This appears to be a straightforward, simple concept. Yet, it isn’t always working for clients being served by professionals in the financial industry. Not all financial planners make the connection between accumulation of wealth and the practical application of its distribution for purposes of fulfilling a client’s life goals.
That is, unless that client engages Richard (Dick) J. St. John.
As president and founder of St. John & Associates, Inc. based in Roswell, Ga., St. John has blazed a trail for the inclusion of life goals as standard operating practice in the management of a portfolio.
Portfolio management needs have to be tied into the client’s individual goals – and customized to meet those goals – or it simply does not work,” St. John said.
He sees this as being best achieved through a friendly relationship with clients, characterized by regular face-to-face meetings, Skype discussions and a continual exchange of email. All of these communications are filled with educational material for his clients to use to improve their financial literacy, and to remain updated on the impact that market and world events may or may not have on their individual financial situations.
This is the approach that brought St. John and his clients through the Great Recession of 2007-2009. He ramped up communication with his clients, did a lot of hand-holding and reassurance that staying in the market and being poised to ride the recovery wave to the top was the best option, and he diligently kept clients' portfolios widely diversified.
“When things are going badly in the marketplace, an advisor needs to increase communication with clients. They need to hear and know that you are concerned about the situation and are working on it,” St. John said. “That is the substantial element of trust. Our clients have to know that we are representing their best interests.”
In fact, St. John refuses to operate his firm in any other manner. Fiduciary isn’t just a label at St. John & Associates. It is the only way of doing business.
This is why he welcomes changes put out by the Federal Dept. of Labor regarding the definition of a fiduciary and its application to brokers, insurance agents and financial advisors but only applicable to retirement type accounts such as IRAs, Roth and 401(k) type accounts.
St. John sees the new DOL Fiduciary regulations applicable to retirement type accounts improved, but still lacking, fee disclosures as somewhat of a disservice to the participants in retirement savings plans such as a 401ks.
“One of the most basic and most common fees charged to 401k participants – the 12b-1 fee, paid by mutual funds to plan sponsors or custodians – is still not being disclosed in the fee literature for most 401k plans,” St. John explained, adding, “It is a fee charged against participants investment returns used to lower the administrative and service costs associated with offering the plan. But most participants never know they are paying it.
“It will be interesting to see how fee disclosures are impacted by the new rules coming out,” St. John said. For his firm, though, he isn’t concerned. “We remain using the fiduciary standard in which our employees give their best efforts – acting in good faith and the best interests of our clients – by providing full disclosure in writing about any conflicts of interest before we engage. We do not receive or accept compensation for any transaction from a third party. We only work for and are only paid by our clients.”
Learn more about St. John & Associates online at www.stjohnfinancial.com
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