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Fidelity to Launch One-on-One Coaching in New Year

By Murray Coleman October 20, 2016

Fidelity Investments, which custodies and clears trades for nearly 3,000 advisors across the country, is continuing this year to build out its consulting arm.

The Boston-based asset manager and RIA custodian formed a practice management unit in 2010. Today, Fidelity tells FA-IQ the group’s staff is up to 35 full-time employees – an increase of about 30% since 2014. In the past year, the team has worked on nearly 900 “consulting engagements” for hundreds of advisors, says David Canter, who leads the group.

Such activity represents a double-digit increase in 2015 from the previous year, he adds.

“In an era when technology and custodian services can be susceptible to commoditization, we see offering an expanded consulting platform as a real differentiator,” Canter says.

At the same time, he acknowledges that competitors like Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Pershing are also upping the ante in advisor consulting-related services.

“We’re hoping that advisors will look at us like another McKinsey or Bain,” Canter says in reference to a pair of well-established financial services consulting firms.

With a greater number of consultants coming aboard, Fidelity plans to offer a more complete set of consulting services for advisors starting in January 2017. The initial rollout will include a portal with articles and videos tapping into resources provided by the Peak Advisor Alliance, an arm of advisor Ron Carson’s wealth management business.

David Canter

The service is also being created to give Fidelity’s clients and prospects opportunities to talk to the firm’s experts, as well as those at Peak, about specific issues – either by phone, teleconference or in person.

“We’ve found in the pilot stages that advisors really appreciate being able to communicate at their leisure in their own offices,” Canter says. “So conversations in general are starting out remotely, but then we’re finding a real appetite for one-on-one follow ups.”

Also coming will be peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

“We’re organizing group educational discussions built around coaches who can bring together advisors from different firms to brainstorm and help get traction on goals and initiatives they’re trying to execute on,” Canter says.

Access to Fidelity’s new eLearning exchange will be free to client firms, according to Canter. That includes educational content offered online and interactive group learning sessions. RIAs will also be able to get “complimentary” individual coaching with Peak covering three sessions per firm. If advisors decide to book more one-on-one sessions, the custodian says, they’ll be charged $300 a month -- a discount from regular Peak pricing of $695 a month for similar services.

Carl Rosenfeld, a senior advisor and managing partner at Radnor Financial Advisors in Wayne, Pa., which manages $1.3 billion, started taking part in Fidelity’s eLearning pilot program in July.

The independent RIA has been participating in group study sessions held by Peak’s coaches. “Listening to how other RIAs have implemented and executed on technology strategies has been particularly useful to us,” Rosenfeld says.

Workflow efficiency is another facet of practice management on which Fidelity’s new consulting services will seek to shed light.

“Any time you’re surrounded by respected peers, it’s helpful to use them as a sounding board to flush out new ways to continue to build your business without sacrificing great customer service,” Rosenfeld says.

His firm has also followed up with group discussions through individual calls with coaches at Peak and Fidelity. For example, he’s been taking advantage of such consulting outreach to use in the firm’s ongoing recruiting efforts to bring in fresh talent.

“Through this program, we’ve been able to refine our interviewing process to analyze what skill sets we really need from the outset, then defining where we look for top-tier talent,” Rosenfeld says.

Michael Gouldin, CEO of Gouldin & McCarthy in Basking Ridge, N.J., is also a beta-tester of the eLearning exchange. The RIA, which manages about $450 million, is participating in both group and individualized consulting opportunities being offered to his firm by Fidelity.

“For a smaller practice, gaining access to a coach – not to mention gaining the ability to collaborate with other smart and successful advisory firms – is a great way to help you to focus more on how to run your business,” Gouldin says.