elite advisors, based on their research and opinion, have lost fewer than three clients over the past year. I believe your retention is quite remarkable and maybe you can address that in your next little bit of commentary as well as talking about your marketplace. You’re not in Chicago or Orange County. You’re not in a big metropolitan area. If you could, please address the retention factor and growth in a smaller marketplace.
D’AMICO: I’ll start with the growth piece. I read in the report that the top 1% of advisors attract about twenty-five million in new assets each year. We are proud of the fact that in 2016, we greatly exceeded that. We are humbled by that fact. I work with one of the leading industry consultants for registered investment advisors and he has knowledge of our marketplace. He says it’s very common that the top advisors are in about the fifteen-million to twenty-million-dollar mark in what they are about to achieve in new client assets each year. I’m just very happy to be well above those benchmarks. That’s an affirmation to me that some of the things we’ve implemented along the way have worked. It’s a sign that things are going well and the client experience is good, which has translated into growth.
Equally important, if not more important to me, is the retention rate for our customers. We do meet those benchmarks, as well as, far as retention and how many clients are lost in a year. We are happy that we are meeting those benchmarks, because we’re not only keeping a client relationship but most importantly expanding client-based relationships by providing more services and helping with more aspects of their financial plan. Maybe we help by going deeper into their estate plan, tax planning or strategic Roth conversions or perhaps other different types of financial planning. I wish there was a metric out there that measured client expansion and not just the retention because we’re certainly surpassing it. Nonetheless we are extremely humbled and happy that we are on the right track on the growth, but more importantly retention and expansion with existing clients.
ATTRACTING TALENT TO THE TEAM
SWIFT: One of the things I heard you say earlier when we were talking offline was attracting the right team members in a smaller marketplace Its not like the sky is the limit in your smaller markets. So maybe you can talk about how do you attract such good people to join your firm? Is it incentives? Is it vision? Is it leadership? Maybe all of that?
D’AMICO: The recipe for a good company is having the right talent. We are in northeast Ohio and our headquarters are in Strongsville, OH. There isn’t as much talent here as there is in, let’s say, Chicago or Dallas or California. The talent pool is smaller and I think it makes it challenging. It takes more time to find the right person. You really have to know who you are looking for, which is the key, and making sure there is very good cultural alignment. So my focus has always been people’s character, culture set, maturity and direction. I think those are some of the key ingredients that are a good indication that you have the right person. If you have the right person, I believe you can train people on perhaps on certain aspects of financial planning or investment management. But I don’t think you can train cultural fit.
So, I think that it’s been great for us that we do have a strong corporate cultural identity. We have a clear mission of exceeding client expectations, being a fiduciary, and providing comprehensive financial planning. We help clients achieve their financial life goals in a proactive manner by not being afraid to do the work that’s needed to really make that happen and form some good relationships along the way. As a result, we’ve looked for people that have that same sort of internal drive and that same motivation for wanting to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. We look for people who want to be in the fiduciary model, whether or not they used that model previously or were with a firm that wasn’t providing as much of a comprehensive planning experience. So those are some of the key things we look at, but that’s just the starting point.
From there you have to nourish that ongoing relationship. It’s just like a client relationship. What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. Really knowing your team members and in my case, being the leader, knowing where your team members are professionally and personally is key. You should be aware of what their goals are, since everyone has different goals. You need to really understanding where they are in meeting their goals and what their strengths are and the areas in which they need to grow. Just having a positive and ongoing collaboration with them in a good relationship is really key, especially when you are working within a team where there are five or so team members that are working in cooperation for the benefit of a shared client.
SWIFT: So, you are a registered SEC investment advisory firm. I also read in a recent announcement from your firm that you’ve also achieved the CFP designation, the marks of distinction. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about your own commitment to ongoing education and professional development.
D’AMICO: Thank you for bringing that up. Achieving both of those milestones has been a great accomplishment. We believe that achieving those milestones again signifies that we are doing the right thing as a firm. As far as obtaining the CFP marks, I’m definitely very proud of that and humbled by the response I’ve received. Since I started in personal finance in 1999, I have always had that lifelong learner bug, so I love to learn something new every day. I love to read articles pretty much every morning. I think it’s really important. Whatever somebody does in their career – whether they are a financial planner, or a doctor or a carpenter – it is important always to be learning and growing. Things change, new information comes out, new laws happen. So it’s really important to continue with that ongoing learning and development and apply that knowledge, as well, for the benefit of your client.
I’m really happy to earn those marks. That achievement was important to me to continue to that progression of learning on an ongoing basis.
SWIFT: Tony, congratulations. Thanks so much for being here today. I’m impressed by your ongoing success. Could you tell people how to learn more if they are hearing this audio and would like to check out your firm?
D’AMICO: Sure, our website is a great place to find information about Fidato Wealth and the services we provide. You can also inquire about employment opportunities. Our website is www.FidatoWealth.com.
SWIFT: Well, Tony, thank you so much. Congratulations on your ongoing success. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
D’AMICO: Thank you, Marie. It’s been great catching up with you today.