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Some FAs Make Holiday Giving a Year-Round Mission

By Thomas Coyle December 27, 2017

Given the obvious links between festivity and generosity it makes sense that charity often comes to the fore this time of year. But some advisors make charity a year-round activity, one they say consistently gives back more than they can put in.

Almost by definition, advisors understand the benefits of philanthropy — at least as it affects their clients. In that arena, they see it as a rallying point for family cohesion, a spur to long-term planning and a catalyst for next-generation education and engagement.

But some FAs say their own philanthropy – especially as it includes or influences workplace colleagues – instils some of the same benefits. And it reminds them all that as members of an advisory practice they’re in business to serve others.

Archford Capital Strategies gets staffers involved in philanthropy in a way CEO James Maher considers “absolutely more purposeful” than simply allocating money in the firm’s name to one or more charities.

Under its “Archford Angels” program, St. Louis-based Archford Capital allots each of its members $1,000 a year to give to the charity of his or her choice. But that comes with the understanding that the whole endeavor is a “friendly competition,” says Maher.

Though there’s no governance or guidance from brass over what charities they support, Archford Angels can’t just allocate the money willy-nilly. Instead they have to say who they’re giving to and why, track the impact of the gift throughout the year, and then present the results.

Three Archford Angel projects are honored with annual awards — and the underlying causes get additional funding up to another $10,000.

This past year’s inaugural Archford Angels campaign saw an initial $15,000 allocated by 15 Archford staffers trigger more than $200,000 in additional funds and 400 hours of community service.

James Maher

Having immediate impact on this scale is good for morale and the cohesiveness of the Archford team, says Maher. Besides empowering people to carve out and tackle specific altruistic goals, it gives staffers the basis for understanding and supporting each other’s philanthropic work — which leads to better team interaction and communications when it comes to the business of serving clients.

For 2018 Maher hopes to capitalize on interest from other businesses to sponsor Archford Angels initiatives of their own. And, as head of a firm that’s a member of Dynasty Financial Partners’ network of RIAs, he’s keen to share the idea with other wealth managers.

Another Dynasty network firm, Boulevard Family Wealth in Beverly Hills, Calif., also has an unusual take on philanthropy. Eschewing an arm’s-length approach, its managing partner Matt Celenza serves as board chairman for A Better LA, a non-profit founded by NFL coach Pete Carroll to support community organizations that work for peace, save lives and “link individuals in the inner city to resources they need in order to thrive,” according to its website.

In this capacity, Celenza works directly with ex-street-gang members — who themselves work to ease tensions in poor communities and help young people in these neighborhoods understand there are constructive alternatives to criminality.

“Giving back to our community is part of our culture.”
Peter Creedon
Crystal Brook Advisors

“It’s real community activism,” Celenza says of work with A Better LA. “We’re supporting hardcore gang intervention.”

Celenza, who grew up “relatively privileged” on the East Coast, says he’s motivated to work with gang members in Los Angeles because he recognizes himself in them. “Some of these ex-gang members, these former gang leaders, they would be doing what I do now if they’d had the same opportunities.”

Though Celenza doesn’t compel colleagues to be active in philanthropy, he says they’re encouraged to take such stands, both implicitly and by the example set by workmates.

Further, says Celenza, wealth managers who are involved in philanthropy are better at their day jobs. “Working with a non-profit and wealth management are both about putting people way before yourself.”

Supporting non-profits also animates Crystal Brook Advisors in Mount Sinai, N.Y.

“Giving back to our community is a part of our culture,” says CEO Peter Creedon. So while he volunteers at a pro bono hotline offering financial mentoring to women in distress, colleagues work in a similarly-themed networking group and support the New York City Library in an effort to promote financial literacy for individuals and businesses.

“To us, giving back is either part of your core beliefs or it isn’t,” says Creed. “We believe in assisting others with understanding and taking control of their financial lives,” he adds, articulating a philanthropic mission that meshes with Crystal Brook’s business purpose.