Advisors Screening Clients

It’s a Family Affair

At a time when one-stop shops for financial services are cropping up across the United States, providing on-site access to accountants, tax advisors, attorneys and other professionals, Trupiano & Associates and its affiliate company, Safe Money Solutions, stay in their own lane. Trupiano & Associates focuses on group benefits, life insurance, disability, and fixed annuities, while Safe Money Solutions keeps focused on 401k & profit sharing plans along with individual institutional investing.

The combined practice zigs when others zag—even turning away potential clients if pre-screening reveals a prospect’s lack of interest in understanding what is being recommended.

tony teamBased in Florida, Trupiano & Associates’ primary mission is to provide financial solutions to family-owned businesses. A family affair itself, Trupiano’s key team members include Anthony Trupiano, founder and CEO, his wife Sally, CFO and co-founder, and daughter Brianna serves as director of marketing and communications.

“We stay away from tax advice and legal advice,” Anthony told Advisors Magazine in a recent interview. “We prefer to be a spoke in the wheel. We want to work with a client’s accountant and their attorney. And we don’t ever try to think we’re the quarterback.”

The company was started in 2001, leveraging Anthony’s more than 30-year expertise in the financial industry. And it sprang from his vision as a young boy, a vision which took sharper focus after a family tragedy.

“I always wanted to have my own company since I was probably seven or eight years old,” Anthony said. “I dreamed of creating the Trupiano Corporation.”

But at 16 years old he returned home late one evening from an away wrestling match to learn his father, at age 45, had died of a heart attack.

“He hadn’t paid his life insurance premiums and he had no retirement savings. My mom never worked a day in her life,” Anthony recalled. “Almost overnight, we fell on really, really tough times. And I always thought that I never wanted this to happen to my family one day.”

He also realized that similar circumstances were likely causing other families to suffer, and it would be great if they were better prepared. His father had owned three gas stations over his career but had sold them all.

“I guess he knew that he was sicker than we knew he was, and it always bothered me that no one ever went to his station to ask about helping him with financial planning,” Anthony said.

Flash forward, and today Trupiano & Associates focuses almost exclusively on family-owned businesses. The family niche accounts for nearly 85% of all the firm’s business.

“We want to make sure that people are getting the right advice, that’s why we’re a fiduciary,” Anthony added. “And we really don’t consider ourselves selling anything. We’re just providing a solution that’s right for our clients.” Being totally independent, Trupiano & Associates is free to search the entire industry for the specific solution for a specific client. The firm is able to go to any carrier, any annuity company, or any institutional mutual fund.

sally tBeyond helping individuals prepare for retirement, Sally mentioned that the company is also very big in the group benefits arena for family-run businesses, providing key staff and key management retention and 401 (k) expertise. “We call our Group Benefit and 401 (k) clients every single month,” Anthony added. “We take care of things right away, it’s a proactive mindset.”

Back in 2001, Sally and Anthony knew no one after moving to Florida from New Jersey. From scratch, the Trupiano family has built the business to now having more than 500 clients in 12 different states.

Importance of educating our clients

There is no minimum investment sought by the firm, but Anthony says they are quite selective when taking on clients. “We’re in this for the long haul, so we consider the big picture and who we want to be doing business with,” he said.

sitting clients“We want clients who really want to learn how things work; we screen them,” Anthony explained. “If I’m sitting down with a potential new client and they say, ‘Oh, you know, you don’t have to explain the process to me, I trust you,’ we won’t take them on as a client.”

A core value at Trupiano & Associates is that clients must grasp the financial concepts and understand the industry. “We want them to be aware of what goes on behind the curtain and why having an independent fiduciary is so important.”

As such, clients need to know that the firm is not just selling products for a company that might pay them commissions and if compensation is being received it must be fully disclosed to the prospect or client. The combination of independence and education espoused by Trupiano & Associates makes it that much harder for another advisor to use confusing financial jargon and pitch some kind of sales tactic or product.

“After screening those willing to learn, our clients become very astute,” Anthony emphasized. “They know what’s going on and know how things work.”

For example, the Trupianos may meet initially with a business owner and show how that business is overpaying in fees, or disclose some possibly hidden revenue sharing or commissions related to the business’ group medical coverage.

“Chances are that business never knew how much an agent was getting paid and how little service it was getting in return,” Anthony said. “Creating such awareness is a great tool. And that’s basically how we get a ton of referrals.”

Referrals and client retention is, in fact, an area of sharp concentration at Trupiano & Associates. In 20 years, Anthony estimates that 94-95% of clients have been retained. “We have a saying in our office: for 5,000 years, great customer service has never gone out of style,” he smiled.

Increased Communication

Despite the pandemic, a recent national study showed that 82 percent of workers are still saving for retirement through employer-sponsored plans, such as a 401(k) or similar plan, and/or outside the workplace. In fact, people were quick to seek out financial advice during COVID as they had more time to assess their situations—and firms like Trupiano & Associates have responded in kind.

“We now live in this world of conference calls and Zoom meetings, and we just want to make sure we’re reaching out more and paying attention,” Anthony said. “We’ve always been great at paying attention. For instance, we know when a client’s parents are having hip surgery or knee surgery, or what’s going on with their kids—everything goes on our own calendar,” he continued. “If anything, that calendar is even fuller, because when it comes to communication, we’ve ramped things up even more.”

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It’s that kind of personal attention to detail that doesn’t make Anthony feel threatened by the rise of so-called robo-advisors, online trading platforms or apps using algorithms.

Still, he believes most technology is beneficial. “We’re dealing with family-owned businesses, and there’s a shared, inherent trust that we’re a family-owned business,” he said. “We understand what’s involved in running a family business.”

Technology and artificial intelligence (AI), can be useful tools for financial services, Anthony acknowledges. “We’ve embraced technology. Specifically, we use Riskalyze software to help customize client portfolios.”

He sees the investing platforms, on the other hand, as mostly attractive to younger individuals who have not amassed much wealth, but are learning about markets and market volatility. In that sense, robo-advisors can serve as an initial introduction to investing. “But I’m also starting to understand that there are a lot of fees hidden in those online platforms, and they typically do not use institutional funds, they use retail,” Anthony added.

For the most part, Safe Money Solutions concentrates its investments on institutional funds. But this is now the 13th year of the historic bull market, which many have been riding, and investors and experts are wondering when the next shoe will drop.

Tony meeting clients“So, as far as investor returns, we need to be realistic,” Anthony said. “By using the Riskalyze software, we will show a client, for example, that even increasing risk by 10 points doesn’t really generate that much more of a return.” Given much of the current market uncertainty, he mentioned that the firm is relatively conservative with its clients’ money. “Managing expectations is huge,” Anthony added.

“The pandemic has probably made almost everyone tired of the conference and Zoom calls and wanting to get out more, see each other and have real relationships again,” Anthony observed. “So, they may pass on the robo-advisor and look forward to sitting down and talking with someone that brings more to the table.”

An online platform or robot is also unlikely to offer social security planning. Trupiano & Associates will set up software-based customized income models, inputting all a client’s accounts including social security to determine the pay out of future income. “I just don’t think AI is going to be able to customize the things we can do as individuals with real life experience,” he said. “We’ve been in business here 20 years and have never had a client run out of money.”

Living a longer abundant life

With people everywhere living longer and retirement funds needing to last longer, Trupiano & Associates is also adapting, now emphasizing health and well-being more than ever. “Much of the client information we put out there, and content of client events, is now about 50-60 percent based on lifestyle tips,” Anthony said. Topics like a healthy diet and exercise, and cutting-edge technology like PEMF magnetic therapy and vibration machines are now routinely part of the financial well-being conversation.

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And with the pandemic subsiding, the firm is planning on hosting several of these lifestyle-centric events in 2022. “Health and wellness tips and advice about cyber security are topics our clients love to hear about nowadays,” Anthony added. In fact, the firm is planning just such an event for February 2022.

Also, sometime in the fall of 2022, Trupiano’s third book will be published. The working title is Tenacious Abundance. It will share habits and hacks for being happy, healthy, wealthy, wise, and the importance of feeling blessed and grateful. He believes lessons gleaned from the book will appeal especially to his core clients, the majority of whom are business owners. “It’s really about having the mindset and developing the habits for creating an amazing day and replicating that, so it just ends up being a great life,” Anthony summarized.

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