opens IMAGE file 2 min read January 2021 — One outcome of the 2020 pandemic is that it pushed people to pay closer attention to their financial planning habits. In an interview with Invest:, Andy Brincefield, president and CEO of Consolidated Planning, shares his expertise on what that means for Charlotte’s financial planning landscape.
What major successes did Consolidated Planning enjoy in 2020?
As a regional financial planning firm with about 20 offices in over three states, 2020 was an up year in all categories despite intermittent headwinds. We learned how to acquire new clients and new advisers in a virtual setting. We’ve added several teammates to our ranks and clientele to our portfolio whom I’ve never met personally. In the past, if I could not meet you and have a relationship with you, the odds were that we were not going to do business. That had been changing in recent years but COVID-19 sped up that trend significantly. Our ability to move virtually and quickly was instantaneous. From a real estate perspective, it has changed how we do business. Three of our large offices were turned over during the pandemic. We were able to grow the firm revenue-wise and increase our adviser count and client count.
How have you seen demand for your services change?
On the individual planning side, it has grown significantly and intuitively. Because people were stuck in their homes, they were able to dedicate more time to their financial planning, parallel to being a lot more aware of their own mortality and how their situation can change overnight, as showcased by the virus. It strongly reinforced the importance of planning for the uncertainties in life. Financial advisers, as opposed to investment and insurance advisers, do a lot more than just handle investments.
On the business side, we encompass small to medium-size businesses. As per the SBA’s standards, we focus on those companies with 500 employees or less. Several of those businesses went dark from a planning perspective. They’re simply trying to make sure that what they have remains intact, to keep the business going. There has been a lot more uncertainty for businesses than individuals.
What other elements are you keeping a close eye on going forward?
The SEC implemented several changes in 2019 and again in 2020. We anticipate there will be more SEC changes over the next two years that address pending Department of Labor issues with retirement plans, which are relevant from a financial planning perspective. The Trump administration repealed several elements on these fronts and they will come back under the Biden administration. Overall, we’ve had less federal regulation in the last four years, along with significant pullback and freezing of certain regulations. In that vacuum, states have stepped in with their own regulations.
To what do you credit your organization’s resilience in challenging times?
Our great people and their deeply embedded penchant for teamwork. People who trust each other can make sure they can be clear and thoughtful. When you have trust spread evenly across a team you can do amazing things. Having a strong vision that the teams buy into is equally important. Those things get you through a problem pretty well compared to not being anchored to a particular vision or propelled by teamwork.
How have you retained your company culture in a virtual environment?
We know we have to over-communicate at all times. With that, we did more virtual town halls and invested our efforts into keeping these interesting. We also did a lot of weekly pushing out of our values, reminders of our fundamentals as a firm. It did amazing things for our culture. We are stronger because of little things like that. We talk about who we are in a passionate manner, people share and we get a lot of feedback.
Parallel to that, we grew through the pandemic. We added 18 people to our ranks after March 2020. Adding these new arrivals to your culture is trickier. It takes a lot more intentional hand-holding, follow-up and time together over Zoom, even though it’s virtual.
What is your outlook for economic recovery in the Charlotte region?
Charlotte is a good place to be. There is a significant contingent of people from the Northeast moving to this area. That helps the talent pool significantly. From an industry perspective, we feel good because we’ve consolidated our foothold at a moment when it has become increasingly difficult to scale because of all of the inherent regulations. Those regulations create market entry walls that cannot be climbed by just any company. Our industry is fluid and changing, which is good for people who have vision and a strong work ethic. It’s ripe for change, which is a good thing. Our industry is going to have some golden years ahead, even though it’s going to be more regulated.
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