The Advisory Career

The Emergence of the Holistic Advisor

We’ve come a long way from selling debit contracts door to door

by Jason Smith

Mr. Smith is the founder of The JL Smith Group, in Avon, OH., and established in 1995. He is also the founder of two national financial planning organizations, Clarity 2 Prosperity Mastermind Group and Prosperity Capital Advisors, a SEC Registered Investment Advisory firm. Visit

The overwhelming growth trend of independent RIAs and dually licensed firms continues to be an undeniable force in the financial industry.

And, momentum is increasing towards a uniform fiduciary standard that may shake the insurance world with a division of fixed and fixed indexed annuities, altering the daily operations and recommendations of insurance producers nationwide.

Consumers and government regulators alike are demanding more transparent, client-driven services in the best interest of investors, and the most successful advisors today have embraced and helped lead this movement towards holistic financial service and looking at a client’s entire financial portfolio. So, if you have not yet made the leap, what is stopping you?

Like many in our industry, I got my start in the business representing insurance products door to door. While I was passionate about helping people, I began to feel limited in my ability to truly help clients reach their financial goals through the tools I had available.

After experiencing a life-threatening health scare at the age of 29, I realized the frailties of a business model that on January 1 each year is a blank page dependent on new sales to keep the lights on. I made a commitment to transition my practice into a holistic, process-driven company that could continue with or without me, and over the past 10 years, I have made it my mission to not only transform my practice into a holistic business,but to provide the processes and resources needed to help other advisors to do the same.

Becoming a holistic advisor: challenges & opportunities

The transition from an insurance shop to holistic practice is not one that comes overnight, and is something that requires commitment and recognition of the true challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

It may sound daunting, but committing to becoming a holistic advisor will have lasting benefits for you, your practice, and your clients alike.

A holistic advisor looks at the whole financial picture and provides financial recommendations in areas of investments, insurance, taxes and estate planning. A transactional advisor selling a product cannot be as effective as a holistic advisor who works to create an optimal financial plan where all areas of one’s financial life are coordinated and aligned to meet a common goal.

You may have to secure new licenses or training to become proficient in these other areas of personal finance, or expand your service team, but the payout comes in the form of creating a better, more robust financial plan, resulting in you managing multiple areas of one’s financial life and creating a more positive client experience.

Expanding your team

As you evolve from a single-person operation into a holistic firm, expanding your team and the subsequent “practice management” can be an area of challenge for advisors to tackle.

Learning how to attract quality staff, manage and motivate a team, and automate your practice to run efficiently without your daily involvement is integral to lasting success. I have witnessed both through my practice, as well as the many advisors I have had the opportunity to work with over the years, that the fundamental of embracing structure and operational procedures creates organization, efficiency, increased accountability and buy-in to your company vision.

Learning how to attract quality staff, manage and motivate a team, and automate your practice to run efficiently without your daily involvement is integral to lasting success

Running a successful business requires a very different skill set than financial advising, so tapping into proven processes and relying on business coaches can help get your operational efforts up to full capacity, allowing you to provide better service to your clients, manage your team with clarity and direction, and ultimately increase your net profitability.

Incorporating new streams of revenue: One of the most obvious changes to your revenue as you incorporate securities into your practice is the movement away from relying solely on commissions to experiencing residual assets under management fees.

As you take on more responsibility for creating financial plans for your clients, introducing planning fees and charging for your time becomes a viable revenue stream. The value you provide in building a holistic plan becomes greater, and you should charge accordingly for those services.

Beyond these management and planning fees, new opportunities to enhance your service offering and diversify your sources of revenue come with building a holistic practice. For example, introducing a tax practice or Medicare supplement division as part of your firm. Each of these fill reoccurring annual needs for your clients, while also providing opportunities to appeal to a new client base and cross-sell your advisory services.

Both of these initiatives will aid in your planning and positioning as a holistic services provider, too. Many advisors chose to bring on junior advisors or other professionals to perform these extended services, while the advisor continues to build and maintain the relationship with the client.

Filling an essential service need

Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities of transitioning to become a holistic advisor comes from the ability to create meaningful, lasting impact for American families.

Developing an understanding for how insurance, investments, taxes and estate planning all work together into a cohesive plan is the new standard of service middle-class and middle-class millionaire families are coming to expect from their financial advisor. While the high-net worth have benefitted from this advanced planning and collaboration of their financial professionals for decades, the middle class are the ones most underserved and most in need of this holistic approach to maximize their lifesavings and reach financial goals.

By being proactive and embracing this evolution, you can become quarterback or center of a client’s financial universe, orchestrating and collaborating with CPAs and attorneys for the best possible outcome for your client.

While there are many considerations to factor into becoming a holistic advisor, I believe the change of our industry is inevitable.

Those who adapt and embrace the holistic movement will help shape and define the future of our industry, challenging our professional abilities to create a higher standard of service to our clients. Two things I will say, take comfort in the fact you are not in this alone. There is no need to feel overwhelmed or to recreate the wheel when you can leverage the collective wisdom of other independent advisors who have experienced proven success. And second—it is definitely worth it. At the end of the day, managing an automated, profitable business with a team committed to your vision and clients who are grateful for the value of your service is the ultimate reward. ◊