Edelman CEO: These Are the Industry's Biggest Challenges
Source: FA-IQ, Aug. 31, 2017
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS, SPECIAL PROJECT MANAGER, FA IQ: Hello. I'm Rita Raagas De Ramos from Financial Advisor IQ. And with me today is Ryan Parker, CEO of Edelman Financial Services. What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by, first the industry, second by Edelman?
RYAN PARKER, CEO, EDELMAN FINANCIAL SERVICES: Well, I think for the industry, it's always lack of trust. We need to make sure that we're doing the right things so that we don't have an integrity gap where people aren't sure whether or not the industry or the person across the table is actually acting in their best interest.
I think the second is people who can or can't embrace change, particularly in technology, because that's going to be necessary in order to meet clients' evolving needs. This isn't necessarily about a business model or technology. It's that clients and consumers are demanding more. And if the industry doesn't embrace this, then frankly, we're in trouble.
I think as it relates to Edelman, our main thing is about focus and execution. We know that if we focus on what our clients need and we execute on what they need day in and day out and make sure we don't take our eye off the ball, I mean, we've got to evolve as our clients' needs evolve, that we'll be doing well. The reality is that's the thing that we focus on first and foremost.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: I think you have more than 160 advisors nationwide. Can you speak a little bit more about the presence of these advisors and how you plan to grow your business in relation to how many advisors you have on the ground?
RYAN PARKER: Sure. Absolutely. So we have about 160 financial planners, and they're partnered with client service associates so that we can make sure that we're taking care of clients through their whole life cycle. We're in 21 different markets around the country, and that's 43 different branches. And so as you've seen, we actually have expanded everywhere from Washington D.C. all the way to San Diego and Orange County and many points in between.
Our strategy right now is that we're looking to meet the demand in the markets that we're already in. So we're finding when we add planners, we're adding them to cities and regions where we actually have more clients that are coming in than sometimes the current planners can handle, and that we're really looking to go deeper before we go wider. So think about it as a depth strategy versus a breadth strategy.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: So there's no really specific state that you're targeting at the moment in terms of future growth, but you want to focus on the markets that you're in right now?
RYAN PARKER: Well, we're fortunate to be in almost all of the major metros across the country. There's a few that we're not yet in. But the first goal right now is to really make sure we can go deep in the areas that we have chosen to compete in versus going and looking for the next city.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: I believe you have about $18.5 billion in client assets.
RYAN PARKER: Correct.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: What's the plan here in terms of growing those assets?
RYAN PARKER: The plan is easy-- focus on our clients. When you think about that, you don't think about the business, you don't think about metrics. You think about what am I doing to make sure that the current clients we have are well taken care of and that we have the types of things that people understand and value so if they come and talk to us, they're more likely to become a client. That's the basis of sustainable growth.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: Do you have any specific steps for achieving that goal?
RYAN PARKER: As a business, because we are running a business, there are really three areas. One is that we've invested in our marketing area because we need to have the ability to go out and tell our story to more people. We find when people hear our story and understand it, they come in and meet with a financial planner. That's the first step towards them becoming a client.
The second is in really investing in those financial planners and in the client service teams. We need to raise the bar. As practitioners, we need to make sure that we understand not only the newest regulations, but people's needs are changing. Ten years ago, no one thought about how to protect digital assets as part of an estate plan. That's something that needs to be on the table now, so we're making sure that we're keeping abreast.
And the third is to invest in what I talked about before, which is the systems and the processes so that we can standardize the things that can be automated and really allow our entire team to personalize the experience of our clients. That really will help us to set apart and make sure that we're keeping clients in the right track.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: Thank you, Ryan.
RYAN PARKER: Thanks, Rita.