In early 2020, governments around the globe took drastic measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. As a result, we saw a major shift in the way we work, interact with others and go about our daily lives. While working with an advisor virtually is nothing new, the relevance of virtual advising has increased significantly amidst the global pandemic.
Money is one of the most personal and important aspects of your life, meaning you may feel more comfortable trusting someone you can get to know in-person. But with today’s technology and ongoing need to continue social distancing, now’s the perfect time to consider whether working with a local advisor is really a necessity or not. Instead of physical location, it may be more prudent to consider other factors, such as designations and certifications, years of experience, areas of expertise and more.
As you consider whether or not to work with someone in your area or beyond, ask yourself the following questions.
Am I Comfortable Utilizing Technology?
Virtual advisors will likely want to meet with you face-to-face over video chat, whether through WebEx, Zoom, Skype, Facetime or other video conferencing tools. They’ll likely want to share their screen with you, go over important documents and even have you virtually sign paperwork. When you’re not meeting virtually face-to-face, you’ll likely have access to view your portfolio and other financial information online.
It’s likely your advisor will work with you to try to make your experience as comfortable as possible. They can provide instructions for using their tools and answer any questions you may have to help ease your concerns. But if you’re still uncomfortable with building a technology-heavy relationship with your advisor, working with someone local may be better.
What Services Do I Need?
The type of services you’re looking for from an advisor may shape the type of relationship you’re looking to build. If you’d prefer to remain fairly hands-off or you have a demanding schedule, working together virtually may be much more preferred than meeting in-person during office hours. On the other hand, if you prefer to work together closely with your advisor, drop by their office to ask a question or check-in often, you may be more comfortable working with an advisor within driving distance.
Do I Need an Advisor With Certain Expertise?
Another important consideration is experience and credentials. If you’re in need of someone with a specific niche (such as employee stock options or sudden money situations), there may not be an advisor who specializes in this in your area. If that’s the case, it may be worth working with someone virtually who can provide the expertise you’re looking for.
In a world that’s gone virtual, working with an advisor simply because they are local is no longer a necessity. The technology to build a well-developed relationship virtually is there, and it’s being utilized by thousands of advisors, brokers and agents around the globe. The important thing is to determine what you’re comfortable doing when it comes to your money and finding a partner who will be compatible and capable of helping you reach your goals.
As far as credentials go, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) certification arguably offers a minimum baseline designation to cut out many bogus designations, and so many believe the CFP® certification represents the best available option as a single, uniform, minimum standard for financial planning. CFP® professionals are held to strict ethical standards to ensure financial planning recommendations are in your best interest. What’s more, a CFP® professional must acquire several years of experience related to delivering financial planning services to clients and pass the comprehensive CFP® certification exam before they can use the CFP® designation.
That said, many clients need financial planners with “post-CFP” education, as the required body of knowledge grows and family financial matters increasingly call for advanced professional specializations. The Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA®) designation is an advanced professional education and certification for advisors who provide the breadth of specialized skills required to meet the needs of high-net-worth clients. This certification requires advisors to develop advanced knowledge and skills to address the wide range of complex issues faced by wealthy individuals and families, including portfolio strategies, wealth transfer, family dynamics, risk management, asset protection, closely-held business ownership, charitable giving, estate planning, retirement planning, and takes a holistic and multidisciplinary approach.
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA): NAPFA offers a search tool here. NAPFA is a leading professional association of Fee-Only financial advisors—highly trained professionals who are committed to working in the best interests of those they serve.
Investments & Wealth Institute (IWI): IWI is a professional association, advanced education provider, and standards body for financial advisors, investment consultants, and wealth managers who embrace excellence and ethics and awards the CPWA® certification. A search tool to find a CPWA® can be found here.
Financial Planning Association (FPA): The FPA is the largest membership organization for CFP professionals in the U.S. and supports high standards of professional competence, ethical conduct, and clear, complete disclosure when serving clients. Their PlannerSearch tool can be accessed here.
Beacon Hill Private Wealth is an independent, fee-only, fiduciary investment advisor providing evidence-based wealth planning solutions that simplify our clients' financial lives. Founder Tom Geoghegan, CFP®, CPWA® MBA is also a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).
The Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA) certification administered by the Investments & Wealth Institute® is the standard for competence in the field of wealth management today. The advanced credential created specifically for wealth managers working with high-net-worth clients is focused on the life cycle of wealth—accumulation, preservation, and distribution. CPWA certified professionals are able to identify and analyze the unique challenges high-net-worth individuals face and understand how to develop specific strategies to minimize taxes, monetize and protect assets, maximize growth, and transfer wealth. The CPWA designation signifies that an individual has met initial and on-going experience, ethical, education, and examination requirements for the professional designation, which is centered on private wealth management topics and strategies.
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