Retirement Planning

Client Connections Target Personality, Risk, & Communication

At least half of Americans do not have a written financial plan. However, those who do have a plan say documenting their goals and strategies helps them better weather the current challenging economic climate.

There are a myriad of technological tools and software programs today designed to help financial advisors serve their clients; some advisors deploy as many as possible, while others are more selective. It’s the difference between a shotgun-like approach and one that’s laser-focused.

The selective approach works just fine for Matthew Senicola CRPC®, AAMS®, managing partner at Massapequa, NY-based North Shore Wealth Management Group LLC. He uses very few models and almost all portfolios are custom-tailored. In fact, his favorite financial software tool is akin to a radar gun.

“Every investor has a different risk speed that needs to be determined, and I have a system to my planning which allows me to dig deep into their personality traits when it comes to investing,” said Senicola.

Years ago, Senicola started using the program Riskalyze, and every client he takes on agrees to go through the process so he can determine their “risk number.”
“I have found it very helpful to keeping clients on course,” he said.

Senicola first became interested in the stock market at the young age of 10 – back when his main tools were pencil, paper and erasers.
matt quote
Flash forward to today, Senicola and partner Edward Wells have been working together and building North Shore Wealth Management for the past 21 years running an independent advisory firm on Long Island and working closely with approximately 200 households across various age groups.

Senicola’s relationship with partner Wells is also personal – they are step brothers. Wells, who is a Certified Financial Fiduciary, has 23 years managing portfolios. His other qualifications include: FINRA General Securities Representative (Series 7) license; Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam (Series 63) license; Uniform Investment Advisor Law Exam (Series 65) license; NY State Life/Accident & Health Insurance license, and CFDA® Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. He’s licensed to transact securities business in 25 states.

closingbell 500x400The six-person firm takes pride in its “hands-on” approach. “We are client-facing and I am a big believer in top-notch service which sets my team apart from the competition; we have a system to proactively stay in touch,” Senicola said, adding that it is imperative for an advisor to know each client’s personality. “For instance, some individuals may require more attention in periods of volatility because they have reactionary personality traits to negative headlines.”

For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, Senicola created a “Sunday Market Update” letter to send out to clients, colleagues, family and friends. Most everyone was stuck in their homes. The news was focused on negative stories predicting an economic collapse and heavy death tolls.

“As the economy shut down and unemployment mushroomed, people were scared. The headlines were rolling in so fast and I simply couldn’t spend as much time as I would like to update every household in my book, so I decided each day I would make notes of all the positive developments that were being underreported and compose them into a weekly letter,” he said, adding that he was reminding everyone of how important it is to stay optimistic. “The feedback I received was incredible. I feel it helped many through a very difficult time and reminded them that we should expect challenging times ahead.”

It was also consistent with one of Senicola’s key principles, which is to stay as current and educated as possible. He feels this is an area where the industry at large needs to do better. “Throughout my career the one thing I have learned is that clients can feel if their advisor really cares,” he said.

Senicola noted that as fee-compression continues, many advisors get further removed from the investment process and this can turn them into a commodity.

“The big firms train their people to become asset gatherers and hand client money off to cookie-cutter discretionary computerized models wrapped in fees on top of fees,” he said. “Over time, advisors tend to get lazy with their relationships and send out the same canned quarterly newsletters, which go unread.”

On the plus side, Senicola is a big fan of industry change that is able to reach a younger client base, and he considers technology as the biggest driver of evolution in the wealth management business. From a financial planning aspect, it has helped his firm run its book of business efficiently and manage client accounts.

“One change I have noticed is the drastic increase in the number of young investors that are now interested in the market,” Senicola said. “The rise of trading platforms such as Robinhood and Acorn have marketed themselves to a younger generation, which I think is fantastic.” He sees such platforms as “easy ways for younger generations to get interested in the markets and investing early.”

In fact, the no-fee investing Robinhood app, according to FinanceMagnates.com, exceeded 13 million users in early May 2020. Acorn’s app, which allows people to invest spare change in the stock market, counts more than 7 million users, according to its website.

As technology gets better, Senicola recognizes that there will always be a cheaper option or solution, and he thinks it’s great that investors have choices. That belief in choice and flexibility informed his decision to run North Shore Wealth Management Group as a “dual-registered” advisor.

“Some investors that buy and hold individual bonds or do a low-volume amount of passive equity investing should not be in a fee-based account,” he insists. “It’s not economical for them and I feel I’d be limiting choices if I was a fee-only advisor.”

Technology and automated processes, however, cannot always provide such wealth management insight. “Robots alone can’t understand human emotion and life change,” said Senicola, emphasizing that investors with real planning needs and who are busy with their own careers will continue to need the guidance from a trustworthy and competent advisor.

For more information about North Shore Wealth Management Group, please visit: northshorewmg.com

 

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