Closing the Gap in a Changing Industry

Thinking Outside The Portfolio.

The financial services industry faces several disruptive forces and advisors need to stay ahead of the curve. Fee compression, an aging advisor workforce, new technologies and other market shifts are just some of the issues facing today’s advisory firms.

“People in our industry are worried about our fee compression here at my level, the advisor level, dealing with real people. But the compression will continue to accelerate at the levels above me – at the ETF and mutual fund level, at the custodial level,” said Karl Frank, CFP®, AIF®, president of A&I Financial Services, LLC. “It will continue to drive toward zero and may be at zero before we know it. So, I have an obligation to my clients to know that we’re safe.”

Based in Englewood, Colorado, A&I Financial Services provides comprehensive wealth management and tax planning services to families and small business owners across the state. The firm’s clients average $2 million in assets under management and the advisory team specializes in serving clients with different financial planning needs, such as business owners, retirees, independent women, and professional coaches and athletes.

A&I Financial Services acts as a fiduciary, meaning clients’ best interests come before the bottom line. To that end, the firm works with clients to “close the gap” in financial knowledge, with extensive conversations intended to help investors understand how their money works for them. Meanwhile, the company also is closing the gap between the financial industry today and the emerging market forces that will change finance in the years to come.

Owners Meeting600x400“Close the gap, I love that phrase,” Frank told Advisors Magazine in a recent interview. “We start to build a custom, tailored plan for a family in a very unique way, but the initial meeting starts the same – we have a safe conversation about what means the most to them so that we can focus on the purpose of the investments, not just the performance. That way we’re not distracted by the things that can keep us from achieving our goals.”

Frank takes an active role in investor education and in improving the financial services industry, both in the firm and the greater Englewood community. For example, Frank served as president of the Financial Planning Association of Colorado and launched Denver Financial Planning Day in 2009, which brought together the best CFPs in the state to provide advice to everyone across the wealth spectrum. That event has since become a model for other cities around the nation.

karl quote 500x400Frank’s community efforts attracted national attention from fellow financial advisors, and he was selected and profiled as a “Leader in the Profession” for the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Financial Planning. Frank also has made several television and print media appearances as a financial planning expert.

The focus on education also means that prospective clients can expect language they understand and a lack of complex financial jargon. A&I Financial Services works with prospective investors to break down barriers to understanding and provide solutions aligned to clients’ financial goals.

“We give before we get and it’s served us very well,” Frank said. “One of the biggest differences between us and other firms is it happens here. Our financial plans are one-pagers, and they’re very graphical. It’s behind the scenes that are unique for a family, it might be really simple on that paper but there’s a ream of paper behind that one-pager.”

Financial education empowers clients to make their own decisions and put their money to work.

“We can pull out our 401(k) disclosures and we can pull out any sort of fee disclosure and if you have a fiduciary advisor it should be completely transparent. But financial education is where you’ll feel confident that actually is the truth because without it you’ll never be 100 percent sure that you’re being told the truth by whoever you talk to,” Frank said.

But even financially literate and savvy clients need help. A trusted, fiduciary advisor is able to help clients see the big picture, consider options, and see solutions that might not be obvious at first. To do that requires patience, the ability to listen, and the willingness to put clients first, Frank said.

Team467x1000“The greatest value of a wealth manager is his ability to listen and understand and make sure the current situation is not going to permanently destroy the financial success of the client,” he added.

A&I Financial Services intends to reevaluate its value-chain going into 2020. The firm currently has the capacity to grow assets under management – with a back office team in place to handle growth and keep costs down by leveraging scale – and also plans to look at emerging investor concerns such as cybersecurity and the role of automated investing tools, Frank said. Advisors cannot become complacent amidst so many simultaneous industry changes and need to consider what is best for clients beyond the products in their portfolios, he added.

By taking a holistic view of investors and the industry, A&I Financial Services hopes to close the gap between today and tomorrow so that clients are prepared for whatever comes.
“I think a lot of my competitors and friends in the industry need to be thinking about that too,” Frank said. “There are massive changes going on and it’s time to reassess everything,”

For more information about A&I Financial Services, LLC, visit:

Securities provided through Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through A & I Financial Services LLC


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