Financial Literacy

Creating a Partnership with Clients

Prizm Financial Group uses a simple approach to educate clients and partner with them in meeting their financial goals

Industry jargon, fiduciary rule changes, and a lack of investment knowledge can sometimes make meeting with financial advisors relatively daunting for people. Some may feel that the process of speaking with an advisor feels more like an exercise in futility, instead of a partnership to achieve their financial goals.

Improving the lives of her clients on that personal level is the mission of Stacie Leake, CEO and founder of Prizm Financial Group. After working as a senior vice-president in sales while managing advisory relationships for a large international bank, Leake saw there was room for improvement in advising clients and helping them meet their goals. That was the impetus for the creation of her firm.

Simplicity, she notes, is key.

“What I like to offer clients is a simple and understandable approach to their financial household needs,” she said.

In so doing, Leake works with clients to understand their goals, where they are in terms of retirement saving, and where they want to be. Going forward with recommendations becomes easier once goals and milestones are understood.

Getting to that point takes time, she adds.

“We will do two or three meetings before we begin to even suggest products or anything like that, so our focus is to really understanding the client first.”

And the simple approach is not only part of the advice provided to clients, but is used in the way all communications are conducted. Leake explains the best way to educate and communicate with the client is without industry jargon or complicated language so often used in the business.

“I want the clients to see what I see in understanding their financial picture,” she said.

In today’s world, however, the rise of technology, smart phones and apps that can be used by individuals to assist with their finances and investing, is perhaps eclipsing the need for an individual approach to education.

“It’s missing the human element and relationship, and that human element and approach to investing is important. I don’t know that a robo-adivsor, which is truly just a computer, is going to be able to be as responsive as quickly as it may need to be,” said Leake.

Being responsive and helping clients meet goals takes customization. The goals of clients are all unique and individual, notes Leake. Although investment strategies might be similar to reach certain milestones, each client receives a customized approach that fits their individual household needs. That is why Leake says she works very closely with money managers at crafting individual portfolios for her clients.

One part of the discussion with clients will inevitably lead to long-term care. Leake explains that clients are often in denial about the risks and needs for long-term care. Her firm takes into account the inflationary effects of long-term care costs that could double or triple in the next 25 years. The discussion is different based on the client, whether they are a Boomer near retirement, or someone in the sandwich generation caring for parents and children. Scenarios will be built around those needs and longer-term goals.

But client understanding has to go beyond just goals and milestones and further into the legal elements of what it means to be a fiduciary, and who is responsible for the planning and decisions around financial planning. Advisors, as a result of recent Department of Labor (DOL) rules meant to extend the definition of fiduciary, may change the types of clients they take on or the ways in which they conduct business.

“I think that the [DOL] recognizes that we have an issue in the industry and that there isn’t enough information for the client. That relationship should be much deeper than it exists today in some cases,” Leake said, adding that clients are given material that helps them understand what a fiduciary is and what that relationship is like.

In today’s environment, Leake says fiduciary standards are missing from the dialogue and this prevents solid relationships from being built. Sometimes, there is a lack of dialogue between advisor and client. She adds that advisors need to go beyond risk tolerances and standard strategies, and open a meaningful dialogue that helps them understand the assets and how future assets will be needed to meet certain goals.

“I think that is a fiduciary standard,” she stresses.

Over the course of running Prizm Financial Group, Leake says her greatest success comes from the great client base she has built. As she puts it, they act almost as partners with her in creating the quality advice and financial planning they need.

“I would say it’s my greatest success – having clients that want to come here and want to sit with me. I will help educate them along the way to make it a good relationship and a good experience for both of us. I’m very fortunate to have that kind of business and have built that kind of client base,” said Leake.

Her own challenges have come from within. She says being able to believe in herself and her approach took about 10 years to master. However, the end result has been the ability to work with clients believing in her individual approach to education, advice and wealth creation.

For more information on Prizm Financial Group, visit:

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