When H. Robert Bradley and his partners founded NorthLanding Financial Partners, an independent registered investment advisory firm in Rochester, N.Y., they chose the name of the firm very carefully. The last thing they wanted to do was to call their firm a “wealth manager.”
“I consider myself an anti-wealth manager,” he says. “Wealth management is the exact opposite of where you want to start. The concept of wealth management starts by focusing about what a client has, instead of where they are going. Frankly, I think it’s a bogus term invented by Wall Street brokerage firms who aren’t willing to hold themselves out as genuine financial planners.”
Bradley, together with three partners, all Certified Financial Planners, started NorthLanding earlier this year to provide their clients with a planning process that identifies the human issues that go beyond simple portfolio management. They focus on planning for first generation affluent people that work in Rochester’s many tech-focused businesses.
“We serve savers and business people who earned and created their money themselves,” he says. “Stewarding and protecting it is often more critical for them than someone who comes from multi-generational wealth.”
Bradley and two of his partners are veterans of another firm that they felt lost its way. When the city’s most famous business, Eastman Kodak, fell apart and eventually declared bankruptcy in early 2012, many employees were laid off and others left. This brought a lot of business to local financial advisors: Many workers now faced important life questions, such as rolling over retirement accounts, and deciding whether to retire or look for a new job.
“When a firm grows too fast, they can get sloppy with everything from who they hire, the types of processes they use and most importantly, having a culture of ‘client care’,” Bradley says.
“Nobody was really interested in giving individual clients a fully formed planning process because when Kodak went down, client retirement assets were just flowing out of there in a panic.”
The partners vow to not let this happen in with their firm, which they opt to keep small to preserve a culture of patience and care for the client.
Their commitment to objectivity and providing complete planning services informed NorthLanding’s compensation structure. They disagree with financial planners who believe that the only way to give truly disinterested advice is to work strictly under a fee-for-advice model. Their reason: Charging clients only either a percentage of assets under management or receiving commissions for selling financial products leads the advisor to push one business model on clients that have varying needs.
To ensure that the firm gives objective advice and full planning services, it remains open to selling products from several sources. Not only do they offer financial advice and planning by the hour, they can also be compensated with a percentage of a client’s assets. They have an institutional relationship with Fidelity, but they can also access any broker-dealer product available as independent broker-dealer reps.
This flexibility, they say, helps NorthLanding find the right products for their clients. In some cases, they even contact other advisors and investment managers that could help the customer in ways that they cannot.
“We are a hybrid by intention,” he says. “If you can’t do everything for your client, you can’t say that you are truly objective.”
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