A Financial Trailblazer

When entrepreneurs seek out an investment advisor, they want someone who not only has the expertise and experience to protect their hard-earned wealth but who also has the same intrinsic values and determination they’ve used to build it.

Jeffrey W. Link, president of Highline Financial Advisors, considers himself a maverick in the financial world because of his entrepreneurial approach. “I wasn’t really given a lot out of the gate, so I’m kind of an underdog,” he said.

His clients, primarily business owners, like the fire he brings to his strategies. “These are the individuals who really continue to swing the bat and are entrepreneurial – and never really take no for an answer,” Link said. “A lot of business owners see me and know that I’m not a rank and file kind of person, and I share their same type of mentality. We get along very well.”

Regardless of background, Link and his clients share a common goal: creating a stronger next generation. For most of his clients, Link asserted, “They know they won’t spend all of the money in their estates, so it’s going to go to the next generation. We work really hard to make sure that the next generation is going to live a lifestyle in which they can maybe make the world a better place.”

Link views his role as that of someone who can ensure his clients leverage their time and expend their efforts wherever it matters to them most, whether that be managing businesses, spending time with family or engaging in hobbies.

“We manage the money on a discretionary basis for our clients. We act as a CFO,” Link explained. “They can lean more on me and our team to manage all of their assets on both sides of the balance sheet.”

Link, who started as a Merrill Lynch intern during college in 1997, knew he was destined for a career in finance from day one. “I never looked back – and never had a plan B. I enjoyed the market, learning the market and working around intelligent people.”

Since starting in the industry, Link weathered three major market corrections and has stayed at the forefront on even more changing demands. Communication and technology are among the most notable.

“In the industry as a whole, there has been this huge information swap,” Link said, recalling how clients relied on advisors for information before the internet surged. “Now clients and consumers have more information at their fingertips, or at least the same level in a lot of cases.”

With information so easily attainable online, Link said that today’s advisors need to be much more in tune with a client’s individual needs. “If you look at that information swap, it created a lot of different subsets in the industry,” he noted.

“Customization really is the lifeblood of the investment advisor business. I don’t think you can just create a singular model for everybody. It’s not a one size fits all kind of setup.” Link handles each portfolio on a case-by-case basis, saying he determines how conservative or aggressive to be, based on the individual.

“Markets are always going to be volatile,” he added. “Liquidity builds bubbles. We select strong companies that grow their balance sheets and their dividends, and we try to purchase them at a reasonable price.”

While customization may be king, Link has noticed a new trend taking hold among younger investors amid the tumultuous talks surrounding Social Security reform. “A main point of concern,” Link said, “is the elimination of the ‘file and suspend’ benefit.”

“With that going away,  a lot of people’s plans stand to be impacted,” Link said, adding that this change will primarily impact those who are counting on Social Security as their main source of retirement income. “Social Security is designed as a supplemental income. Those who live and die by that sword are going to be more greatly impacted.”

Younger generations, however, are already conditioned to creating plans without Social Security because they know that can’t count on those benefits being available to them down the road. “Millennials and younger, wealthier individuals have an option inside our planning that asks whether or not to include Social Security benefits. Many choose to exclude it,” Link said.
This, he explained, also shows how a shift in thinking has taken place between older and younger generations, including how they view the government and the industry in general.
“At the end of the day, Americans are not in love with any aspect of the banking or the financial industry, especially millennials.” Link believes that more accountability will help to restore consumer confidence, but that government oversight will undoubtedly lead to higher costs for investors.

Link added that while regulation would provide a sense of accountability and would curtail dubious practices by what he called “fakers and product-driven advisors,” at the end of the day, laws won’t replace the confidence or trust that comes with research and relationships.

“There’s no substitute for researching the person or people who will be handling your money,” he emphasized.

When it comes to building trust, Link has nothing to hide. His track record speaks for itself: he didn’t lose a single client because of the recession, although he admits he was shocked by the resiliency of consumers and investors after the devastation felt during the last recession.

“I don’t think any letters behind someone’s name could have helped anyone navigate those waters of 2008,” Link said. “The people who have done it have been battle tested.” Which, he added, is exactly the kind of expertise clients need in this day and age.

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