3-Time WealthManagement Industry Award Winner for 2020!

By Jennifer Bacarella, Sr. Vice President | Firm Development

In case you missed it, SPS Family was a THREE-TIME WINNER at the annual WealthManagement Industry Awards (“Wealthies”) this year! We are super excited and wanted to share our great news with you.

SPS Family companies were finalists in four categories for initiatives we established during the last 18 months. These initiatives included corporate social responsibility, service, and thought leadership. The fourth finalist entry was for RIA Firm Leaders: CEO of the Year. 

And the winners are….

Sigma Financial Corporation for Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives: SPS4Vets

  • We created the SPS4Vets initiative to benefit U.S. military veterans by providing pro bono financial services to those located in the Ann Arbor area. 

Parkland Securities, LLC for Service: Survival Stack

  • We created our Survival Stack online resource to provide SPS Family representatives information on COVID-19-related issues, including the CARES Act, the SECURE Act, Small Business Administration Grants and Loans, and the Financial Crisis. 

Sigma Financial Corporation for Thought Leadership: NexGen Fusion

  • We established the NextGen Fusion initiative to reach out to college students and recent graduates to increase their interest in financial services industry. We need new, young talent in our industry, especially for succession planning and new depth. We seek out the next generation advisor by providing information on the career, monetary support for certain licenses, and potential mentorships in advisor offices or the home office.

You can read WealthManagement.com’s press release mentioning Sigma Financial Corporation here: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/09/11/2092518/0/en/WealthManagement-com-Announces-2020-Industry-Awards-Winners.html

We are grateful to WealthManagement and the judges for recognizing our initiatives and look forward to creating progressive programs for years to come.

If you have any questions about SPS Family, our initiatives, or our awards, please feel free to call me at 734-663-1611 or email jbacarella@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

PRACTICE MANAGEMENT…DO YOU NEED IT?

By Keith Craig and Ken White | Practice Management

Practice Management – do you need it? The answer is you’re already doing it. You’re not just helping clients work to achieve their financial and life goals, you’re also running a small business.

A better question is – how well are you doing it?

Many of our advisors have built very successful practices, but from time to time, they find themselves stuck against the proverbial ceiling. They feel caught between the desire to grow their practice and not having enough time in their day to do what is necessary to get to the next level.

Our Practice Management area can help. Adam Peak and Bryan Bruce focus on tools and educational content to help our advisors achieve greater efficiency that can lead to a smoother running business and increased profitability.

“You can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and expect to be in business tomorrow.” George W. Bush

Our Practice Management assistance does not follow an A-to-Z path. Each advisor enters our program at a different point. When warranted, we will begin with your biggest pain points and identify tools, training, and procedures that help ease day-to-day administrative burdens.

Or, we may start with Client Segmentation, where we help you better identify the makeup of your book, how to focus on your stronger clients, and where to find more of these “Ideal Clients.”

In other cases, we may advise establishing a Client Advisory Board, a technique that can help you better understand how your best clients see you and the value you and your firm deliver them. This approach invariably also strengthens your closest client relationships.

Depending on where you are in your career, we may discuss transition planning. We can advise on how to prepare for transferring your legacy to the next generation of financial advisors whether within your family or by selling your practice.

We have developed multiple modules and discussion points that can help you achieve the smoothly running, highly successful practice you envision and prepare for the future.

Contact Bryan Bruce for more information. Email Bryan at bbruce@bdops.com.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

BEHAVIORAL FINANCE AND HOLISTIC PLANNING

By Cheryl Harwell | Case Planning / Practice Management

Comprehensive, or holistic, financial planning describes a multidisciplinary approach a financial professional takes to help clients build the life they desire by  working toward accomplishing a broad set of goals. Many people tend to focus only on numbers, and often use separate advisors to oversee each component of their household – a banker, an investment planner, an insurance agent, etc. This approach separates the household into silos rather than looking at the whole picture, which could create a level of unnecessary risk.

Holistic planning considers technical as well as behavioral elements that are important when helping clients work toward accomplishing their goals. Advisors taking a holistic approach not only discuss financial goals with their clients, but also check in with them about their emotional well-being, their health, and their families. These advisors can end up taking on the role of life coach rather than just investment planner.

As the range of advisor/client conversations widens, additional family members can be involved in those discussions. Many advisors would like to engage their clients’ children in the holistic planning process in addition to ensuring the full participation of both spouses in the planning conversation.

As an example, an advisor who employs holistic planning will sit down with each client to discuss their unique life situation as a whole, including financial goals and life risks in an overall big picture analysis. They will then get into all of the details of the plan, including net worth; investments; expenses; savings; all types of insurance coverage, including life, health, accident, home, auto, umbrella, and long-term care; retirement outlook; college planning; charitable giving; estate planning (beneficiaries, trusts, etc.); and other financial goals and life risks that clients need to consider.

The advisor and client discuss how each component of their overall plan works together to help them reach their goals, including risk management. The plan is then put into place and the advisor and client review the plan on an ongoing basis to discuss and implement any updates and measure the progress toward the goals that have been set.

In summary, holistic financial planning can contribute to the successful accomplishment of a client’s life goals. Although these topics, at first, can be intimidating or overwhelming for clients to discuss, covering them can help give your clients more control and greater confidence in their future. By taking a holistic approach, not only can you help contribute to the success of your clients in reaching their goals, you will form lifelong positive relationships with them and their families. These relationships will, in turn, allow you to reap the rewards of gratitude, praise, and referrals.

Would you like to discuss holistic financial planning and behavioral finance? I’m available anytime. Email me at charwell@bdops.com.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Sigma Financial Corporation Named Runner-Up in Broker-Dealer of the Year Award!

What the Broker-Dealer of the Year Awards Means to Us

By Jennifer Bacarella | Executive, Director of Firm Development

Every year, Investment Advisor Magazine (ThinkAdvisor is the online publication) asks registered representatives to rank their broker-dealers on a series of categories from training and marketing support to service and product availability, and more. This year, Sigma Financial Corporation has the honor of being named runner-up in our category for the prestigious Broker-Dealer of the Year award.

Of course, we aim to be number one (which we have been…NINE times to be exact). We never take anything for granted and do not underestimate the power of growth. We always want to improve. We continually seek to exceed our representatives’ expectations. And we want our reps to feel that they are part of our family. How do we do this? By taking these poll results, analyzing them, and taking action.

We are proud to be named one of the top-ranking BDs in the country. Starting our journey in 1983 with a just a few employees in a tiny little house office, we have grown to a staff of more than 130 employees and over 600 representatives. We believe we are perfectly situated in an ideal spot in the industry – small enough to know our representatives by name and create lasting relationships, and large enough to keep costs relatively low and offer tremendous support and a wide range of products.

So, what does placing runner-up in the Investment Advisor Magazine Broker-Dealer of the Year Award mean to us? Well, it means we have traveled so far since those first days. It means that our representatives think pretty highly of us. And it also means that we have some work to do. We will keep delivering unparalleled support to build legacies. Our representatives are our family – and we will continue to treat them that way.

Further, the BD of the Year award gives us the opportunity to take our strengths up to the next level, improve upon our weaknesses, and show appreciation to those who think so highly of us. 

If you would like to see the article written about us (and other runners-up) by Investment Advisor Magazine, you can check it out here: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2020/08/26/the-broker-dealers-of-2020-the-runners-up/.

To our representatives: WE LOVE YOU! Thank you for ranking us as a top BD!

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me via email at jbacarella@bdops.com.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Silent Auction Held to Benefit the Parkland Scholarship Fund

By Jennifer Bacarella, Executive, Director Firm Development

Last week, SPS Family held an in-house silent auction to benefit our fourth year of the Parkland Scholarship Fund. Management and staff were encouraged to scour their homes and find items that they no longer needed or wanted – since one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. With the majority of our staff still working from home, it was a little more difficult to manage the silent auction – but a few great staff members worked as bid advocates for those offsite employees and SPS Family was able to raise $474 to go toward the scholarship fund.

As you know, on February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida fell victim to a gunman who left the school with 17 fewer beautiful souls than it had that morning.  As the news spread across the country, my teenage daughter looked at me and said, “Mom, this school is in Parkland, Florida, and your company’s name is Parkland Securities.” Seeing her trying to comprehend the severity of the situation while also correlating the two names was heartbreaking to me. The fact kids her age – across the country – were dealing with so much heartache, confusion, anger, anxiety, and so many more emotions, just crushed me. I knew we had to do something.

We organized a charity within our Give & Deliver SPS Family Charitable Foundation called the Parkland Scholarship Fund. Our back-office staff put together multiple fundraising efforts throughout the year to provide scholarships for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. On May 15, 2018, SPS Family gifted three scholarships to seniors of MSDHS in our first year. On May 19, 2019, SPS Family gifted five scholarships. Due to COVID-19, SPS Family had less time to fundraise than previous years but we were still able to award three scholarships to the class of 2020. This year, we are starting early, and are very proud to have already raised nearly $500 toward the 2021 scholarship program.

The MSDHS Class of 2021 will be the last class of students who would have had personal experience being present at the high school during the horrific events. Now, years later, as they begin senior year, they face a global pandemic with its multiple effects on education, social interaction, and everyday life. If you ever wanted to know what tough, brave, unstoppable people look like – take a look at these students. They deserve our support.  

We are always looking for creative fundraising ideas, so if you have any suggestions, please let us know! If you are interested in donating to the Parkland Scholarship Fund, please reach out to Jennifer Bacarella by email at jbacarella@bdops.com.

SPS Family Auction Items

About Give & Deliver SPS Family Charitable Foundation

The Foundation has applied for 501(c)3 exemption status with the IRS. The application is pending. The Parkland Scholarship Fund is an initiative within the Foundation’s purview. Renee Barrington, President, is assisted by two officers and five directors in handling Foundation business.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Strategies for Clients Who Need Cash During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Erica Eros | Case Planning – Qualified Plans

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to temporary changes to the IRA withdrawal rules. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed into law to help provide relief from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The CARES Act provides more flexibility to make emergency withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts during 2020. The following strategies may help an IRA owner tap into retirement funds early, penalty-free.

Coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs)

Coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) are a source of funds available for those who qualify. A CRD is a distribution of up to $100,000 from an IRA or company-sponsored retirement plan withdrawn in 2020 penalty-free. A distribution can be taken as a lump sum or in several distributions up to an accumulated total of $100,000. The funds are taxable, but the income can be spread over three years, and the funds can be repaid over that time to reduce or eliminate the tax burden.*

To qualify for a CRD, an IRA owner, a spouse, or a member of the IRA owner’s principal residence must have experienced one or more of the following:

  • A COVID-19 diagnosis, or whose spouse or dependent has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Adverse financial consequences due to being quarantined, laid-off, furloughed, or whose work hours were reduced due to a COVID-19-related closure, work reduction, or child-care facility closure.
  • A job offer rescinded, or start date delayed, due to the pandemic.
  • A reduction of pay or self-employment income.

Once-per-year 60-day rollover rule temporarily waived

The CARES Act includes a waiver of the once-per-year 60-day rollover rule. This waiver may benefit a client who had begun taking monthly RMDs in 2020. The waiver allows an IRA owner to roll back the RMDs taken to date and redeposit them in the RMD source account until August 31, 2020. This waiver only applies to the amount of RMDs taken. Normal rules resume after August 31.

Roth IRA withdrawals – consider last as a source

Roth IRAs should be last on the list for withdrawing funds because these dollars have already been taxed and growth is tax-free. Once an IRA owner reaches age 59 ½ and has met the 5-year holding period threshold, money can be withdrawn tax-free. The dollars actually contributed to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn tax-free at any time and any age. This amount is the sum of deposits…it does not include earnings generated by depositsinterest income, dividends, and capital gains.

If you have any questions, please contact Erica Eros from SPS Family’s Case Planning – Qualified Plans Team by email at eeros@bdops.com.

*Note: Registered Representatives do not provide tax advice. Clients must be directed to seek the counsel of a CPA and/or tax advisor for advice specific to their situation.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

5 Things I Learned as a Panelist at the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit

By Jennifer Bacarella, Executive, Director Firm Development

I have been associated with InvestmentNews Women Advisor Summit for a few years now as a panelist and a moderator. This year, like most conferences, the summit moved to a virtual platform. I was a little bummed at first thinking I would miss many in-person opportunities to build relationships with fellow industry women. Turns out, though, the virtual event actually opened many new doors and provided a longer reach for networking!

One of the biggest pros of having a virtual Summit is that it’s free! The Summit offers limited spots because… well… technology… BUT in years past, this was a paid event held in specific cities. If you were not located near one of the Summit cities, chances are you weren’t going to attend. Now, you can attend the event FOR FREE from the comfort of your home or office.

So, without further ado, here are the 5 main points I learned from my panelist partners during the August 4th virtual session:

5) Culture: Working remotely has been successful, but many companies are struggling with keeping their culture alive. Technology tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom help, but the lack of daily in-person communication can clearly take a toll on culture. However we choose to approach the issue, we need to target culture in some of our communications efforts.

4) Training: Hiring new employees is always important but training them has proven difficult. If you hire a new employee during this time, make sure you have a concrete plan of action for training remotely.

3) Technology: Investing in technology that meets the needs of this new way of work life is a must. This may be a large upfront expense, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

2) Retention: Many companies have learned their way around the new remote world. The wide embrace of remote work allows your employees to shop around for a new employer they may not have thought possible before due to physical location. With new flexibility comes new opportunities – so make sure you communicate with your employees often and maintain the great relationship you have built.

1) Recruiting: Similarly, you as an employer now have the ability to throw your recruiting net over a larger area of talent. Use this! In the past, many firms had to limit their search to potential employees within their geographic location, regardless of a potential hire’s skill level, education, or experience. Now, with remote work proving successful, you can widen your search and find your perfect candidate, regardless of location. 

Next InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit Coming Soon!

Take advantage of sharing issues, ideas, and solutions at the next InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, which will be held virtually on August 25 and 26. Reserve your spot now by visiting: https://investmentnews.eventscase.com/attendance/event/index/37646/EN

If you have the time to attend, I definitely recommend you joining us. The Summit features so many smart, amazing panelists – and I am honored to share the virtual stage with them! We hope to see you there!

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

PANDEMIC DOWNTIME? USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

By Keith Craig and Ken White | Practice Management

We are experiencing unusual times! Times like we have never experienced before, and times we hope to never see again. However, you can use this time to make your business BETTER!

Now is a great time to work ON your business since you’re likely spending a bit less time working IN your business.

Think about doing some of the following:

  1. Crosstrain Key Employees.
  2. Create Job Descriptions for Your Staff.
  3. Satisfy Your CE Requirements.
  4. Expand Your Knowledge through Webinars.
  5. Create Workflows & Document the Processes You Use.
  6. Update Client Information in Redtail CRM.
  7. Establish a Marketing Calendar for the Next 12 Months.
  8. Perform Due Diligence on Products and Platforms.
  9. Segment Your Book of Business and Study It.
  10. Peruse Horsesmouth & MarketingLibrary as well as Survival Stack.
  11. Schedule and Take Docupace Training.
  12. Reach Out to Fellow Advisors and Share Ideas.
  13. Take Online Training on Redtail CRM.
  14. Experiment with Riskalyze to Become More Adept.
  15. Brainstorm with Co-Workers and Staff on Client Relationships.
  16. Take a Look at Your Office and Update its Look and Feel.
  17. Learn How to Conduct Video Meetings More Efficiently.
  18. Take Broker-Dealer Training on Social Media and Establish Your Online Presence.
  19. Update Your Firm’s Website.
  20. Plan a Pandemic-Safe Client Appreciation Event.

We hope this list gives you a few ideas that will help you move your business forward. As always, feel free to contact the Practice Management Team for assistance. Email us at PracticeManagement@bdops.com.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Behavioral Finance – Reopening the Economy & Consumer Behavior

By Cheryl Harwell | Case Planning & Practice Management

Behavioral Finance – Reopening the Economy & Consumer Behavior

When COVID-19 first hit the U.S., it was only a matter of weeks that the ordinary acts Americans took for granted became fraught with concern. Going to the store, getting a haircut, dining out with friends and family, taking a flight…all suddenly introduced risk. States locked down, businesses closed, and consumers stayed home. Our economy, for the most part, came to a screeching halt.

Today, as states attempt to reopen their economies, it’s unlikely that consumers will immediately return to their “normal” pre-pandemic behaviors…first, they want to feel safe. How quickly and robustly the U.S. economy rebounds will be shaped in large part by emotion.

Cautious consumers may delay their reentry into the economy until they think it is completely safe to do so, both physically and financially. Of course, just about everyone was ready for a haircut, risk or no risk. These consumers’ concerns about their well-being have definite implications for retailers, restaurants, airlines, workout facilities, theaters, and other consumer-oriented businesses.

Citing a recent article in Forbes Magazine, titled “How Will the Pandemic Change Consumer Behavior,” written by Kian Bakhtiari:

“On an individual level, the pandemic is likely to cause two opposing social behaviors. For a large section of the population, COVID-19 provides an ideal opportunity to re-evaluate their current lifestyle choices, adjust, and reset their lives. You only have to take a look at the number of people who have used their newfound time to exercise, start a new skill, or make a career transition. For instance, sales of Peloton bikes have jumped nearly 66% and LinkedIn has reported a 3x increase in time spent learning.

“Although it feels like we’re going to change the way we live forever, things are never that simple. If anything, we know that human beings are not very good at sticking to new habits. In the U.S., 44% of adults make a New Year’s resolution — and the most popular is going to the gym. But we also know 80% will quit within five months. Even if there won’t be a “normal” to go back to — once lockdown is over — levels of adaptability and will vary among different groups.

“The pandemic is likely to produce two distinctive behavioral archetypes: people who have embraced a new lifestyle and those who have largely remained unchanged. The emergence of the new behavioral group is going to have a transformative impact on the future of brands. Inevitably, there will be winners and losers. Some brands will need to figure out how to win back old customers with new mindsets. Whereas, other brands will use the opportunity to steal market share by appealing to consumers newly formed lifestyles. Regardless, marketers should have these two distinct archetypes in mind when updating their customer segments.”

Due to the emotional impact this pandemic has had (and continues to have) on consumers, representatives have been presented an extraordinary opportunity. Clients and prospects seek safety and hope for a secure future. That’s where planning fits…planning financial professionals can provide.

Reach out to your clients and talk with them – not just about their account balances and performance, but about how they are feeling. Show empathy, and help them plan. They will appreciate your ear and your advice, and you will reap the rewards by receiving their gratitude and their referrals.

Would you like to discuss behavioral finance and how it plays into the “reopening” mindset? Send me a note at charwell@bdops.com. I’d be happy to discuss the present and the future for your financial practice.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

BEST PRACTICES for this UNPRECEDENTED TIME

By Keith Craig and Ken White | Case Planning

With Excerpts from Financial Independence Group (FIG)’s COVID-19 Response

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread across the U.S. sickening and killing people while also affecting markets through uncertainty and fear, no one may know your clients’ major concerns better than you.

Some people react emotionally to a large market downturn, or even the prediction of one, and feel their retirement savings will be lost forever. We believe longer term market trends will return because they have historically – we’re just not exactly sure when – and, of course, there is no guarantee. We can help clients and prospects through this troubling time through positive engagement and portfolio reviews.

Some people may ask you to help identify the market bottom, or an individual stock’s low point, so they can make sure to get invested at the right time. We know timing the market rarely works and is an inadvisable strategy. We can educate our clients and prospects.

Many people, especially those who are older, are frightened and worried about their own health because of COVID-19. We need to rely on our adjusted communications strategy using phone calls, online videoconferences, and emails for as long as it takes for clients and prospects to feel comfortable again.

Other clients have lost their jobs, at least temporarily, or their businesses may be barely surviving. We may personally relate to much of this ourselves. We can be empathetic advocates for clients.

Your clients and prospects are currently dealing with many threats to their sense of well-being. We want you to know that the SPS Family home office is committed to providing representatives with access to relevant content, best practices, marketing ideas, client letters, and more during this unprecedented time!

One of our business associates, Financial Independence Group (FIG), released a clear, concise, helpful whitepaper on how best to respond to COVID-19 and its effects. A few excerpts with SPS Family comments added appear below. You may download your own free copy of FIG’s whitepaper here: https://www.figmarketing.com/#!/ProductRD

BEST PRACTICES

Over-communicate with your clients, prospects, and staff

  • Pick up the phone & call your clients.
  • Send clients relevant content via email. SPS Family has provided multiple client letter templates to customize and use. SPS Family also provides a MarketingLibrary subscription, which reps can access for new content daily.
  • Set up videoconference meetings with clients for one-on-one face time. SPS Family provides the Online Meeting application for doing so.

Redirect your marketing dollars – find best practices

  • Send gifts: Wellness Basket, Games, Books, Puzzles, etc.
  • Offer online Webinars for client and prospect groups. Do your homework using research provided by SPS Family through our own website and through Horsesmouth, which we provide for reps.
  • Invest in Video Equipment to upgrade your capabilities.

Be a leader and serve your community (local rules must be followed)

  • Start a Food Bank (pick-up from your office). Ask clients to help provide items for a pantry. Or join an existing one as a volunteer and encourage clients to help.
  • Support your local veterans who may be deeply affected by many current events, some of whom are homeless, which is an absolute tragedy. SPS Family is dedicated to honoring and helping our veterans.
  • Volunteer with local media to be on standby as a financial professional for interviews on topics affecting people’s finances (subject to Compliance review).

MARKETING IDEAS

Use Social Media to connect & engage. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter may be used by SPS Family representatives (subject to Compliance training and best practices).

  • Post information about local resources.
  • Provide POSITIVE messaging.
  • Establish yourself as a thought-leader. Write a blog or whitepaper occasionally and share it. SPS Family Compliance will assist in approving content, language, and delivery method in a consultative manner.

Use your website to connect & engage and establish a “home base” for clients.

  • Post relevant content (see above).
  • Be positive and encouraging. We can help our clients plan. This may be the greatest time to look at investment strategies, time horizon, and risk tolerance. SPS Family provides Riskalyze to reps to assist in talking about risk and establishing a better understanding of what tolerance actually means.
  • Offer your services to clients’ friends and acquaintances who fit your ideal client profile. You can share your skills, training, and experience more broadly. These turbulent times lend themselves to referrals.
  • Use video on your website and online whenever you can. People are attracted to video and spend more time with it.

Please contact Keith Craig, SPS Family’s marketing consultant, at kcraig@bdops.com to discuss any of the ideas shared above in more detail.

Compliance Notes: SPS Family representatives are required to submit public-facing material to Compliance for review and approval prior to use. Representatives must adhere to gift limits and all gifts must be entered on our online Gift Log.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

For Investment Professional Use Only. Not for Public Distribution.

The power of “unsubscribing”

By Kristi Delongchamp | Firm Development

Unsubscribe! Free yourself.

Are you like me and get so many emails nowadays that you spend more time deleting them than you do actually responding to the important ones? If you are, please keep reading…if not, please call me to educate me on your process! I need you in my life!

We all say, “just email me,” or we sign up for access to a website or discount when prompted. “Seems interesting…I’ll get back to that later.” Click. That quick response can sometimes be our own worst enemy as we impose unnecessary stress on ourselves. It can be overwhelming to open your email and see that you have a specific number (which will be different for all of us) of emails waiting to be opened. Such a daunting pile of guilt we build up for ourselves.

Years ago, I asked my manager if she was busy or if I could ask a question. She responded that it was “unsubscribe Tuesday” and she just needed 5 more minutes. Well, that statement intrigued me so when she became available, that was the first thing I asked her. “What is ‘unsubscribe Tuesday’? Do I need that although I don’t even know what it is?” She explained that she got so many emails that she had to figure out a way to manage her time better. She said she got to a point where she decided to schedule a day on her calendar to go into all her unwanted emails and unsubscribe. Can you say GENUIS? Rather than wasting precious time each day, she would simply move them to an “unsubscribe” folder in her email and then she would go in on her scheduled day and unsubscribe. She said every time she did it, she felt so refreshed. It was almost a freeing sensation. SOLD! 

Since that conversation almost 10 years ago, I still follow this philosophy and process. I honestly believe  it has a huge impact on one’s emotional state. It gives you the freedom to sign up for the discount or to provide an email address when prompted, but then gives you a way to efficiently remove yourself from the dreaded unwanted future solicitations. 

There are only 24 hours in a day, and you can’t make any more hours, so you have to find ways to “work smarter, not harder.” This has been a lifesaver for me and hopefully you will find value in it as well.  If you do, remember to pay it forward and tell your friends, family, and co-workers so they too can lead a happier, healthier lifestyle.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

We Care About Our Representatives…and it’s not just talk.

By Michele Bergeron, Firm Development

All Broker-Dealers say they care about their reps, but do they show it?

At the SPS Family, actions speak louder than words. We show our reps we know them… and care about them… every day. Here are a few examples:

SPS Family sends reps…

  • a Happy Anniversary certificate for milestones registered with us (5, 10, 15, 20 years, etc.)
  • a personalized Holiday card signed by all staff
  • a personalized Birthday card signed by all staff

SPS Family recognizes Reps’ life moments:

  • If a Rep has an addition to the family, such as a baby son or daughter or new grandchild, we send a joyful note and a baby gift.
  • If someone passes away (Rep’s spouse, parent, sibling, etc.), we send our condolences and a gift of inspirational notes.
  • If a Rep gets married, we send our congratulations and a wedding gift.
  • If a Rep has a surgery, we send our encouragement and a cheerful get-well basket to help with recovery.
  • If a Rep gets a new dog or cat, we send a happy note and a fun pet gift.

Do you feel like a number at your current BD? We treat our independent Reps like family. You and your support staff will develop personal relationships with us. It’s the only way we do business.

We invite you to start building our relationship today. Let’s talk.

Join the SPS Family! Reps have frequently told us it was the best move of their career.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

 

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

SPS Family Named 4-Time Finalist for 2020 WealthManagement Industry Awards

We are proud to announce that the SPS Family has been named a 4-time finalist in the 2020 WealthManagement Industry Awards (the “Wealthies”). 

Collectively, our three firms (Sigma Financial Corporation, Parkland Securities, LLC, and Sigma Planning Corporation) are delighted to be finalists in categories that include Corporate Responsibility, Service, Thought Leadership, and CEO of the Year.

In years past, Sigma Financial has won awards for Social Media Leadership and Practice Management, while Parkland Securities has won for Corporate Responsibility and Thought Leadership. 

This year’s event will be much different than in previous years. As with most large gatherings in 2020, the awards ceremony has converted to a virtual experience. The good news is the format opens the opportunity to be more inclusive with our financial representatives and staff. We are super excited to share this experience with everyone!

Look for more information about our initiatives and the awards ceremony as it gets closer. The virtual event is set to take place on September 10, 2020.

For more information about the Wealthies, check out WealthManagement.com’s press release: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/06/16/2048976/0/en/WealthManagement-com-Announces-2020-Industry-Awards-Finalists-and-Expanded-Digital-Programs.html

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Behavioral Finance and Current Events

By Cheryl Harwell | Case Planning

Behavioral Finance and Current Events

The Coronavirus Pandemic and COVID-19: quarantines, temporary business shutdowns, market volatility, unemployment, gradual reopenings. All of this is enough, it seems, to challenge, if not shatter, our confidence. We are enduring a physical and emotional upheaval of our normalcy.

Because of the current situation, many of us are doing the wrong thing with our investments. We act emotionally rather than rationally. Important reasons to stay in touch with clients and prospects follow. When we help them through this upheaval, and they don’t end up making choices they will regret, you have a client for life.

  • Your clients and prospects need you now more than ever. They are concerned. They need a sounding board. They need reassurance and a voice of reason. They need calm. Having conversations with them can help ease their minds, and you might even learn something new about them.
  • Constantly watching the markets go up and down can make one miserable and can lead to rash, poor decisions. Selling all equities and moving only to cash or bonds is not a wise choice. One must look at investing for the long-term. You can help by simply telling clients to reduce their market and statement watching to monthly or quarterly. After all, isn’t it the overall goal to invest for the long-term?
  • Try to help your clients and prospects reframe the situation. Tell them to see the market drops as everything being on sale; that they should see this situation as a buying opportunity rather than a selling emergency. They will thank you later.
  • Use this time as an opportunity to reevaluate client risk and reevaluate portfolio allocations. Discussing risk tolerance during times of volatility tends to bring out more truth in how the client really feels about loss. For many, the negative impacts of past market volatility events have faded, or perhaps haven’t even been experienced. This situation can actually help ground clients and solidify their true tolerance for these situations.
  • Take the time to learn about changes from the SECURE Act and the CARES Act and subsequent legislation so you can help clients take advantage of new opportunities created by these laws. For example, clients who already received their RMDs for 2020 may return the dollars to their IRA. Clients who have not yet taken them do not need to get the assets this year. RMDs take one year off, all of 2020, courtesy of the CARES Act.

In summary, this is a tough time for all of us. You can help ease the difficulty by reaching out to your clients and prospects and helping guide them through. If you do, you will solidify and strengthen your client relationships. Your clients will appreciate this and, in turn, will most likely share some great referrals.

Would you like to discuss Behavioral Finance? Talk about prospecting in a downturn? Send me an email! Cheryl Harwell = charwell@bdops.com.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

We Cultivate Next Generation Financial Advisors

By Jennifer Bacarella | Executive Director of Firm Development

We Cultivate Next Generation Financial Advisors

As an executive of SPS Family for the last 25 years, I have experienced many different industry trends and challenges. I discovered it was vital for me to become an advocate, educator, and supporter for the industry I am so passionate about. 

For the last two years, I have presented as a panelist at the Women Adviser Summit hosted by InvestmentNews. My goal for sitting on this panel was to discuss the importance of educating the next generation on financial literacy and the financial services industry as a whole. When people think of the financial industry, most people instantly think “stock traders” or “stockbrokers.” While this is one aspect of the business, our industry has many other fascinating areas for individuals to explore. 

During my most recent panel with three of my industry peers, I discussed the immediate need for expanding the number of producing financial advisors because our rep base is aging. We must bring qualified candidates into the business and groom them to take over existing practices. This is a huge current need.

I used the opportunity to discuss steps my firm is taking to address the situation. We seek to build a new, young financial advisor base across the industry. Since initial cost is a major barrier to entry, we made the financial decision to help reduce some of that burden by offering to cover the SIE exam for individuals committed to entering the industry. We have also established mentorship and continued education opportunities to help these young men and women obtain real life experience. 

We will always have a need for financial literacy and experienced, ethical advisors to help our fellow Americans plan for their retirement and life events.

Our industry will continue to evolve in the upcoming years. We intend to do our best to recognize needs before they become critical, help the industry navigate through challenges, and grow stronger than we’ve ever been. Join us in this effort!

To watch the full discussion, visit: https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1301921&tp_key=feb1b19f46

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

2020 Pandemic High School Graduations

By Kristi Delongchamp | Firm Development

Graduating from high school is a time for celebrating accomplishments, enjoying prom and senior all-nighters, and walking across the stage to receive your diploma. This year, that celebration has been completely turned upside-down. 

I was overwhelmed with sadness when I realized that my high school graduate wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience those “typical” senior activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s ironic because most of these kids were born during the 9/11 crisis and now they’re graduating during a world health pandemic with really no closure to their senior year…they are the class of “unprecedented times” yet they just kind of roll with the punches. They just seem to take things in stride.  

To me, high school graduation is one of those milestones that you never forget…an experience that stays with you for a lifetime. I love that teachers and administrators across our country are not allowing this virus to define our children and downplay their achievements. We have seen educational institutions thinking outside the box holding various events to honor our seniors. Some schools have hosted virtual graduations or “drive-thru/drive-in” graduations while other districts are holding out hope they will be able to host in-person ceremonies later in the year. 

My son’s school has taken “porch pictures” of the graduates in their caps and gowns and posted them on social media. My neighbors decided to hold a “drive-by” graduation parade to honor the kids since we had two graduates in the neighborhood. Our town has pulled together and organized an “adopt-a-senior” campaign where families “adopted” graduates and dropped off baskets of goodies to show and celebrate their accomplishments. My employer engaged our staff for some help to personally recognize graduates of our staff and advisors. We haven’t given it to the seniors yet…so I can’t go into detail and spoil the surprise, but it’s great to see everyone come together!

If you know of a graduate, I challenge you to make sure to let them know their achievements haven’t gone unnoticed. Let them know how incredibly proud we are of them. The smallest gestures can be memories of a lifetime! Remember, this is a great time to pay it forward to others. Random acts of kindness honoring someone doesn’t always require heavy lifting…and social distancing doesn’t mean going unnoticed and forgotten!

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Behavioral Finance: Implement Behavioral Finance in Your Client Interactions

By Cheryl Harwell | Case Planning

Behavioral Finance: Implement Behavioral Finance in Your Client Interactions

While financial professionals can’t completely offset biases that they or their clients maintain, there are ways to reduce the potential negative impact that these biases may have on investment outcomes.

One maxim: Chasing the “hot dot” – great recent and past performance – expecting future results to continue recent market trends – is a poor strategy. This invites irrational decision-making and can cause one to buy and sell at the wrong times.

Create a plan with your clients and stick to it. Resist the temptation to constantly question the plan and switch from one strategy to another.

Take a systematic approach to help reduce the effect emotions have on investment decisions. Setting guidelines for managing the portfolio can help minimize making decisions based on emotion.

Implement a long-term view. Remind clients of their investment goals during periods of volatility, ensuring that they adhere to those goals. This can help reduce emotional reactions and avoid making poor investment decisions.

Keep your clients’ risk profiles and known biases in mind when developing their asset allocation. This will help ensure that they stay invested and focus on their long-term objectives. Accurately recognizing your clients’ risk profiles during the portfolio construction process will aid in preparing you to deal with other client biases as they become known.

Think about how the elements of a portfolio work together. Educate your clients – explain to them what tends to happen with different types of investments during up and down markets, so they won’t be surprised when it does happen. Surprises could crumble their confidence in their plan. This lack of confidence may lead clients to switch their strategy to one that may be detrimental to achieving their goals.

Separate your clients’ overall portfolio into different “buckets” allocated to different goals. By doing this, you can help your clients measure their progress toward each specific goal, such as retirement, college funding, vacations, home purchase, etc., which can reduce the chances that the client will overreact to a dramatic market move, then regret it later.

Lastly, be mindful of your own biases – the reactions to situations and events you are prone to experience. These affect your behavior with and recommendations to your clients. Take an objective personal inventory. When certain events occur, how do they generally affect you and your actions, attitudes, words, and tone? Work to improve your own reactions.

Integrating behavioral finance concepts into your client interactions can help you better manage client expectations, assist clients to prioritize their goals, improve investment decisions, and strengthen trust, ultimately deepening your client relationships and increasing client retention within your practice. All this can also lead to more and better client referrals.

Would you like to discuss these concepts? Send me an email at charwell@bdops.com.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

What Are We at SPS Family Proud Of?

By Jennifer Bacarella | Executive Director of Firm Development

What Are We at SPS Family Proud Of?

One of the questions we get asked most during recruitment is, “How are you different than other independent broker-dealers?”

The fact is, many broker-dealers offer the same types of services such as licensing, compliance, and operations, in addition to similar incentives. And all broker-dealers say they offer great service.

So, while we understand being different is important, we think showing what we are proud of may be a better way to showcase what we DELIVER.

We are proud to offer our employees tuition reimbursement for their bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as licensing reimbursements. We have a highly educated home office staff.

We are proud to offer back office staff a free healthcare insurance option. A healthy back office is a happy back office.

We are proud that the average tenure for back office staff is 8 years.

We are proud that our 4 executives have a combined 111 years between them with SPS Family (an average of 28 years each).

We are proud that our Executive of Firm Development, Jennifer Bacarella (me!), was named a 2018 InvestmentNews Woman to Watch, as well as a Crain’s Detroit Notable Woman in Finance. I am also a member of the board of directors for Women In Financial Services (WIFS).

We are proud to donate to military charities every year. In 2019, we donated over $65,000 to the Folds of Honor Foundation.

We are proud to offer our representatives a technology stack that saves them hundreds of dollars by not having to purchase these systems individually.

We are proud to have a Legacy TrackTM in which each advisor receives specific guidance aligned with the business track they are on.

We are proud that our compliance team is proactive and collaborative rather than reactive and combative.

We are proud to offer Practice Management and Case Planning teams, available to all SPS Family representatives, to help with specific representative business and planning needs.

We are proud to have a Relationship Management team that keeps our representatives feeling like family non-stop, not just through the recruiting process.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! If you would like to know what else might make our family special, we would love to chat! Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Behavioral Finance: Helping Yourself and Your Clients During These Uncertain Times

By Cheryl Harwell | Case Planning

Behavioral Finance: Helping Yourself and Your Clients During These Uncertain Times

The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is wreaking havoc not only on the markets but also on people’s psyches. This pandemic is causing a lot of angst and even some panic. It is definitely a challenge to remain calm when everything around us seems to be in chaos. In such an environment, financial professionals are in a unique position. They can help themselves and their clients manage anxiety about money, investments, and market volatility.

To help manage stress, we must first take care of ourselves. Be sure to get adequate sleep, exercise, healthy food, clean water. Find ways to relax and enjoy your time with your family. Limit your time watching the markets or listening to the news. Advise your clients to do the same.

Finally, help yourself and your clients become self-aware by taking time to run through the 4 “R’s” of behavioral finance: Recognize, Reflect, Reframe, Respond.

The 4 “R’s” are explained by Chuck Wachendorfer of “Think 2 Perform” as follows:

Recognize. Pause and ask yourself the following 3 questions: What am I thinking right now? Emotionally, how am I feeling right now? Physically, what am I doing right now? Just the elements of a reality check: thoughts, emotions, physical experience. Practicing several times a day will make self-awareness happen. If I’m aware that I’m angry, excited, exuberant, etc., then I am also aware that I could be in the position to make an irrational decision.

Reflect. Once I recognize my cognitive, emotional state, then I reflect on the big picture. When I reflect on my values and what I care about most, hopefully, I begin to calm down. The process of reflecting and calming forces the engagement of the cognitive brain, rather than just the emotional brain. It won’t make anyone smarter, but it will increase and improve their access to their intelligence. That’s why we say it’s not about how smart you are…it’s about how able you are to access how smart you are. That in turn allows us to move to the third “R.”

Reframe. Reframe my thinking. Framing is how I normally think about something. Reframing is reevaluating and changing how I think about something. Now that I’m able to access the cognitive part of my brain, I can begin to weigh my alternatives and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. I change how I’m thinking about something in light of the values I just reflected upon. If I think, “I value this; therefore, I should do this,” we can move to the last “R.”

Respond. I can respond. I can make decisions consistent with my goals and values. These types of decisions are more rational.

It’s important to note that on average, over time, rational decisions work better than irrational decisions. This does not mean irrational decisions never work, nor does it mean that rational decisions always work.

Hopefully, the market and this pandemic will settle down and our country can return to some sense of normalcy sooner rather than later. Using the above practices now, and at all times, can help us to weather the storms we experience not just during extreme times but also on a regular basis throughout our lives.

If you’d like to discuss Behavioral Finance, please send me an email at charwell@bdops.com.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

“Must-Ask” Questions when Looking for a new Broker-Dealer!

By Matt Vigo

“Must-Ask” Questions when Looking for a new Broker-Dealer!

The fact of the matter is switching broker-dealers is actually very simple… a handful of paperwork and off you go. Furthermore, transitioning clients and accounts to a new firm may be time-consuming but can also be quite straightforward PROVIDED you find the “right” Broker-Dealer and support system.

What’s not so simple: Finding that “right” Broker-Dealer and support system!

As a result, all too often, registered representatives realize only after the dust settles and the honeymoon is over that their new firm is not what they had thought… or worse… were led to believe.

Registered Representatives must perform due diligence and conduct a thorough examination and review of the prospective Broker-Dealer prior to switching – NOT AFTER!

To help, below are “Must-Ask” questions for anyone look for a new Broker-Dealer.  

This first list of questions consists of what we call “run-of-the-mill, vanilla” questions.

  • Culture
  • Number of Registered Representatives
  • Representative to Employee Ratio
  • Turnover
  • Regulatory, Disciplinary, and Disclosure History
  • Payout Levels and Rules
  • Initial and Ongoing Fees and Costs
  • Average Representative Revenue
  • Firm’s Ideal Representative
  • Services and Support

This second list, however, includes what we call “the last Firm I’ll ever be affiliated with” questions.

  • Technology package, integration capabilities, cost
  • E&O carrier, cost, and coverage, (i.e., products, prior acts, etc.)
  • Marketing and branding systems, programs, and support
  • Do you help your Representatives grow their practices and if so, how?
  • Can I see your selling agreement list? Is your firm open to new agreements?
  • What is your Firm’s policy and/or restrictions regarding Outside Business Activities?
  • Can your firm service my business mix?
  • Does your firm provide Succession services and/or support? 
  • Can you walk me through your Sales Processing procedure!
  • Are your forms online?
  • Do you offer e-Signature?
  • What is the average turnaround time regarding sales, marketing & advertising, etc.?
  • Does your firm offer training? What about one-on-one Rep Training or Rep’s staff training?
  • Does your firm have an annual conference? Top producer conferences? Who pays for what? 
  • Ownership of the firm?
  • Management structure of the firm?
  • Business continuity plan in response to a disaster? What is the plan?
  • Succession plan should something unexpected happen to the owner(s)? What is the plan? Is it written and current?
  • Financial stability of Firm (i.e., debt, cash reserves, etc.)

It takes more than “vanilla questions” to find that Broker-Dealer you want to work with in your most productive years as well as in your transition / retirement years. Take your time. This endeavor is a “must-get-right” quest.

If you’d like to talk about Broker-Dealer transitions, send our Firm Development group an email at FD@bdops.com. We’re happy to discuss your situation!

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Implement Behavioral Finance in Your Client Interactions

By Cheryl Harwell | Case Planning

Implement Behavioral Finance in Your Client Interactions

While advisors can’t completely offset biases that they or their clients maintain, there are ways to reduce the potential negative impact that these biases may have on investment outcomes.

One maxim: Chasing the “hot dot” – great recent and past performance – expecting future results to continue recent market trends – is a poor strategy. It invites irrational decision-making and can cause one to buy and sell at the wrong times.

Create a plan with your clients and stick to it. Resist the temptation to constantly question the plan and switch from one strategy to another.

Take a systematic approach. This can help reduce the effect that emotions have on investment decisions. Setting guidelines for managing the portfolio can help minimize making decisions based on emotion.

Implement a long-term view. Remind clients of their investment goals during periods of volatility, ensuring that they adhere to those goals. This can help reduce emotional reactions and avoid making poor investment decisions.

Keep your clients’ biases in mind when developing their asset allocation. This will help ensure that they stay invested and focus on their long-term objectives. Accurately recognizing your clients’ risk profiles during the portfolio construction process will aid in preparing you to deal with your clients’ biases as they become known.

Think about how the elements of a portfolio work together. Educate your clients – explain to them what tends to happen with different types of investments during up and down markets so they won’t be surprised when it does happen. Surprises could crumble their confidence in their plan. This lack of confidence may lead clients to switch their strategy to one that may be detrimental to their plan.

Separate your clients’ overall portfolio into different “buckets” that are allocated to different goals. By doing this, you can help your clients measure their progress toward each specific goal that they have, such as retirement, college funding, vacations, home purchase, etc., which can reduce the chances that the client will overreact to a dramatic market move, then regret it later.

Lastly, be mindful of your own biases – the reactions to situations and events you are prone to experience. These affect your behavior with and recommendations to your clients. Take an objective personal inventory. When certain events occur, how do they generally affect you and your actions, attitudes, words, and tone? Work to improve your own reactions.

Integrating behavioral finance concepts into your client interactions can help you better manage client expectations, assist clients in prioritizing their goals, improve investment decisions, and strengthen trust, ultimately deepening your client relationships and increasing client retention within your practice.

Would you like to discuss these concepts? Contact me at charwell@bdops.com I’m happy to discuss!

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

The “Broker Protocol” FACTs & FAQs

By Matt Vigo

The “Broker Protocol” FACTs & FAQs

FACTs

  • The “Broker Protocol” (Protocol) is an agreement that was created in August 2004.
  • The Protocol protects Registered Representatives (RR) who seek to move from one signatory firm to another.
  • The Protocol was originally signed by Smith Barney (now Morgan Stanley), Merrill Lynch, and UBS.
  • The Protocol’s principal goal:
    • In legal terms: “…to further the clients’ interests of privacy and freedom of choice in connection with the movement of their Registered Representatives (“RR”) between firms.” – The Broker Protocol: https://www.thebrokerProtocol.com/index.php/authors/read-the-Protocol
    • In layman’s terms: To allow Registered Representatives (RRs) and/or Investment Adviser Representatives (IARs) the ability to switch firms without fear of legal action.
  • The Protocol governs when and how RRs/IARs can contact their clients and what information can be taken from their old firm to the new firm.
  • When RRs/IARs move from one firm to another and both firms are signatories to the Protocol, they are allowed to take with them: client name, address, phone number, email address, and account title.

FAQs

Q1 – Who is covered by the Broker Protocol?

A1 – The Protocol protects “registered representatives” who seek to move from one signatory “firm” to another. The term “registered representative” is not defined in the agreement, but the term is defined by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rules as follows:

“The term ‘registered representative’ means an employee engaged in the solicitation or handling of accounts or orders for the purchase or sale of securities, or other similar instruments, for the accounts of customers of his employer or in the solicitation or handling of business in connection with investment advisory or investment management services furnished on a fee basis by his employer.”

The Protocol also does not define which “firms” are qualified to join the Protocol and seek protection under its terms for their newly hired “registered representatives.” While some have argued that the Protocol was intended to cover only broker-dealers, the agreement does not say that, and hundreds of Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) have joined the Protocol.

Q2 – Can an individual broker or advisor join the Protocol?

A2 – No. Only employer “firms” such as broker-dealers and RIAs can join the Protocol.

Q3 – As a registered representative changing broker-dealers, what information can I take with me?

A3 – If your old and new firms are members of the Protocol, you are permitted to take the name, address, phone number, email address, and account title for every client that you personally serviced at your former firm, subject to certain limitations for partnerships and retirement agreements. You are not permitted to take any other documents or information concerning the accounts of your clients.

Q4 – Can I obtain account numbers or statements for my clients after I move?

A4 – Yes. The new firm can request client account numbers, most recent account statements, or holding information from the former firm by forwarding an authorization signed by the client.

Q5 – What do I have to do to claim protection under the Protocol?

A5 – You should provide a written resignation letter to your branch manager and attach a copy of the client list you retained that also includes account numbers for each client. Remember, the list you take with you may not include account numbers – you should specifically note that fact.

Q6 – What about the terms of my employment or association agreement?

A6 – Many registered representatives have executed employment or association agreements containing terms prohibiting solicitation of customers or retention of customer lists. However, as long as the former and new firms are signatories to the Protocol and the registered representative substantially complies with its terms, the Protocol provides that the registered representative shall not be liable to the former firm for retaining the information identified in the Protocol or soliciting clients on behalf of the new firm.

Q7 – Can I use the Protocol if I am part of a team or partnership?

A7 – Yes. If you have a partnership agreement, its terms apply to any client who you did not introduce to the team. Whether or not you have a team agreement, you are entitled to take information related to clients you brought to the team and solicit them after your resignation from your former firm.

If you do not have a partnership agreement but have been part of a team for more than four years, you are permitted to take information related to all clients serviced by the team and solicit them after your resignation. If you have been a member of the team for less than four years and there is no partnership agreement, you are limited to those clients you introduced to the team.

For additional information regarding the “Broker Protocol” please visit: https://www.thebrokerProtocol.com/index.php/authors/read-the-Protocol and for more FAQs please visit: https://www.thebrokerProtocol.com/index.php/faqs

Disclaimer: All information was provided from “thebrokerProtocol.com” website and are the opinions of the “original” authors. They go on to say that If you are considering joining or are already a member and have questions, you should consult with your own legal counsel.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

BEHAVIORAL FINANCE

By Cheryl Harwell

BEHAVIORAL FINANCE

Behavioral finance is becoming a much more popular discipline in the field of financial planning and investments.

What is behavioral finance, you may ask? It is the study of the influence of psychology on our behavior as investors. The underlying focus is that investors do not always make rational decisions. Our behaviors around investing, as in many other areas of our lives, are affected by our cognitive biases, behavioral habits, and ability to maintain self-control, among other psychological tendencies.

Behavioral finance identifies some of the common biases that investors encounter. As behavioral finance blends psychology with investment behaviors, it makes sense that we confront the same biases in investing as in other areas of our lives. The idea is to understand how these biases potentially affect investment behavior so we can help clients avoid the pitfalls they tend to engender.

Common biases that affect investor behavior:

Loss Aversion:

Loss aversion is a tendency in investors to be so fearful of losses that they focus on trying to avoid them rather than on growth or gains. The more clients experience losses, the more likely they are to become prone to loss aversion.

Overconfidence:

Overconfidence is the tendency for clients to hold a false and misleading assessment of their own skills, intellect, or talent. In short, it’s an egotistical belief that we are better than we truly are. Investing involves risk, and over time, taking risks can lead to gains. Of course, losses may be sustained along the way, as well. Historically, long-term investors have reaped rewards. When clients make investment decisions that result in gains, this experience can lead to overconfidence in future decision-making. Overconfidence can also lead to several other types of biases, including an illusion of control, accurate market timing, and the desirability effect.

Herd Mentality:

Herd mentality refers to investors’ tendency to follow and copy what other investors are doing. They are largely influenced by emotion and instinct rather than by independent analysis. The idea that social influences and other investor decisions impact their own, regardless of any fundamental or logical decision-making, is an example of herd mentality. It has become even more prominent for investors in today’s world due to the immediate access of information through social media and financial / market news platforms.

The bottom line is that understanding the basic principles of behavioral finance as it relates to financial planning can help advisors assist clients to be more financially successful long-term. Maintaining focus on things that we can control, such as developing a diversified asset allocation based upon goals and risk tolerance, automating contributions to investment accounts, rebalancing annually, and keeping costs low, are crucial. Also important is avoiding what we are not able to control, such as how the markets will perform daily and accepting the fact that we cannot accurately time the market. Having a process in place helps to mitigate the outside influences presented to clients and will help advisors assist them in reaching their goals.

Consider learning more about behavioral finance to benefit your investment processes and your client relationships! If you have any questions, please contact me in Case Planning (charwell@bdops.com).

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

Jenny’s Blog, Stardate 04.07.2020

Jenny’s Blog, Stardate 04.07.2020 by Jenny Bacarella, Executive, Firm Development

It’s Tuesday! Truthfully, I can’t tell what day it is anymore. I just know one thing…we are killing it! I love hearing appreciative comments from reps on how we are DELIVERing great service to them, without a hiccup, in this “new normal.”

Have you been to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan? 

If you haven’t, I highly recommend you do. Michigan is a beautiful place in the summer (well, summer and fall – but I’m not a big fan of winter or spring). February, March, and April remind me so much of the dunes. I’ll explain. “Bear” with me.

After you hike up, across, and over the dunes, you finally get near the coastline and confront a steep drop down to Lake Michigan. You take a deep breath and run down the dune care-free. The air whooshes past your ears and in this moment, you are the fastest person alive. Usain Bolt has nothing on you. Part of you is about to “bite it” at any moment, and the other part just lets your body go free. You see the bottom coming and you can’t wait to touch the water. You hit the beach and thrust your hands into the air and await your medal. February was that for me.

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring and I was banking on that. Probably shouldn’t trust large rodents. Every time I saw the sun, I knew warmer weather was right around the corner. I began thinking about summer trips and briefly contemplated easing my 2002 convertible out of the garage. Then March came along. March is when you find yourself at the bottom of that hill again, staring up and realizing, “Man, somehow I’ve got to get back to the top.” So, you begin your trek. Often, at the beginning, you feel like, “I saw this coming, right? I should have known when I looked down that I had to somehow get back up.”

For every two steps up, the sand steals one back. You start to think about how warm it is…and why has the wind stopped? Karen, who does CrossFit daily, crawls past you at a ridiculous speed. You murmur how much you hate her. Then your children…they are in front of you, kicking sand in your face as they gain height. You would yell but need the oxygen for the climb. You secretly hope that this amount of exercise puts the kids into a deep sleep coma, so that you can drink a bottle of wine in peace when you’re finished.

Finally, the halfway point…wait, halfway? Only halfway? And guess what, it’s April. You stop. You look up and see that you still have quite a way to go but you look back and recognize how far you’ve already come. You also realize at this point that you still have to complete that challenging second half…and ultimately, convince yourself to make the top again.

Your drive and resolve kick in and you gain momentum. With each step, you sing, “I get knocked down, but I get up again,” and you hope and pray that you never have to sing this song again. As you get closer to the top, you see the smiling faces of people you love who cheer you on and, all at once, you don’t feel alone anymore. Your energy surges, and the hill seems to flatten.

You also see Karen and she is yelling something crazy at you like “WOD!” and you really just want to punch her and that – right there – that pulls you to the top. You stand on the summit, beat your chest, throw up, and then realize you made it…we made it!

I’m not sure if this resonates with you, but I feel like, come May, we will look around and value our interactions more than we ever have before. I’m hoping that through all this we learn that with commitment and pride anything can be accomplished…all challenges can be overcome.

I am proud of our home office team even if we do all look like Tom Hanks in “Castaway” at this point. Oh, and push Karen down that hill and scream “WOD!” after her as she stumbles and tumbles.

Learn more about the SPS Family. We DELIVER great service to representatives!

Contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264.

About SPS Family

SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

SPS Family Adding APEG to TechStack

SPS Family Adding APEG to TechStack by Kristi Delongchamp

Ann Arbor, MI – [January 24, 2020] – The SPS Family has expanded its robust TechStack to now include memberships for registered representatives with Advanced Planning Educational Group, Inc. (APEG).  This partnership provides all SPS Family financial advisors the opportunity to access APEG’s learning programs and financial planning resources at no additional cost within their affiliation fee.

APEG is a national financial planning membership community, providing financial professionals an energetic learning platform, a practical planning approach, and the tools and resources to better serve their clients. Ruth Flynn Raftery, APEG’s President & Co-Founder, explains: “Advanced Planning Educational Group supports the efforts of Comprehensive Financial Planners through planning resources, on-going education, and a community of like-minded professionals.”

The SPS Family is thrilled about this new relationship. Kristi Delongchamp, Manager of Firm Development, explains: “We look forward to fully engaging in our partnership with APEG. As a firm, we always look for ways to support and invest in our advisors and their practices.” She continues, “We believe our APEG relationship will provide valuable resources for our advisors as they move deeper into financial planning.”

Jeffrey Hoenle, CEO and Co-Founder of APEG, is also enthusiastic about the partnership. He says, “We are excited to partner with the SPS Family as a resource for both experienced and next-gen advisors to help them deliver the latest in comprehensive financial planning to the individuals and families they serve.”

In addition to the APEG addition, the SPS Family’s TechStack provides its advisors a CRM system, risk management software, financial planning software, marketing tools, invoice tracking, credit card processing, and much more. The SPS Family includes all of these core tech components within the advisor affiliation fee.

To find out more about the APEG partnership or the SPS Family’s TechStack, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264.

We DELIVER great service to independent representatives! To learn more, contact Kristi Delongchamp at (888) 744-6264 or kmdelongchamp@bdops.com.

About SPS Family

The SPS Family consists of two broker-dealers, Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC; a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Sigma Planning Corporation; and a back office, known as BD Ops, LLC. The companies, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are under common ownership and led by an experienced executive team. The SPS Family prides itself on personal service to independent registered representatives and investment adviser representatives from across the United States. We consider our representatives family as we strive every day to provide them “Independence. DELIVERED.”

300 Parkland Plaza | Ann Arbor, MI 48103 | 888-744-6264

5 Tips on Attracting Women to Your Firm

By Jennifer Bacarella, Executive Management, Director of Firm Development 

We have a real need for more female financial advisors in our industry. In fact, women only make up about 17%* of the financial advisor population. One of my goals, as both an executive of a broker-dealer and a financial advisor myself, is to increase that number. The big question: HOW? I may not have all the answers, but as an InvestmentNews “Woman to Watch,” I have high expectations – and I believe these tips will help meet this goal.

Tip 1 – Offer Flexibility

Being a woman in today’s world should not mean neglecting one passion in your life over another. While there are only so many hours in a day, many women know how to use those hours to their advantage if given the opportunity. Flexibility in time scheduling is paramount. As women raise their own families, they need to attend those important events in their families’ lives…no questions asked. I don’t ask for pre-scheduled time off from my team. I choose to trust my staff to handle their work-life balance appropriately.

Tip 2 – Education is Key

In building our broker-dealer, we chose to offer educational assistance to staff. Many women, and men as well, interrupt their education to begin careers and families. At our firm, we encourage employees to complete their degrees, attend graduate school, attain licensures, achieve designations, and we pay for all of these things and take pride in their personal advancement. These approaches help drive motivation, improve work ethic, and solidify loyalty.

Tip 3 – Allow Remote Work Opportunities

My personal goal is to keep my “mom-game,” my “work-game,” and my “play-game” all at a high level. While that takes some creative scheduling, I have found it all possible…and, in fact, required. We need to keep the big picture in mind. Work may need to occur after hours, in doctor’s office waiting rooms, during halftime in the stands, on weekends. Use technology to your advantage. Install a robust VPN at your office so you can securely work from remote locations.

Tip 4 – Model this Behavior

Modeling this behavior can show incoming women financial advisors that they can accomplish work-life balance. Take those vacations when you have the chance to turn everything else off and focus on your family. Pay attention and listen to your children, your spouse, as well as your staff. Develop your empathy and allow your staff to practice work-life balance as you do. Doing so effectively models your behavior not only for your employees but for your children, as well…showing them how all of the competing priorities in life can be accomplished when we always stop to recognize the most valuable moments and truly live them to the fullest.

Tip 5 – Be a Mentor

The best way to attract a person to anything is by mentoring them. Reach out to local high schools and colleges to see if there are young females interested in the industry. Take them under your wing and show them how awesome this industry can be – because it is an amazing industry. Show women that they can be their own boss, get an education, raise a family, and still have fun by following in your footsteps. Be a resource for these young women – and we will see that 17% grow.

I have not found a perfect way…I continually seek new ideas and techniques for achieving a way that works for my business, my family, and me. I hope that my dedication to work-life balance spreads throughout our firm and our independent field force, and particularly encourages women to embrace the industry. I see you out there…you can do it, too!

Jennifer Bacarella is an Executive Manager for the group of affiliated firms consisting of Sigma Financial Corporation, Parkland Securities, LLC, and Sigma Planning Corporation. As a member of the firms’ Executive Committee, Jenny provides leadership and vision in their overall management and operations. Jenny is also Director, Firm Development, responsible for expanding and maintaining the firms’ relationships with independent financial advisors. Since joining Sigma Financial Corporation in 1994, she has taken a proactive relationship manager role, allowing her to interact with the firms’ most successful advisors in their businesses and in their lives. Her high-touch approach has created firms with some of the lowest advisor turnover ratios in the industry. Jenny’s personal interaction and attention to detail confirms for advisors that they have direct access to a member of the firms’ Executive Committee. Her efforts and leadership are carried throughout the firms by the management team and staff. Jenny is a member of NAIFA, WIFS, the FPA, and the FSP.

Sigma Financial Corporation and Parkland Securities, LLC are broker-dealers, members FINRA/SIPC. Sigma Planning Corporation is a registered investment advisor.

For Professional Use Only. Not For Public Use.

*Source: https://www.investmentnews.com/article/20180808/BLOG09/180809930/the-rise-of-the-female-financial-adviser 

Building Relationships: Kindness Goes a Long Way

By Jennifer Bacarella, Executive Management, Director of Firm Development

 

Kindness goes a long way. In fact, kindness defines every part of a relationship. Some believe that only those relationships built during great times are the ones that grow into amazing, spirited, positive partnerships. However, some of the best relationships I’ve ever built came during what I would consider my, or someone else’s, rock bottom.

From a broker-dealer’s perspective, I joke that my reps don’t need me when we are in a great bull market and the economy is booming. Everyone is generally happy during those times. Advisors see their AUM increase. Their client relationships are strong. Clients are satisfied with the growth of their portfolios. Technology is booming, and revenues keep innovation and inspiration moving along.

I think back to 2008 when seemingly no good news occurred in our industry. Everywhere you turned, some story came across the media that made people feel like the “end” might be near. For those of us who went through that time, it was certainly a trying period. I had seasoned advisors who didn’t know if they could go through another bear market – especially one of this length and depth. I had other advisors who felt like staying away from their offices because they just couldn’t “hold another hand.”

Times like those are extremely difficult on reps, and on broker-dealers, as well. Commonly, many broker-dealers start laying people off or cutting back on their services as revenues rapidly decline. At our firm, on the other hand, we answered the calls, provided new ideas, and helped reps build their practices throughout the down years. Clients needed help, and advisors needed back office services to support their providing that help. We actually added staff at our firm in 2008 and the years that followed as the economy struggled to recover. Our phones definitely ring more in difficult economic times. Sometimes people just need someone to talk with … to share their concerns and be heard. Letting our reps know that we are all in this for the long haul goes a long way toward building strong relationships.

Life happens, too – not just the markets. Family issues, health issues, life issues. As independent contractors, our advisors appreciate that when they call us and share a tidbit of information on a challenge they are facing that the tidbit is not only heard, but also travels through the firm. Our management team and staff all see what we can do to let our reps know we are thinking about them.

The best advisors build solid client relationship by helping clients through the ups and downs of life. Their clients can’t imagine not having them as their advisor. We feel the same way about our reps. We let them know, right from the start, that in a world where they may feel independence can be compared to being entirely on their own … with us, they are not alone: we always have their backs!

My dream for the firms this year is for us:

  • to grow ever more aware of our advisors’ concerns, professionally and personally;
  • to consistently demonstrate our commitment to providing the highest level of service in addressing our reps’ needs;
  • to become indispensable to the finest advisors as a responsive, well-rounded back office; and
  • to respond to all needs and deliver all service with kindness as our cornerstone.

 

If you are looking for a broker-dealer where your concerns are heard, and your needs addressed, we encourage you to join us.

 

Jennifer Bacarella, AIF® is an Executive Manager and Director of Firm Development for Sigma Financial Corporation / Parkland Securities, LLC / Sigma Planning Corporation.

An Editor’s Musings on Usage and Style

By Ken White, Editor / Writer

 

I have always enjoyed English, but freely admit the language can be confounding. Certain mistakes drive me crazy, though. Writers and editors serve our readers by taking the appropriate time to create clear, concise, accurate messages rather than rushing them to the page or screen and out into the world. Panic to produce, and making errors because of it, potentially cause reader confusion or cast an unwanted light on the issue, the message, the company, the writer. Let’s look at a few of my favorite topics.

 

Some words / terms often confused

Fewer, Less: If you can count them, use “fewer”. If you can’t count them but measure them in some other way (quantities, time, portions), use “less”. “Fewer” people drive their own cars when adequate public transportation exists. As a result, “less” gasoline is consumed and “fewer” particulates fill the air, not to mention “less” carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, unburned hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide. In standard usage, these words are becoming interchangeable, although some readers will cringe with their misuse. Do you speak with “less” people or “fewer” people on a slow day?

Farther, Further: In the U.S., we use “farther” to indicate measurable physical distance (think “far”), and “further” in all other cases. “Further” is a word in transition, and we often see it describe physical distance. Do you travel “farther down the road” or “further down the road”? Both are common in current usage. Is there any significant difference? “Further” can also imply a metaphorical version of distance. When selecting which to use, ask yourself, “Does either one sound incorrect?” Follow your best instincts while keeping the basic guideline in mind when everything seems equal (“farther” for actual distance; “further” for everything else).

Its vs. It’s / Your vs. You’re: People most often associate apostrophes with possessives. In the case of “it’s”, however, the apostrophe indicates contraction. “It’s” means “it is” whereas “its” indicates possession. “Its” vs. “It’s” is the most common mistaken usage I see: “It’s” everywhere. Why people confuse “your” and “you’re” is beyond me; most often, it seems the word “your” presents the problem. Remember to check if “you’re” using a contraction for “you are” or if “your” mind has wandered off. I believe “you’re” correct to think that “your” improper selection drives “your” readers crazy.

Loose vs. Lose: Oddly, often confused. “Loose” is usually an adjective. “Lose” is primarily a verb. “Loose” clothes are typically more comfortable than tight clothes. In the end, you generally “lose” money when you gamble at a casino. I must admit, I “lose” my train of thought when I see these words mistaken for each other.

Than vs. Then: Again, oddly, often mixed up. Perhaps incorrect selection results from the similar pronunciation of the two words in some dialects. Use “than” for comparisons (an elephant is larger “than” a mouse). Use “then” in reference to time sequence (a mouse slowly approached an elephant; “then” the elephant noticed the little critter); and use “then” in logical “if…then” constructions (“if” an elephant is startled by a mouse scurrying near its feet, “then” it might overreact and run away – just as it could if it were surprised by any other small creature). When I see “Five is greater then three” constructions, I find myself immediately question the correctness of the writer’s statement of fact – never a good thing.

Note: Many consider “then” in “if…then” constructions to be understood without including the word “then.” I agree that writers can drop “then” in most such instances as long as its absence does not negatively affect comprehension. I find myself removing “then” in these cases quite consistently.

Their, There, They’re: First thing to notice is they all start with “the” so “thier” is never correct. “Their” is the possessive. “There” refers to a place (also – read on). “They’re” is a contraction for “they are”. We also use “there” in passive voice constructions to replace the idea “exist”. This construction is acceptable, although rewording will often strengthen a sentence. For example, “There are people in the hall” can be strengthened by using “People occupy the hall”. Too many “There is…” and “There are…” uses weaken the overall message.

To, Too, Two: The first is the preposition; the second means “also” or “as well” or “to a greater degree” or “excessive”; the third is the number. “To” rather than “too” when intending to mean “excessive” or “also” is an incredibly common mistake.

 

Some thoughts on style / usage (can be specific to creator organization)

Guidelines for quotation marks and related punctuation: In addition to direct quotes, I use quotation marks around titles of articles, episodes, chapters, scenes, songs, and other such subsections of a primary, longer composition or compilation. I prefer double quotation marks (e.g., ”  “). Quotation marks are also used to indicate special usage of a word, such as one not normally used in the written context presented. Keep in mind, however, that quotation marks around a word or phrase may inadvertently signal the reader to use a pseudo, opposite, ironic, or sarcastic interpretation (think of how “air quotes” are used in conversation).

Although quotation marks are sometimes used by writers to indicate emphasis, because of the sarcastic / ironic potential for reader comprehension, an editor will typically ask a graphic designer to make a different choice, including bold, bold-italic, use of color, increased relative point size, etc. I use single quotation marks (e.g., ‘ ‘) only for quotes within quotes.

For placement relative to other punctuation, style guides differ. I follow standard U.S. practice and place periods and commas inside quotation marks (with exception, see below); question marks and exclamation points outside quotation marks (unless the punctuation is part of a direct quote or intended sentence/question); colons and semicolons outside quotation marks. Exception: The period / comma exception applies when a word is referred to as a word, or a word or phrase is used figuratively or in a nonstandard way. When a word is in quotation marks because it is being referred to as a word, or such a word or phrase appears in a list of examples to help a definition, or when a word or phrase is used figuratively, commas and periods move outside the quotation marks (unless the comma or period is part of an example). Note: It wouldn’t be English if there weren’t exceptions to the exception, right?

Semicolons could be called super-commas (I did not invent the term, but I like it): Semicolons are not closely related to colons, appearance notwithstanding. Rather, semicolons are a comma’s big, tough sister – a super-comma – or a period’s smaller little brother – a three-quarter period. Hint to avoid confusion between colons and semicolons: A colon joins or introduces, and resembles an equal sign ( = ); a semicolon separates or divides. A semicolon indicates a greater division in thought than a comma, but less than a period. It is most commonly used to separate items in lists while avoiding excessive use of conjunctions between groups of items. If one or more listed item(s) include(s) a comma, semicolons are required to separate primary items. Its second-most-common use is to link independent clauses when the second clause begins with a conjunctive adverb – a transition word such as “however” or “therefore”. While semicolons have other uses, such as linking two independent clauses in place of a “comma-and” construction, these are less common. Notably, some writers and editors avoid semicolons completely; however, I believe they continue to have appropriate uses. The two most common are as follows:

  1. To separate independent clauses without an intervening conjunction but with a transitory conjunctive adverb like “however”. A writer could use a period and form two different sentences. A semicolon creates a stronger bond between the two independent clauses than two separate sentences would convey.
  2. To separate list items that contain internal punctuation (generally, commas).

 

When in doubt…

When you are in doubt, look it up – use a dictionary and a style guide – make a decision – and most importantly, be consistent within your document.

The English language evolves, grows, and changes, somewhat unchecked. Although there are no official English language referees, certain usages may distract readers from the writer’s intended message if experienced by the reader as improper. So, as communicators, we try to understand our audience first, and write for them. Our goal: Clear communication.

As always … write on!

Note: Some of the contents of this article appeared in an earlier LinkedIn piece by the same author.

 

Ken White has 30 years of experience editing and writing for financial industry firms, focusing on marketing, field communications, corporate communications, request-for-proposal responses, and social media. He is Corporate Editor | Writer | Communications Specialist for Sigma Financial Corporation / Parkland Securities, LLC / Sigma Planning Corporation.

Ten Fallacies about Identity Theft and Cybersecurity

According to the Privacy Rights Clearing House, approximately 10 billion records have been lost or stolen from businesses, schools, government agencies, and non-profit organizations since January 2005. Is your financial practice at risk?

This is a case of “what you don’t know can hurt you.” Here are TEN fallacies about identity theft and information security that NO ONE is talking about.

1. Identity theft is a consumer issue. While individuals are ultimately the victims of identity theft, their information is often stolen from the organizations where they work or do business. According to the Privacy Rights Clearing House, over 10 billion records have been lost or stolen from businesses, schools, government agencies, and non-profit organizations since January 2005! These information losses lead to damages for an organization including state and federal fines, lawsuits, and a damaged reputation when individuals become victims of identity theft.

2. Our organization doesn’t have the “kind” of information that thieves want. Most organizations today only focus on protecting Social Security numbers and credit card information. However, today’s identity thief can benefit from most identifiers including, but not limited to, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, account numbers, financial identifiers, medical identifiers, and business information. This data is vulnerable when collected, processed, transmitted, transported, stored, and disposed of for employees, customers, and vendors.

3. Our organization is too small. When it comes to information loss, size does not matter. In the case of an information security incident, the cost of federal and state fines, class action lawsuits, and a damaged reputation can be devastating to any size organization. According to the Disaster Recovery Journal, the U.S. Department of Labor has warned that 93% of businesses that experience a significant data loss go out of business within five years. “Of those companies, 43% go out of business within the first year, and 72% go out in the second year.”

4. I trust (or know) everyone that I do business with. Trusting relationships with employees and customers is necessary for a successful enterprise. However, many information security incidents involve someone internally. The loss may be accidental or malicious. Just because you know someone doesn’t mean that you know their intentions. Proper training and safety measures go a long way toward reducing the probability of loss.

5. Information security is a technology issue. Most organizations have taken some precautions to secure computers and networks. Just as important, stolen paperwork also accounts for loss, including files left out on desks. It is critical to note that Confidential and Sensitive Information is at risk in any form. A comprehensive prevention approach involves managing people’s behaviors, securing your physical environment, and securing your technology.

6. I’m covered – we have an information security policy. A policy document is where most organizations have begun and ended their efforts to reduce identity theft risk and comply with the law. However, while a policy is a necessary evil, policy alone will not detect, prevent, or mitigate loss. It is necessary to assess risks specific to your organization and put prevention measures in place.

7. People’s information is already available – I don’t need to protect it. Most states now have laws requiring the notification of those whose information was lost or stolen. In the event of a breach: 31% percent of your affected customers will terminate their relationship; 57% percent will lose trust and confidence in the company; 8% will file formal complaints (lawyers); 72% said there is a great chance they will become victims of Identity Theft (Ponemon Institute Research Report, 2008).

8. It won’t happen to me – show me an organization my size that has had a breach. Several websites track information security breaches. The Privacy Rights Clearing House, www.privacyrights.org, is a good resource. As you peruse the list of unfortunate organizations, you may rationalize to yourself that they are too big, too small, wrong location, different industry, or different circumstances than your organization. Be careful! As long as an organization has information that is of value to a thief, a degree of risk exists.

9. The government isn’t enforcing these laws. Both federal and state legislation is becoming more stringent for organizations of all sizes. As new government initiatives always need to be funded, the fines and penalties that can be generated from these laws can be substantial. Incidentally, if organizations are ultimately not held to task by lawmakers, they should still take proper measures to protect information to mitigate loss from lawsuits and a damaged reputation.

10. Protecting my organization from information security incidents is expensive. Not taking PROPER measures to protect Confidential and Sensitive Information can be very expensive due to reputation damage, lawsuits, fines, penalties, and mitigation costs. A good comprehensive program includes education, risk assessment, policy, procedures, employee training, plan for loss or breach, resources, and continuing updates.

Most organizations manage some form of Confidential and Sensitive Information throughout the normal course of doing business. It is important to the health of your organization to understand what you have, how you are at risk, and put practical measure in place to protect yourself.

My Summer at Sigma and Parkland

Final Blog by intern Sabrina Lieberman

I’ll be honest – when I first walked into Sigma Financial and Parkland Securities on a snowy January afternoon, I barely knew what a broker-dealer did. As a college student, my financial priorities are rent, groceries, and loans–not a 401(k) or a Roth IRA. However, over the last few months, I have learned about the importance of financial guidance and the large network of support that serves planners and advisors.

Here are my 3 greatest takeaways from an incredible internship!

  1. Every hour that you are not on social media is another potential client lost. In every industry, social media has revolutionized marketing and business development. However, many financial advisors are wary of online platforms, and for good reason. Compliance regulations are constantly changing on this new media, and advisors fear the risks. While these concerns are valid, responsible broker-dealers like Sigma and Parkland will guide you through navigating social media while mitigating compliance risks and maintaining professional integrity. When choosing a financial advisor, clients look for an honest and trustworthy individual. A social media presence increases credibility and transparency, and is especially important for millennial clients. To stay relevant and current, using social media has become essential for financial representatives.
  1. Trust your interns. As an intern at Sigma and Parkland, I was given an unparalleled amount of autonomy in designing our social media strategy. All of my ideas were respectfully considered, and, barring compliance issues, were given the green light! This increased my confidence in my creativity and work, and nurtured my personal projects. I explored the industry by asking my own questions and analyzing the results. This independence allowed me to focus on my own interests while benefiting firm development. In addition to learning through my own initiatives, all of my questions were answered thoroughly, and I felt that my supervisors were committed to my professional growth.
  1. Outstanding service really stands out. Through our “We Support Our Reps” social media campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with several financial advisors about their experience with Sigma or Parkland. Each representative spoke specifically about the exceptional service offered by the back office. Many provided anecdotes about questions answered promptly and correctly, or the personal touch offered by a smaller, dedicated firm. Their glowing praise about Sigma and Parkland’s commitment to their success increased my confidence when promoting our firms with potential representatives, and made me proud to have worked with Sigma and Parkland!

5 Tips to Budget for Christmas in July

5 Tips to Budget for Christmas in July

We know that it’s July, and no one is eager to be reminded of snow and sludge. However, given that Americans spend an average of 2% of their income on Christmas gifts[1], Christmas is an important budgeting line item. By preparing early, your clients can celebrate the holidays without an unexpected financial Grinch.

 

  1. Make a Christmas list early, and shop year-round.[2] By preparing your list early and shopping consistently, you can take advantage of seasonal sales throughout the year. In addition to targeting sales and increasing your savings, you can beat the maddening crowds during the holiday season.

 

  1. Have a post-Christmas shopping list.[3] As mentioned in the first tip, many specific items benefit from seasonal sales. This is particularly true for Christmas items. Even if your next Christmas list isn’t complete by December 26th, you can stock up on wrapping paper, ornaments, and other stocking stuffers in preparation for the following year.

 

  1. Create a Christmas fund.[4] Rather than dipping into your savings, create a specific stash for your gifts. A great resource for this reserve is your “under-budget” cash. If you come in under budget on monthly expenses, such as groceries or gas, you can save this surplus for Christmas gifts.

 

  1. Turn vacation savings into Christmas savings.[5] Summer vacations are a great way to relax…and overspend. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to save without sacrificing family fun. By driving to your vacation spot, shopping for groceries instead of eating out, or opting for low-cost excursions, you can save some cash for Christmas.

 

  1. Plan to avoid hidden costs.[6] From wrapping fees to photos with Santa, Christmas is full of costs beyond presents. If you can, plan! By making extensive lists of menus, gifts, and decorations, you will be able to weed out unnecessary expenses and stretch each dollar further.

 

 

[1] http://www.thesimpledollar.com/christmas-in-july/

[2] http://www.thesimpledollar.com/christmas-in-july/

[3] http://www.thesimpledollar.com/christmas-in-july/

[4] https://www.everydollar.com/blog/christmas-in-july

[5] https://www.everydollar.com/blog/christmas-in-july

[6] https://www.learnvest.com/2015/07/preparing-for-christmas-spending-early

The Importance of Interns

The Importance of Interns

…in conversation with Randall A. Hoover

In fall 2016, Randy Hoover presented The Power of Internships at our Practice Management Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. This week, we spoke with Mr. Hoover to ask some important questions, and see if any of his best practices have changed. We were delighted to learn the importance and value of interns in financial advisory firms, and below, we share some of his wisdom with you. If you have had an intern or plan to hire one, we would love to hear about your experience as well.

 

Q: For a firm that has never had an intern, how would you recommend getting started?

A: First, it is essential to determine what your intern will be doing in order to find the best candidate, and ensure that the experience is valuable to both the intern and your firm. Consider the projects at your firm that are important but not urgent, and that you and your full-time team will realistically never get around to. These are concrete projects that can be completed over a summer, but will benefit your bottom line year round. We consider our interns to be Research Assistants, who organize databases and compile information that will improve our operations long after they leave the firm. Many firms are tempted to utilize interns for immediate profit gain through cold calling and marketing projects, but this is usually not as valuable for either the intern or the firm. None of our interns are client-facing. Some interns may attend meetings, but they are only present to observe.

 

Q: How do you find potential candidates?

A: We employ our interns for multiple summers, which allows them to grow with our firm and increase their value to our team. This approach also provides leadership opportunities for veteran interns. However, our strategy requires onboarding interns as early as high school. By speaking in AP Economics classes, you will reach dozens of bright students and possible intern candidates. As your internship program grows, you can gain access to university internship placement programs and networks. We work with the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

 

Q: How do you choose the best from the rest?

A: Start with traditional hiring practices. After that, consider the projects you have outlined and the qualities and experience necessary to complete the work efficiently and effectively. Remember, because you are likely hiring students in a research capacity, you are probably not looking for the best salesperson.

 

Q: Smart, motivated students are likely to receive several internship offers throughout their college careers. How do you keep them coming back for two or three summers?

A: We provide our interns with unparalleled responsibility, autonomy, and leadership experience. The interns work in a collaborative cohort, and understand the impact and value of their contributions. Moreover, interns who have previously worked with us have the opportunity to manage newer interns, which provides a unique element of management experience.

 

For more information on internship programs for small businesses, click here for a guide from the U.S. Small Business Association.

5 Tips for Boosting Your Summer Savings

Summer spending can drain your bank account before it’s time to drain the pool. While summer is a fantastic time to take advantage of great weather and vacation time, it is important to stick to your annual budget. These five tips could help your clients stay afloat through the fall.

  1. Air-wareness. Air conditioning is a wonderful luxury. It allows us to cool down the house with the windows closed (avoiding mosquitos!), and create a cool, healthy sleeping environment during the muggy summer months. However, air conditioning is expensive both in your house and in your car. Being mindful about when to use air conditioning can have a major impact on your summer energy costs.

 

  1. Travel smart. Thousands of families travel throughout the summer months. Although summer travel can be incredibly expensive, creative research can dig up some fantastic deals. By planning carefully, you can ensure a fabulous trip without breaking the bank. However, the most economical vacation is just to stay home. Click here for some great ideas from Forbes about how to make the most of a “staycation”.

 

  1. Shop summer sales. Whether you have your Christmas list ready or could just spruce up your wardrobe, summer offers some great deals. Many retailers mark down off-season winter gear or home appliances. As summer nears its end, take advantage of close-out sales to buy summer clothing for the following year.

 

  1. Create a summer savings plan. Although a smart saver budgets all year, summer can serve up temptations that sneakily increase spending. By crafting a special summer budget, you are less likely to succumb to unnecessary expenses this season.

 

  1. Optimize your barbecues. Summertime barbecues are a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family while enjoying a meal outside. Fortunately, they are also a great way to save money while entertaining! When all your guests pitch in, potlucks allow everyone to try many dishes for a fraction of the overall cost. Moreover, cooking outside keeps the house cooler, reducing your need for air conditioning.

 

5 Things to Know About a 529 Plan

Whether a child is 8 or 18 years old, you and your clients should financially prepare for his or her college education. Many clients have questions and concerns about 529 plans, especially if college may not be an immediate priority. Here are some common questions and answers to help guide the conversation toward savings success.

  1. We are expecting a baby. Is it too early to start a 529? No way! With college costs continually rising, you will need as many resources as possible to pay for your child’s higher education. The power of compounding means that the earlier you open the 529 account, the more your family could potentially benefit. Put whatever you can into the plan, and then go paint the nursery.
  1. I’m not sure if my child will go to college. What will happen if he or she doesn’t use the money in the plan? There are several ways to use the funds in a 529 plan without funding an education for the original beneficiary.
  1. The funds can be transferred to anyone related to the original beneficiary.
  2. The funds can be removed for purposes other than education, but will be subject to a 10% penalty as well as income tax on the earnings.

You can also refer to this article1 for more information.

  1. Can we use the funds for expenses other than tuition and fees? You can pay for several expenses beyond tuition and fees with funds from a 529, as you will find listed here2. If your student receives a scholarship, the amount of the scholarship can be removed from the 529 and used for non-qualifying expenses without incurring the 10% penalty (earnings would still be subject to income tax).
  1. Do I need to be able to fully fund the 529? No! Put in as much as you can. Again, the power of compounding can potentially affect the balance, so start as soon as you can.
  1. Is this the only way to pay for college? Absolutely not. A 529 is a great way to get started saving for college, and to benefit from growth over time. However, thousands of scholarships, grants, and interest-free loans may become available when your child begins applying to colleges.

The Internal Revenue Service provides guidance on 529 Plans in their Q&A3. We recommend seeking the counsel of a tax advisor as tax laws change over time and may differ by residency and other factors.

Note: The information contained in this blog does not constitute tax advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Clients and financial advisors should consult their tax advisor, local taxing authority, and/or plan provider or sponsor for more information.

 

1 https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2014/07/09/beware-of-5-myths-about-changing-a-529-plan-beneficiary

2 https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianboswell/2016/10/02/what-can-you-spend-your-529-savings-on/#17aa0724c3cd  

3 https://www.irs.gov/uac/529-plans-questions-and-answers

 

shutterstock_281505518 @SigmaFinancial

@ParklandSecLLC

5 Ways to Connect with Your Clients’ College Students

In our last blog post, we discussed the importance of connecting with your clients’ college students. However, we recognize that financial planning is not always a #trendingtopic, and it’s difficult to get students on board, or even in the room. Here are some ideas about how to engage your youngest clients.

  1. Hold a seminar. Do you operate in a small town or community? Have several clients whose kids attend the same high school? Offer a high school an hour of your time, and provide a simple seminar on college finance basics. You may get the opportunity to promote your services to both parents and students through the school.
  1. Have an individual meeting. Although Mom and Dad will need to be on board with any final budgets, it is important that the student understands that you are there to understand his or her personal priorities and concerns. A casual, initial conversation to open up a dialogue is critical. Try to have this meeting as soon as possible, preferably while they are still applying to colleges. Keep in mind, the process often begins before senior year1.
  1. Send a congratulatory letter. Acceptance to college is a significant achievement. Send a personalized letter to your client’s family congratulating them on their child’s success and offering to discuss the finances involved with both selecting a college and creating an annual budget.
  1. Follow up, with both parents and students. Students’ goals and financial aid packages change every year. This means that both parents and students have to reevaluate their budgets and understand the possibilities. By reaching out annually, you will provide critical support throughout the student’s college career.
  1. Use social media. College students connect best through online social platforms. Although you must make sure that your platforms and content are compliant, this can be a great way to share useful information with your younger clients. While you’re at it, you can follow us on Twitter @SigmaFinancial or @ParklandSecLLC.

shutterstock_281505518 @SigmaFinancial

@ParklandSecLLC

 

1 “College Planning Timelines;” August 22, 2016; Peterson’s Staff; Peterson’s; Article Link 1

Memorial Day 2017 – Reflections and Thoughts

The President of Sigma Financial Corporation, Parkland Securities, LLC, and Sigma Planning Corporation – Jerry Rydell – has been a lifelong proud and ardent supporter of the United States military. Nothing touches Jerry more than the sacrifices our nation’s military men and women, and their families, make in the defense of our country.

As Jerry says, “We know all too well that freedom is not free. Our military keeps us safe and allows us to live our lives in the pursuit of our dreams. Our protectors, and their families, earn and deserve our respect and support. Many who return home do so injured, whether body, mind, or both. Others do not return at all.”

He continues, “Especially on Memorial Day, we honor those who have fallen in our defense. We pay tribute to them and their sacrifices. Moreover, we extend our heart-felt condolences to the families and friends of the fallen. Thank you for your courage, your strength, and your sacrifice.”

Who better to illustrate the impact of such sacrifice than an Army widow? A few years ago, Wesley Bauguess shared her thoughts on losing her husband and the father of their children. We have no direct affiliation with this courageous writer…but we do share an affinity for her words, and we are touched by her strength.

We encourage you to read her reflections, and think about all those like her: parents, siblings, children, and friends who have lost their loved ones in the defense of our country.

“Memorial Day: Reflections of an Army widow,” by Wesley Bauguess, as appeared in Fox News, May 19, 2017: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/05/19/memorial-day-reflections-army-widow.html

Our hometown Memorial Day often consists of parades, picnics, barbecues, and long weekend outings. We encourage all Americans to stop in the midst of those activities to pause and reflect.

Jerry and the people of the company are proud to honor and contribute to veterans and military families, including support for charities like The Semper Fi Fund and the Gary Sinise Foundation. We will continue that tradition this year as well.

On this Memorial Day, thank you to all Americans most deeply affected by tragedy – tragedy that they have experienced on our behalf. Indeed, freedom is not free.

5 Reasons to Connect with Your Clients’ College Students

Your clients are thrilled because this fall those 529 Plans are finally going to good use! The summer before entering college is an exciting, hectic, and nerve-wracking time for both parents and students. As a financial advisor for the entire family, you can play an integral role in this process, and create a vital foundation of money mindfulness.

  1. College life has unique, confusing budgeting circumstances. She’s not living at home, but Mom and Dad still pay the rent and grocery bills. His part-time job covers pizza and nights out, but what about new clothes? You can help families determine a fair and feasible budgeting strategy…and help them avoid a few awkward phone calls.

 

  1. College students are completely clueless about finances. LendEdu and others have surveyed college students’ knowledge of credit, savings, loans, and investment. For all their education, what do these bright young adults know about money management? Not much. In fact, 59% gave themselves a C- or worse when grading themselves on financial literacy1. In the school of life, this is a class that they will need to pass.

 

  1. Decisions about loans in college can haunt students forever. As you already know, America is in a student debt crisis. Americans owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loans2, which has probably increased since typing that sentence. This debt cripples our economy, and Americans’ quality of life. Fortunately, you can help college students secure their financial future by helping them make smart loan decisions now.

 

  1. Credit card companies target vulnerable college students. When you’re 18, $5,000 in credit sounds like free money. Credit card companies take advantage of these students by advertising on college campuses, and offering unbelievable benefits for students who sign up immediately. Students are pressured to sign up quickly, and are often tempted to use the credit when they are low on cash.

 

  1. They can become your clients. In the beginning, you might only be Mom and Dad’s money manager. However, as students realize the incredible benefit of financial planning, you can become their first stop for all of their finances. Given that $40 trillion will be inherited by 20503, it is critical to build relationships that will help you serve America’s next generation of investors.

 

1 “2016 College Students And Personal Finance Study;” Dave Rathmanner; May 26, 2016; LendEdu: Article Link 1

2 “A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2017,” Updated May 8, 2017, Student Loan Hero: Article Link 2

3 “How Advisors Can Stop Losing Clients’ Heirs as Clients;” March 1, 2016; Jane Wollman Rusoff; ThinkAdvisor: Article Link

THE BUCKET LIST

THE BUCKET LIST
A great movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman follows two men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket,” otherwise known as a “bucket list,” from which the movie gets its title.As an advisor, you listen closely to what your clients truly want out of life. A great question to ask your clients is, “What’s on YOUR bucket list?” You may be surprised with some of the amazing things people share. I suggest you document each client’s answers, and on occasion ask your client if any of the things they shared have been “crossed off” their bucket list. If their answer is “yes,” ask them to share a little bit about the experience.

As an advisor, you listen closely to what your clients truly want out of life. A great question to ask your clients is, “What’s on YOUR bucket list?” You may be surprised with some of the amazing things people share. I suggest you document each client’s answers, and on occasion ask your client if any of the things they shared have been “crossed off” their bucket list. If their answer is “yes,” ask them to share a little bit about the experience.Now, here’s the fun part: Ask them if they would allow you to feature them in an article in the section of your monthly newsletter called THE BUCKET LIST! (Get their permission in the form of an email so that you have

Now, here’s the fun part: Ask them if they would allow you to feature them in an article in the section of your monthly newsletter called THE BUCKET LIST! (Get their permission in the form of an email so that you have record of it.) Tell them that you love to feature clients living life to the fullest and following their dreams! Ask if they would share a few pictures of the event to accompany the article.

Even if you send your newsletter using email, I would still send some hardcopies to your clients to share with friends or family who do not use email on a regular basis. Rest assured, your clients will most likely share the email as well as the hardcopies with friends, family, and co-workers.

Congratulations…You have just gotten your information into the hands of new prospects!

You might even consider giving your clients a DVD of the movie “The Bucket List” as a thank you for their participation in your newsletter feature.

Are You on Track for Retirement? Your Personal Super Bowl Sunday…

With the New Year comes new opportunities, changes, and reflection. I think I am correct in saying that most people work with the hope of someday being able to retire. Building your practice in the hopes of retirement is similar to NFL coaches planning for their football season. The success of their entire year is based upon making it to that final championship game…Super Bowl Sunday. This is no easy task, as we all know. Coaches constantly reevaluate their approach and coaching decisions in response to unforeseen roadblocks, such as player injuries, poor player or coaching performance, opponent strengths, game plans, and adjustments, game location weather, etc. They continually tweak their playbook to overcome these obstacles.

Have you reviewed your playbook lately? Are you on track to meet your ultimate goal of retirement? At least once a year, take the time to conduct an audit of your business, just as you would a client review. Make sure that your current business model is in line with achieving your goal. Retirement is a moving target, so you need to ensure that you annually review your income stream, business expenses, client relationships, and overall office productivity. Allow for any tweaks you may need to make. Look to see if you find any pitfalls or opportunities for improvement and, if so, identify what those are. What would be your adjustments? Is your retirement time horizon still the same? What about your business risk tolerance? Are you able to handle market changes, like football coaches plan for the weather? Take advantage of this time to also review (or create, if you haven’t already) your company’s mission and vision statements. Are they still accurate? These are very important questions to ask yourself to ensure the successful achievement of your goal…Retirement. The New Year presents the perfect opportunity to do this.

Have you thought about these questions? We have, and we welcome those conversations….

‘Tis the Season for Giving…Corporate Responsibility and Charity Selection

‘Tis the Season for Giving…Corporate Responsibility and Charity Selection

The holidays have a way of bringing out the generosity in people. As a business owner, showing your generosity is a form of corporate responsibility. But with all of the possible charities to support, how do you identify the right one for you and your company to help?

The outline below can assist you in making a charity decision that is close to your heart.

  • Choose a cause that you are passionate about.
  • Many different people are in need, so finding the perfect charity starts with identifying a cause that is important to you. Around the holidays, many focus on children in need, or protecting homeless people from the cold. Others focus on supporting research for curing a terminal illness, or giving a vet the holiday they deserve. Think about your life. When you watch commercials or the news, what issues bring a tear to your eye? Looking at your friends and family, what challenge has affected them most? Listen to your heart and draw from your own experience to determine a cause that really hits you deeply and personally.
  • Decide how you would like to support your cause.
  • Now that you know which cause you want to support, decide HOW you would like to donate. Are you going to fundraise and donate money? Are you providing your time by giving your service to others? Will you be physically available, like working at a food bank – or financially available, through writing a check? Do you have a special skill, like knitting, that you can draw upon to create blankets and hats for the homeless? Do you have time you can spend standing in front of a store to ring a bell for donations? Decide how you are most likely able to help before you choose the specific charity you will support.
  • Select the geographic area you would like to impact.
  • Many charitable organizations, near and far, are available for support. If you are donating to help research a cure for a disease, will you be donating to a national organization such as the American Cancer Society? Or would you prefer helping closer to home, such as providing for a local family affected by this particular disease? Would you like to create gift packages to send to troops overseas, or bring care packages for local vets to your city’s veteran’s hospital? Deciding on geographic impact will make a big difference in your charitable giving decision.
  • Conduct research and select your charity.
  • Thousands of charities vie for our support, and the process of finding the best charity for you to support could be overwhelming. The steps above should help you wean out many charities that do not apply to your cause or your intentions. Even after taking those steps, you may still find the list of charities available to be lengthy. Making a final decision can be tough. Nearer to home, you may want to contact community organizations (as one example, Goodfellows), local food banks, or soup kitchens. Many local groups gather lists of families you could specifically support, or provide food and/or shelter for those in need. Taking a broader view, check out websites such as charities.org or https://www.charitynavigator.org/. These sites will allow you to better understand your options. On those sites, you can find lists to review, such as “Top 10” and “Charities to Avoid.” These websites also provide statistics about charitable organizations, including how much they spend on overhead expenses and salaries.

*Helpful Tips: Choose a charity with a 90% donation rate or greater. Several popular charities, including some widely known organizations, tend to have a lower donation rate (often in the 80% range, or even lower) because they use many of the dollars they earn for fundraising and administrative expenses rather than for the cause you want to support. This fact is something to be aware of when choosing the right charity for you.

Regardless of the charity you decide to assist, we commend you for making the decision to give. We hope that this outline for choosing your charity is helpful, and makes your decision a little less stressful.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Sigma Financial!

Have you thought about your corporate responsibility? We have…

 

 

How Effective is Your Customer Service?

You may think that you are doing everything you can to achieve good customer service. You are cordial; you send out a monthly newsletter; you even send your clients a box of chocolates for Christmas as a reminder of how much you appreciate them.

Are there some aspects of your customer service that you could do better? Test yourself on these five customer service points that you may not be utilizing to their full advantage:

  • Are you pleasant on the phone, each and every time you speak to someone?

It may seem easy to pick up the phone and greet your customer in a kind tone, but have you ever just had a bad day, and let it show in your voice? This can become an issue. Some clients only speak to you sporadically. If you are having a bad day on that ONE day that they call you, your tone could be the difference in keeping a client or losing a client (and possibly referrals). If you are having a bad day, the best advice we can give is when your phone rings, take a breath, and start smiling before you answer.  Always smile when speaking with a customer, even over the phone. When you smile while talking on the phone, you will sound much happier and more cordial than your mood would otherwise produce.

  • Do you return all phone calls?

We all have that one customer who tries our patience…a frequent caller who may be rude or long-winded. You may think that not returning that client’s phone call is not important. Think again. Every customer has the ability to refer other clients to you. If you are not answering their phone calls, why would they refer their friends or coworkers to you? Although answering the phone each time/every time is not usually an option, calling your clients back (in a reasonable time) is.

  • Are you listening and responding to client recommendations?

Whether it is a suggestion or a compliment, take all client recommendations seriously. With a suggestion, most people feel they are helping you out. If a client says that you take too long to return their calls, pull them into a discussion to see how you can better meet their expectations. Thank them for their input and then put an action plan together and include them in your outcome. This will show you care, you are listening, and you want to make them happy. When you receive a compliment, acknowledge it graciously. People who seek you out to compliment you are sincerely want you know they appreciate you. Take advantage of it. Send them a card thanking them for everything they do. Post their complimentary letter on your wall so they can see how much you appreciate their kind words (if compliance allows it). Show your clients that they matter, that you hear them, and that you appreciate their responses – good or otherwise.

  • If you can, are you offering more than what the job calls for?

Many issues can be resolved from a simple Google search. If you do not typically provide services that your client is asking for, try to assist them in finding a solution. Explain that you are not able to provide a specific service, but then look up possible solutions / providers to help them. Can they do this research themselves? Sure they can. But putting in a little bit of effort to help them solve their problem can go a long way toward building your relationship. This effort shows how much you care…that you take their problems seriously, regardless if that problem directly involves you. Providing this service shows you are willing to take five extra minutes out of your day to give them the help that they need.

  • Do you over-explain?

Many people come to you because you offer a service that they do not know how to handle themselves. You know an entire industry that they may not have any clue about. Rather than assuming that your clients have “common sense” industry knowledge, offer up that knowledge. Many miscommunications happen when you assume that the client knows something that you believe is common knowledge. They can always come back and say, “Well you didn’t tell me that.” Don’t let that happen. Explain every aspect of each situation, and make sure that when your client leaves your office, they are confident about the conversation that they just had with you. If a client is coming into your office to discuss their retirement, explain the differences between Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Simple IRA, 401(k) or 403(b), etc. Your client may not, in fact, know exactly what they are coming in to see you about. They may think that they want one thing, but they look to you to know what they actually want. By over-explaining all of their options, they may realize that they actually need something different than they thought they originally wanted. They will appreciate your services so much more if you take the time to explore every option and over-explain different options for them.

You may think that your customer service is top-notch…that your customers have never criticized…and your business is doing very well. But imagine if you take the time to bring your service one step further by incorporating some of the steps above. Could you have saved one client who left? Could you acquire one new referral? Each option above is completely doable and 100% free. The only challenge is tweaking your approach to recognize that you could do a little more for your clients.

Are you thinking about all aspects of your client service? We are….

Seven Ways to Show Your Clients They Are Appreciated

Seven Ways to Show Your Clients They Are Appreciated

Regardless of your business, catering to your clients is important. Customer appreciation does not always have to be an extravagant gesture or large event; in fact, the little things often prove to be the most valuable. Below are some ideas on how you can better build your relationships by showing your clients how important they are to you and your business.

  • Surveys: To cater to your clients most effectively, first find out what they need and want. What are you doing that they like? What could you be doing better? Come up with a short survey and send it your clients via email. Take their suggestions to heart, and tell them so. Asking for client feedback shows that you truly do want to make them happy. When you can, act on their suggestion to reinforce your relationship. Give them credit for their idea among your other clients to strengthen the relationship even that much more!
  • Acknowledgements: Put a system in place that alerts you to client birthdays as well as their anniversaries with you as clients. Send clients hand-signed birthday cards to show that they are more than just numbers to you: they are your friends. A card is also a nice way to thank a client each year that the client is with you. On their milestone anniversaries (systematically every 5 years, for example), send a little something extra. You might send a box of candy, a set of golf balls, or a bookmark. With a bit of creativity, and your knowledge of what they like, you can share a fairly inexpensive gift that shows you appreciate them and their business.
  • Special Occasions: Have you heard that your client has just had a baby or their grandchild has been born? Did a customer’s father pass away? Acknowledge these events and be present when appropriate. Celebrate the great times with a congratulatory call, card, or share a happy lunch. Express your consolation in times of loss. On sad occasions, if you cannot physically be there for your client, send a nice bouquet of flowers or a basket of finger food. Locate the death notice and make note of any special request. At times, a donation to a specific organization is requested in lieu of flowers. Your contribution will indicate your care and attentiveness.
  • Welcome Packets: Client welcome packets are not a new concept, but making the welcome packet special often gets lost in the shuffle. In addition to the standard items, try including something a little different. Options to add into a folder or envelope to make your client feel appreciated, and set you apart as unique, might be things like a packet of wildflower seeds, a money clip, or a smartphone screen protector. Little extras that could be included are endless, and with some imagination (and a few Google searches), you can find something memorable for new clients who are sure to appreciate the gesture.
  • Events: Not everyone is able to provide an event for their customers, but if you are able to, our advice is to do it. Holiday parties are nice ways to get everyone together and celebrate. You could hold such an event at your home to avoid extra expense. Bring your clients together for food, drinks, and fun to show your appreciation.
  • Shout-outs: With your client’s pre-approval, give them a shout-out on social media or in your newsletter to show them how much you appreciate them. By sharing a client’s good news, such as a birth announcement, a new job, or purchasing a new home, a client may feel closer to you, leading to new referrals. Also, by “tagging” your client in social media, friends of that client will see the acknowledgement and may be impressed with your customer service and attention.
  • Follow-ups: Nothing shows your appreciation more than following up with your clients on a systematic basis. Calling just to see how they are doing, remembering special events in their lives, and offering your assistance when they are not expecting it are some of the best ways to express your appreciation to your clients. Keep your lines of communication open and provide personal customer service to deepen your relationships, especially nowadays when customer service is so important. Sometimes the biggest gift that you can give someone is the gift of listening, which costs you nothing.

Although each industry is different, basic customer appreciation can go far regardless of the job. When your clients feel like friends not just customers, your deeper relationships could lead to more business, both from your clients and from referrals from satisfied customers. Don’t forget the little things; those little things are what keep people around.

Have you thought about showing your clients appreciation? We have….

Labor Day 2016: The Value of Work

Labor Day 2016: The Value of Work

Work. Nothing happens without work. Work allows our families, community, and society to function. May you and your loved ones find opportunities…to do what needs to be done…ideally, doing something you love.

May we all pause on this Labor Day to appreciate the value of work, whether as employee, business owner, manager, home maker, or another role. For those who provide financial support for themselves and their families, may you find stable, sufficient employment throughout your lives. We hope you have a job, or soon will, where you are appropriately compensated, and can ultimately earn a living wage, and then one that provides you financial security. For those who work in other ways, running a home and raising children for example, know that your work is essential too, and may those around you make it clear that your work is valued. Many of us must do both to get by — for those who do, our hope is that you have the energy, health, and tenacity to handle the load.

May young people find their way as they approach their future. Stay flexible in your quest, alert to opportunities, and focused on your goals. Learn all you can from school, through mentors, internships, or apprenticeships, and on your own. Know, though, that one also needs to learn how to work…it takes practice. Do your best at whatever work you do, at every level. Do a good job, not just the minimum required.

If you are unemployed, underemployed, underpaid, or facing other challenges, we hope you are able to find what you need soon.

The path to work is not always smooth. Perhaps it never is, and never was. But nothing happens without work.

Here’s to all those who do everything they can through work to improve the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the USA…and Canada, as well. Thank you for your labor. Have a Happy Labor Day, and a year ahead in which your work may somehow be not just sustaining, but appreciated, and even fulfilling.

 

Encourage Your “Intrapreneurs” to Innovate!

Encourage Your “Intrapreneurs” to Innovate!

Are you trying to grow your business, and seeking ideas on how? Why don’t you give your staff the ability to be “intrapreneurs”? Most of us are familiar with the term “entrepreneur” but may not have thought about its internal parallel. An “intrapreneur” is someone who takes the initiative inside your company to create an idea and “turn the idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.” (Pinchot University, 2015.)

Many staff members may feel as though their ideas would be rejected, or even looked down upon if they openly communicated them. And some of the most promising intrapreneurs are naturally humble, quiet, and internalize their thoughts. They may only need your invitation and reassurance to fully participate!

As a business-leader, you are an entrepreneur…and understand the innovative mindset. Consider, though, that you can learn a lot from your staff. Have brainstorming sessions and allow your employees to freely communicate their ideas. Such sessions can benefit your firm by increasing employee morale as well as allowing you to receive direct feedback about the company’s procedures and strategies in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

If you communicate to your employees that all opinions are not only welcomed but encouraged, you are inviting your “hidden” intrapreneurs to contribute to the growth and profitability of your company, while also building intellectual capital within your firm.

According to Pinchot University, “innovation is necessary if an organization wants to grow or stay competitive.” Allow your employees to be creative with their ideas and follow them through to implementation. This true empowerment can give your brand a new boost that you may never have thought of as an employer. Be supportive, be open, and be reassuring to your intrapreneurs. You may just be surprised with the outcome!

Have you thought about new ways to grow your business? We have….

Pinchot University (2015). Retrieved at http://pinchot.edu/what-is-intrapreneurship/

Happy employees = Satisfied Customers!

Happy employees = satisfied customers!

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” Author Unknown

“If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.” J W Marriott

“Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.” Jim Goodright

We have all seen these types of motivational quotes on posters on office walls – or as memes on social media – but how many employers truly take this to heart? It’s no secret that most people enjoy recognition for their efforts, but could that recognition actually benefit the employer? Studies say, “Yes.”

“Research found that in organizations where recognition occurs, employee engagement, productivity and customer service are about 14 percent better than those where recognition does not occur.” (Bersin, 2012.)

With that said, how can you recognize your employees to get the greatest results? The best ways we’ve found are recognizing potential, effort, and achievement.

  • Involve your employees in the decision-making process. Listen to their ideas, and acknowledge their efforts in the day-to-day matters at hand.
  • If your employee works extra hard, and extra smart, point it out. Show the employee that you see this hard work and efficiency, and recognize the employee; and then promote accordingly.
  • Put your money where your mouth is. If you have exceptional employees, pay them for their worth.
  • Hold staff appreciation days. If your employees are working particularly hard on a project, or just finishing up their busy season, give them a day of recognition. A pizza party, a company picnic, an early day off from work…anything you can do to raise morale. Show them that they are valued, and worth your recognition.

Great customer service stems from happiness in the workplace. Sigma Financial Corporation scored a 9.8 out of 10 for their operational support and services by their representatives in the WealthManagement.com “2016 Independent Broker/Dealer Report Card”, and this was no fluke. Sigma follows the above steps to create a happy workplace, filled with employees who feel appreciated…and it shows!

Have you thought about appreciating your employees? We have….

New Bersin & Associates research shows organizations that excel at employee recognition are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results. (November 7, 2012.) Retrieved from Bersin at http://www.bersin.com/News/Content.aspx?id=16023.

 

What does Freedom and Independence mean to you?

What does Freedom and Independence mean to you?

Celebrating the 4th of July is great fun. It is a joy to gather with friends and family, for wonderful food, local parades, fireworks, an occasional adult beverage, and congested traffic. With all these activities, the real reason for celebrating the 4th can get lost.

As we celebrate the date of the adoption of the Declaration on July 4th as our nation’s Independence Day, I find it refreshing to reflect upon our historical beginnings. I cherish our freedom and independence…and am forever grateful to those who serve and protect it.

So what do we do when faced with sad doses of today’s reality and challenges?

Perhaps actor, Frank Langella (who won Best Lead Actor in a Play at this year’s Tony Awards), said it best when referring to the Pulse tragedy. He said, “When something bad happens, we have three choices:

We can let it define us.

We can let it destroy us.

Or we can let it strengthen us.”

Let’s try to find strength and support each other.

And may we celebrate and enjoy our Freedom and Independence and realize just how precious they are!

Have you thought about what your freedom and independence? We have…

Be safe, and may God bless America!

Women Are Valuable Financial Advisors…

The number of women in finance may not be as typical as you might find in other professions. According to Investopedia.com, based on an Investment News survey, approximately 18% of the country’s independent financial advisors are women. In an industry so dominated by men, some young women may feel intimidated to pursue the profession. However, just because women are not currently as populous as men in this field does not mean that they are less of an asset.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average annual wage for Personal Financial Advisors is $118,050. At present, 12% of Sigma Financial advisors are women, and 28% of these women earn more than the national average. For perspective, 88% of all financial advisors at Sigma Financial are men, while 19% of these men earn more than the national average. This goes to show that although the percentage of women advisors is quite a bit smaller, their value to the profession is not.

Several organizations support, promote, and recognize exceptional women in the financial services industry. “Women in Insurance and Financial Services” or “WIFS” is an organization “…dedicated to attracting, developing and advancing women in the insurance and financial services industry.” Another organization, “Financial Women’s Association,” or “FWA,” begins its mission “To accelerate the success and leadership of women across the financial community…”. These are just two of the organizations that promote the empowerment of women in this industry. Sigma Financial has a “Women’s Forum,” which brings together the women of our company and acknowledges them as exceptional individuals in what is still a male-dominated profession. With multiple support organizations and initiatives dedicated specifically to women in financial services, we are hopeful that future generations of women will embrace their financial calling and make this industry one that is gender-neutral.

Has your firm committed to a plan for growing the percentage of women in the financial industry? We have….

Notes supporting statistics and quotations above, and for further information:

Neufeld, D. (2015, August). Independent broker-dealers with the most women advisors. Retrieved from the Investopedia.com website: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/financial-advisors/081215/independent-brokerdealers-most-women-advisors.asp

Occupational Employment Statistics. (2015). Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics website: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132052.htm  

WIFS. (2016). Retrieved from “President’s Message” https://wifsnational.org/

FWA. (2016). Retrieved from “Our Mission” http://fwa.org/

Is Your IBD Listening to You?

In the day-to-day life of a broker-dealer, the happiness and satisfaction of its representatives should be among its primary concerns. We consider listening to our reps one of the most important aspects of our rep relationship. We strive every day to make sure that our advisors feel heard and appreciated. We believe our approach led our reps to rank us high in the Wealth Management 2016 IBD Report Card (WealthManagement.com; March 8, 2016 Issue; The Top Broker-Rated IBDs 2016). We are so proud and very pleased to report that the WealthManagement.com 2016 IBD Report Card shows that responses from Sigma representatives placed our firm 5th overall and 4th among smaller IBDs across the industry.

WealthManagement.com surveyed representatives from 80 Independent Broker-Dealers (IBDs), asking them to rank their IBDs in the key areas of compensation/benefits, compliance, management, operational support and service, practice support/professional development, product offerings, and technology. In all these categories, Sigma Financial scored at least 9.4 out of 10, averaging 9.6, and even tied for first in the operational support and service category with a rating of 9.8.

In an industry where financial advisors have their pick of the litter when it comes to finding the right IBD, Sigma Financial is proud to be such a high-ranking broker-dealer as judged by so many of our representatives. We’ve always believed that reps should not have to sacrifice what is most important to them in a broker-dealer just because they are familiar with that firm. Our suggestion to anyone who is unhappy at their current IBD is to look around and explore your options. Surveys like the WealthManagement.com IBD Report Card can help you understand how others feel about their broker- dealers, which may help you make a decision about yourself.

Have you thought about this? We have….

Back to the Basics: Effectively Communicating Across Generations

Are you effectively communicating with your clients across different generations? In this industry, we all know that effective communication is the key to gathering and retaining assets. Making sure clients are comfortable, and feel that they have received accurate and timely information, are both essential to a positive client experience. Do you know how to best deliver your thoughts and ideas based on your target audience?

We have all read numerous reports on how to effectively communicate across generations. Research shows it is best to communicate with the Greatest Generation one on one, notepad in hand, where things are detailed and written down on paper right in front of them; Baby Boomers through scheduled meetings and phone calls; Generation X by cell phone and meetings after business hours; and Millennials using digital communications and social media.  The newest consumer generation is commonly known as Generation Z. There hasn’t been a ton of research done on this group yet, and because of that, people struggle to determine the best communication plan to establish for them. We do have some initial impressions. Like Millennials, Generation Z are highly internet and social media driven in their communication, but in a very different way. Generation Z are multi-taskers and use images, symbols, abbreviations, and emojis to express themselves. They prefer quick, instant images to tell their stories…as these are fast and direct. Generation Z looks for precise and concise information. They expect services to be available instantaneously. Replies to their messages should be sent within a minute. They do not want to read a lengthy article for answers. If they are required to do so, they will quickly lose interest and you could lose a potential client. They’re more than comfortable with the digital era; in fact, they appreciate one that is “on steroids”, where with a click or swipe they have instant information. They are also prone to referrals, and often use internet reviews. These are your kids / grandkids, and the next generation entering the workforce and the investing space.

When prospecting for new clients, make sure that you are communicating effectively based on your target audience’s generation and comfort zone. Effective communication shows your dedication to servicing them efficiently using the methods they prefer and fit their lifestyle. As part of your initial meeting, develop a communication plan with them so that you are delivering on their expectations.

Have you thought about whether or not you are communicating effectively based on your target market? We have….

What are you doing in anticipation of the proposed fiduciary rule?

What are you doing in anticipation of the proposed fiduciary rule?

We’ve all been bombarded with numerous articles about the fiduciary rule proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL). We’ve read how the new rule is being aggressively pursued by the DOL and the current White House Administration. What has been your response? Proactive or reactive?

Can we be proactive in planning for the changes rather than taking the “ostrich approach” and just waiting for the final outcome? While we know that a fiduciary must exercise care, skill, diligence, and objectivity in evaluating, recommending, and reviewing investment options, the question remains: “Who exactly will be considered a fiduciary under the new rule?” While experts have opined on the rule’s anticipated details, the final answers are yet to be determined…but will be coming our way soon.

In order to demonstrate commitment to prudent investment planning, training, and ethics, additional fiduciary training is a necessity for individuals who handle accounts that will be affected by the new regulations. A great suggestion is to partner with a leading fiduciary training expert like fi360, a firm that offers exclusive fiduciary training events and software tools.

While the DOL has yet to implement the rule changes, they have now sent a final draft to the Office of Management and Budget. Has your broker-dealer proactively positioned itself ahead of these possible changes? We feel that additional fiduciary training will aid in the growth of our advisors’ practices as opportunities become available for those who hold the appropriate credentials. According to Melanie Waddell (ThinkAdvisor, Waddell, 2012), “The No. 1 complaint in Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration cases is breach of fiduciary duty.”[1] This factual underpinning adds to the importance of advisors proactively seeking this training. As public awareness increases about fiduciary responsibilities, some advisors will be ahead of the curve and be able to act on opportunities, differentiating themselves from those who lag behind.

Have you thought about these opportunities?  We have….

[1] Waddell, M. (2012, 10 23). Breach of Fiduciary Duty Most Common FINRA Complaint. Referenced at www.thinkadvisor.com: http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2012/10/23/breach-of-fiduciary-duty-most-common-finra-complai

Are the Hawks Circling?

Are the Hawks Circling?

Let’s consider the following scenario. You have been a representative with your broker-dealer for the past 15 years, and when you look back on the time spent with them you have nothing but great things to say. The company has always tried to stay ahead of the curve; service levels have increased over time; the back office staff has always been friendly and responsive. The next thing you know, you see your broker-dealer show up in the headlines, and not in a positive way. Naturally, you start to wonder: Is this a hiccup? Will they get right back on their feet again tomorrow? Or will this news somehow impact them for the long term and possibly affect your business relationship?

We see these kinds of headlines often. A firm is rumored to be for sale. A company is laying people off after a sluggish quarter. A broker-dealer is cutting payouts as their projected net income shrinks. A firm is being fined by FINRA or a specific state for supervision issues. What happens next can almost be set on your watch: Your phone starts ringing and people start asking if you like your broker-dealer, and suggesting just how quickly you should bail out of your sinking ship.

We offer two pieces of advice if you face a situation like this. First, call your broker-dealer directly and open the lines of communication with its senior managers to discuss your concerns. Find out if the people that you have worked with for the past 15 years can offer insight into the situation, and perhaps give you a better explanation than what you have read. See if your fears and concerns can be allayed and your questions answered so that you know “the ship hasn’t hit an iceberg.” Second, if you contemplate making a broker-dealer change due to some negative news, consult with trusted industry colleagues for their knowledge and points of view, including representatives at your current broker-dealer, representatives at other broker-dealers, and local wholesalers/key account executives at product companies affiliated with your broker-dealer. The best advice, and often the most accurate news, usually comes from trusted colleagues.

Have you thought about this? We have….

For Financial Professional Use Only

Succession Planning: What Happens When a Purchasing Advisor Dies?

Succession Planning: What Happens When a Purchasing Advisor Dies?

When you own a financial planning business, do your ownership rights extend to your beneficiaries? The question comes up commonly these days. Some succession plans aren’t set up until a representative becomes terminally ill, and are then done hastily, often using free “boilerplate” documents. The rep usually decides to sell their practice to another advisor with payments going to them or their named beneficiary. We see succession planning scenarios like this all the time at our broker-dealer. What happens, though, if the advisor who purchased the practice unexpectedly passes away?

Does the beneficiary have the right to re-sell the practice to another advisor? Is the broker-dealer allowed to contact affected clients to inform them that their advisor passed away and let them know who will be servicing their account going forward? Believe it or not, we have been asked these very questions three times in the past year. The conversation always begins with the question: “Can they do that?”

From the broker-dealer’s perspective, yes, it is the b-d’s responsibility to alert a client if something has changed with how their account is being handled. Some would argue that it is the b-d’s responsibility to alert the client that the advisor who was managing their account is no longer acting in that capacity, and that the b-d itself must implement a plan to ensure the client’s needs are being met. So yes, the broker-dealer can, and should, take action.

When a beneficiary contacts us with questions, as a broker-dealer, we first advise them to see if language exists in the original selling agreement that relates to their current situation. Beneficiaries have no residual ownership rights to the clients as assets, and would not have the right to re-sell the book of business anyway because, by definition, beneficiaries are not securities-registered. They may, however, retain some rights, if specified in the selling agreement. If that agreement was prepared by a securities attorney, their rights should be clearly defined.

The bottom-line lesson: “Boilerplate” selling agreements and succession planning “freebies” found on the internet may save a representative time and money in legal expenses, but could potentially cost a beneficiary significant money down the road.

Have you thought about this? We have….