By David McPherson, CFP®
As a small firm, one of the advantages we provide to our financial planning and investment management clients is personal service. Our clients know us, and we know them. That's not what you get when you're dealing with a much larger firm that serves thousands of clients.
Our smallness, however, presents challenges. First among those is how do we ensure continuity of service to clients who come to rely upon us, particularly during challenging financial times such as we're experiencing now during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Traditionally, small financial planning firms operated by one or two people have not done a great job developing backup plans in the event a key person dies or becomes incapacitated. This lack of continuity planning prevalent among small firms has caught the attention of regulators who have been quizzing financial advisors more often about their backup plans.
As the founder of Four Ponds Financial Planning, ensuring the firm's long-term stability has been among my top concerns . Too much blood, sweat and tears have gone into building the firm over the last 13 years to put it at risk in the event the unexpected occurs.
Over the past several years, the following steps have been taken to strengthen the firm's foundation while also maintaining the advantages of being a small operation. These steps include the following:
- The hiring of Justin Green in 2017 to expand Four Ponds beyond a one-person business and train a second financial planner to serve the firm's clients. Justin earned the Certified Financial Planner™ designation last summer and completed a masters degree in Personal Financial Planning from Kansas State University last fall.
- The 2019 addition of Eric Stein, CFA, of East Bay Financial Services to our team as outside chief investment strategist. Eric and his business partner, Mario Nardone, CFA, assist us with portfolio oversight, investment due diligence, and development of our investment models.
- A formal continuity agreement Justin and I signed that outlines steps for the future of Four Ponds in the event of my unanticipated death or long-term disability. This continuity agreement was formulated with the assistance of FP Transitions, one of the leading firms focused on succession and continuity planning for financial advisors.
- And most recently, we hired Garrett Investment Advisors to serve as a sub advisor for our clients to assist us with time-consuming tasks such as paperwork preparation, billing, and portfolio implementation. Four Ponds remains responsible for all client relationships, financial planning and investment recommendations, while Garrett will be in a position to support Justin Green in the event of my death or disability.
Together, these steps help provide a solid foundation to help ensure Four Ponds Financial Planning thrives and endures for the long term. We believe this benefits both clients and the firm and makes us more excited than ever about what's ahead for the next 13 years.