Originally posted at fa-mag.com by Mitch Anthony, December 1, 2020.
What do you do when you find yourself succeeding financially but it just doesn’t seem like enough? When you want to practice real financial planning instead of superficial forms with products attached? When you want to really service your clients and make a lasting impact in their lives?
Your first step might be to define your “tenets for transformation”: how you transform your business, your client relationships and your own personal life by bringing your absolute best to every relationship.
If you share these sentiments, you might want to look at the career of Seth Streeter and his firm, Mission Wealth—founded by Streeter and his partner Brad Stark in 2000. They decided to start their own firm after trying to get the multinational firm they were with before to lean deeper into financial planning, which at the time was not the core driver of its business. The focus was too much on products. Frustrated by the rejection, on a plane ride home Streeter and Stark wrote out the tenets for success in a financial advisory firm:
1. The model would have to be objective, not conflicted;
2. The business would have to have a true financial planning foundation;
3. It would need a proactive service model that emphasized service over sales and moved clients forward in the planning process; and
4. It would need to integrate its services with those of other professionals, a team of CPAs or attorneys, for instance.
They went to a top regional CPA firm and sold the idea of an integrated offering, and Mission Wealth was formed.
Over time, however, it became apparent that there were cultural difficulties that hindered the combination of accounting and financial planning firms. They made progress, but not at the pace Streeter had envisioned. They eventually bought out the partner firm in 2012 and went out on their own. Since then their business has added over $3 billion in AUM, and they now have 18 offices and 50 people on their team.
The most impressive statistic I can quote on their business, however, is their 98% client retention rate—which is due to their obsession with service. They’ve never wavered from their original founding tenets, and it has worked. Mission Wealth is now recognized as one of the top financial planning firms by Financial Times and RIA Channel, as well as this magazine.
But this is not your everyday RIA—Streeter and his team want to go deeper into redefining wealth with their clients. He came to an epiphany in his own life during humanitarian trips with his children to Guatemala and Honduras. He realized that having money alone couldn’t fulfill people. He met so many people on these trips who were truly fulfilled but had very little materially. This realization seeded his quest to bring more substance to the financial conversation.
In 2016, Streeter was invited to give a TEDx Talk called “The Untethered Life: Wealth Redefined” (a scary proposition, as he had experienced anxiety speaking in public before). The resonance of the presentation convinced him that his calling lay not just in building wealth for clients but in helping them redefine what wealth truly is. This has led to Mission Wealth’s “Inspired Living Platform,” which includes workshops, retreats and wisdom groups to help clients understand what true wealth is all about.
Below is a graphic of the 11 “dimensions of life” with questions to start the conversation with clients.
Mission Wealth wants to help its clients get to what it refers to as “Life 3.0.”
Life 1.0 is where we are finding our identity through education, sports, clubs and social affiliations. Life 2.0 is where we are attending to our responsibilities with family, career and finances. Life 3.0 is a stage of freedom where we discover balance, fun, impact and connection. Streeter gives the caveat that the default mindset fueling our success in Life 2.0 may need to be rewritten to achieve our Life 3.0 vision. He cites examples of highly successful people he has worked with who get “stuck at 2.8 or 2.9” because their whole identity is wrapped up in what brought them position, prosperity and success.
Why did Streeter and his team take this conversation to the next level? Because of their desire to serve their clients’ best interests. And what is best for the client? To get the best life possible with the life they have. And that best life has not been and never will be just about money.
I’m encouraged to see a highly successful firm satisfy the inner longings of its clients to live lives of significance, not just affluence. We can all take this conversation to deeper, more meaningful levels and prosper in the process, as Mission Wealth has proved.
So what are your tenets for transformation? Have you articulated them? Have you developed processes and dialogues with clients to ensure they come to fruition? This is the quest of the life-centered financial planning revolution beginning to take hold all around our planet. We can do so much more for our clients … but not until we come to grips with what money can and cannot do.