We’re really pleased with the changes we’ve made in 2017 and we thought we’d review them with our clients (and prospective clients) as we close out the year. But first, a little history.
The mission of nVest Advisors is essentially the same mission CEO Jeremy Torgerson has always held as a financial advisor: to be the best financial resource, advocate and advisor for middle income families and small businesses we’re capable of being. Jeremy believes that average Americans deserve the same level of planning expertise and financial care that usually gets reserved for the very wealthy. Jeremy strongly believes that middle America needs, and in fact deserves, high-quality, conflict-free financial advice and coaching. Doing so in the most ethical way possible: as a commission-free, fee-only advisory firm, was what he decided to do. And in October 2015, nVest Advisors was born.
Since that time, we’ve grown, slowly and deliberately, to manage over $7,000,000 in client assets, nearly all from average-income working families. Our average account size is less than $25,000. The average household income of our clients is less than $100,000. The average age of our clients is 48 (and dropping). We’re connecting with the right people – the ones we intended to: middle income working individuals, families, and small business owners.
But if you were to ask nearly anyone in the financial services industry about Jeremy’s vision: to work with and provide premium financial planning and advice for what they’d call “very small accounts”, they’d say he was crazy. (Some have actually told him that.) They’d say there is no way to make that business work economically. There will be too many accounts to manage, too many client calls to make, too much work for too few dollars of income.
The issue is, the Old School of our (aging) industry is still fixated on the practitioner business model: one advisor with an assistant, handling a few big clients. Even in teams, the old model is what our industry knows and is comfortable with.
That’s why middle America has usually had to rely on mass media sources for financial advice. Most advisors turn their noses up at working with a small account, so you have to look for general advice written for the masses. Books and videos by Dave Ramsey, Suzi Orman, Tony Robbins, and Robert Kyosaki may be full of excellent general advice, but taking those nuggets of wisdom and directly applying it to your own life in a meaningful and organized way, is really hard for most people. You really do need someone who can keep you focused on your own life, working toward your own goals, and who can help you steer clear of emotional mistakes and frustration that inevitably come up.
That’s what nVest Advisors hopes to do.
But Jeremy’s critics are right in one respect: it’s not a charity. We can only exist if we grow and thrive economically, and we’ve chosen to do that not by chasing the ultra-wealthy client (though we’re perfectly suited to help those folks, too) to the exclusion of everyone else. We believe we have a sustainable and scalable business model working with average American families, by systematizing and automating our financial planning and investment management where it’s feasible, and by keeping our internal operating costs low. And we do that two ways.
First, by eliminating the “old guy behind a desk” practitioner business model, and second, by using emerging technology as often as we can, for as many tasks as we can, and only adding fixed expenses, like bigger office facilities, when we absolutely have to.
So after two years, as nVest Advisors starts to mature, we thought it would be neat to pull back the curtain and show you how we do what we do, and why.
Portal. Our new Client Portal is the hub of our communications with our clients. It provides you an at-a-glance view of all of your accounts at nVest Advisors (regardless of which custodian has them), plus performance information, billing updates, a secure communication server between us, a way to share your documents directly with your CPA or other approved third parties, and more. Plus, you can connect all of your bank, credit card, loan, 401k, and other financial accounts, so you can see your entire financial life in one place, at one time; all updated and current in real-time. It’s an amazing bit of technology that lets us work together on your financial goals and challenges like we’ve never been able to before.
Planning. In the old days, we used to create financial plans in the form of a formal report, after at least two meetings with you and dozens of hours of reviewing your statements and plugging in your financial data. Then you end up with a report that is current for about a month. Thank heavens those days are behind us. The financial planning we do today is online and updates itself automatically. Plus, it syncs with our client portal, so we only have to add information once.
Automated communications. Like most companies, we use an automated email service to reach out to you (and prospective clients), but technology allows us to really custom-tailor the communication you receive so that it’s relevant to you. We’ve just begun to really implement email customization, so look for more of that coming in 2018.
CRM. Where the client portal is our central hub for interacting with you, our client relationship manager (CRM) is our internal hub. It’s where all of our communications get archived, where we keep notes (amazing amounts of notes, actually) of what’s going on for you as a client, where all of our to-dos, calendars, and more get organized and kept. Each of you, for instance, is given a specific “work flow”, which will automatically remind us to do certain things in your account or experience as a client, when it’s time to do them.
Online appointment scheduling. We’ve eliminated the back-and-forth of calling or emailing to schedule an appointment. Now you can book your own appointment at any time that’s convenient to you. You can choose from an in-person, video, or phone appointment, and even how long you want to meet. This automatically adds to my calendar and sends us both reminders before the appointment. Plus, if there are forms or questionnaires we need completed before your meeting, it’ll give you links to them automatically so you can complete them at your convenience.
(Speaking of online forms, we now have a compliant, secure online form service that remembers your previous entries and updates all of your information, automatically, all across our entire tech stack. It also lets us be good stewards of the environment, eliminating nearly all of the paper forms and files in a traditional office. This saves us money on paper, toner, ink, and helps us keep the planet a little nicer, too. Pretty cool.)
Compliance. You wouldn’t believe how regulated the financial services industry is, and we have to stay compliant. We do that in a very high-tech manner, too. Using an online cloud-based compliance software that ensures all of our regulatory bases are covered, including archiving every email, social media post, and change to our website for ten years. Keeping track of every security we use in a client portfolio. Justifying each of our advisory fees. Keeping records of every public speaking event, mention in major media (Jeremy has a lot), every incoming or outgoing client correspondence, and various compliance checklists, to make sure we’re in compliance with every federal and state rule (and can prove it to an auditor).
Robo Account Management. Your daily account activity is watched and adjusted by AI. One of the primary ways we can work with many hundreds of average-income families and small businesses, and still have a personal life, is to automate much of our day-to-day investment account service activity. We’re strong believers in Robo account management, for lots of reasons. (In a nutshell, a robo account manager, operating under the strict guidance and instructions of a human advisor who knows you and your goals, is the most consistent, most cost-effective, most fair, most timely, and most accurate way to manage your money. After our family’s serious car accident in July, for example, there wasn’t a moment that your accounts were not being monitored and adjusted, even while I was hospitalized. Properly supervised robo account management is a human advisor’s – and a client’s – best friend.) Robo account service has allowed us to lower our advisory fees – twice – in the last two years.
Our clients who have accounts at Betterment Institutional, TD Ameritrade, and Vestwell already enjoy this feature. We’ll be bringing most of the rest of you on-board in 2018.
Webinars and Online Meetings. The old days of in-person seminars and long office meetings is long behind us. Although we love to see you in person, and will make lots of opportunities to do so, we know how busy life gets and how hard it is to sometimes get away to meet at an office or attend a client event. That’s why we now offer video meetings with our clients, and all of our workshops and seminars are now conducted via the internet. You can be at home, in your pajamas, and log in to learn about a financial concept. And when it’s meeting time, you can be at work, at home, or even on a trip, and we can get it done. This has revolutionized how we can work with clients, and how we can be states away from you, and still give you personal, human advice.
Social Media. Keep in touch with us the way you want to, in the places you already enjoy spending time. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, or LinkedIn, you can connect with us and stay up-to-date on your terms.
Although we’ve always had physical office facilities, it’s become less and less important to spend a fortune on office space (except for our ego’s sake). Office space and the associated utilities is the single biggest expense in the financial advisory business. It’s hard to justify grand office space when fewer and fewer clients ever visit it.
When we visit south Texas for in-person client meetings, we still use the same office facilities we have always used, at 302 E. Lorenaly Drive, Suite E, Brownsville, TX 78526.
In Colorado, however, it wasn’t so easy to select an office location right away, because the Denver Metro Area is not only a 50-mile long stretch along I-25, but traffic congestion in Denver means even an office 15 miles away could take well over an hour to get to. That might mean two hours of round-trip commuting for a client (or significant tolls to speed that up), for a 30-minute meeting. So again, as a cost-saving measure, and until we know for sure where the “right” place in Denver will be for our future HQ, we work from a custom-built office and podcast studio in Jeremy’s home in Brighton.
There is much more to our uses of technology that we haven’t covered, such as a VOIP phone system that can locate us anywhere in the world in seconds, double-encryption of your personal files and information, our strict “scan and shred” policy to protect your data, and more. But we hope from this broad overview of our internal practices, you get the point. We’re serious about tech. It’s integral to our business model.
At nVest Advisors, we’re committed to become the very best place middle America comes for financial planning and investment management. That’s an audacious goal, and it’s coming from humble beginnings. But with vision, persistence, and your trust in us, we’re confident we’ll get there.