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Wealth Firm Grows Its Business Through Education 

By Rita Raagas De Ramos May 18, 2017

Education is at the core of Stavis & Cohen Financial’s efforts to grow its business. The company’s co-founders, Deborah Stavis and Eddie Cohen, teach a continuing education class for seniors and conduct financial planning workshops for young adults and prospective women clients.

The Houston-based RIA, which offers securities through FSC Securities, was founded in 2009. It manages around $450 million, mainly for retail clients.

Stavis, the firm’s CEO, and Cohen, its chief investment officer, have been teaching a class on investment, retirement and estate planning at Rice University in Houston since 1984. The class is for retirees or those nearing that stage. The class is scheduled twice per academic year and runs for seven weeks. The maximum class size is 35.

“Financial literacy is low because education about handling one’s finances or preparing for retirement is not always readily available, and it’s not always considered polite to talk about money,” says Stavis.

The class starts with basic information, such as what a financial advisor does and how financial advisors are compensated. Then it goes into investing, analyzing risk and reward, and retirement and estate planning. Class participants are typically not clients of Stavis & Cohen or people who take a do-it-yourself approach to investing and financial planning.

Stavis says some class participants eventually become clients of Stavis & Cohen.

“I think it happens because education’s a core value of ours. They see that we are more interested in educating and so it’s not uncommon for them to seek us out,” she says. “That’s always a pleasure, because we’ve kind of gotten to know them before they become clients.”

Deborah Stavis

The two financial-planning workshops which constitute Stavis & Cohen's in-house "university" cater to young-adult children (16 to 35 years old) of the firm’s wealthy clients and a "women’s forum" for women who are prospective clients.

The workshop for young adults started in 2012. It has been running twice a year since then, with a maximum of 30 participants per workshop. It focuses on the basics of investing and asset allocation; the use of tools, such as budgeting money on one's iPhone; the importance of investing early; and more importantly, the roles and responsibilities of trustees and executors.

Stavis says these children may just be starting to share in their families’ wealth, or are on their way to becoming trustees or executors.

“The parents want us to educate their kids about their family wealth and the transfer of that wealth, and in addition to that, they want us to teach the kids about values and responsibility,” she says. “Our clients tell us that they are even more concerned about their kids having an education about money, because they are interested not just in transferring money but also values.”

The Women’s Forum started in 2005 and has been running four times per year. Additional workshops are held for companies that invite Stavis & Cohen to bring this workshop to their offices. The workshop typically has 100 people in attendance, with a few hundred more participating via video streaming, according to Stavis.

“There’s a whole new group of prospective women clients that digital will let us do business with, and that’s the women in the companies who don’t want to come in for workshops or face-to-face meetings. They are very busy, and they value their time,” Stavis says.

Just like the workshop for young adults, the Women’s Forum focuses on the basics of investing and asset allocation, but is tailored to the women’s needs and goals. Stavis says many women professionals in Houston tend to be in scientific fields because of the oil companies in the area, with many working as engineers or geophysicists, for example.