MADISON — When certified financial planners Sammy T. Dean and Danny R. Matthews started working together in 1982, they realized there was a need for financial education. They developed a simple seminar to give clients a general overview of financial planning with a slide show to communicate the basics.
“Our focus was individual financial planning, and we found that people lacked a lot of education about financial issues then,” Dean said. “We did programs on successful financial strategies and financial strategies for successful retirement.”
The courses were offered through Belhaven College, Mississippi College, Hinds and Holmes Community Colleges over a four week period and were limited to 20 couples or so. They had a lawyer come in for part of the instruction.
“We liked that the courses were generic in nature. No companies or products were mentioned,” said Matthews. “They were extremely good and gave detailed information.”
Fast forward to 1993 when the duo founded Financial Strategies Group, an investment advisory firm registered with the state in March 1994. In addition to Dean and Matthews, other financial advisors are Earl Stegall Jr., Jerry Grantham and Chris McAlpin. All have attained numerous professional certifications.
Marketing tool — but trust, too
Their focus continues to be on education with the belief that more education makes better clients. They’re still offering informative seminars through local colleges.
“People don’t learn about financial education in college. They just know what their parents taught them,” Matthews said. “An overwhelming majority of our clients came through our workshops and seminars. It may be a marketing tool, but it’s also a way to build trust.”
Dean says the fear of learning financial matters scares some people away from education. “There’s a real fear that they can’t understand it; an avoidance,” he said. “We did see a shift when the market was good, but when the market pulled back, we saw a swing back to advisors.”
The biggest difference they’ve seen in the past 20 years is that back then there was a lack of information to plug into.
Today, there’s too much to sift through for the average investor.
“It’s difficult to carve out time to learn it so it’s still good to have our seminars and advice,” Matthews said. “We prefer that clients have training. It just gives them a feel for us. We try to bring good information to clients.”
Dean says retirees are watching television every day and hear different viewpoints on the stock market and investing. “They’re on overload,” he said.
With a long list of products and services and clients in 18 states, the advisors of Financial Strategies Group say it’s an advantage that clients can relate to more than one of them.
“That’s good for clients if someone is out of town or on vacation, but if a client is more comfortable with one of us, that’s okay,” McAlpin said. “We’re open about it and there are no egos involved. We’re all different and have different talents. That’s part of our strength.”
Matthews says clients are viewed as clients of the firm and that all employees are available to give information and assist.
The advisors of the Financial Strategies Group are hearing concerns from clients. Clients want to know how the stock market and economy are doing in the short term. How will the trouble in the Middle East affect investments?
“What’s happening today gives us the opportunity to look at the market historically so they know why we’re not nervous or concerned,” McAlpin said. “That’s why education is important. Typically, we don’t get frantic calls like the big investment houses. Our clients just need to hear our voices and that we’re not panicked.”
Dean says the average person makes investment decisions based on emotion. “People look at the market being down three days in a row and react,” he said. “We modify portfolios when fundamentals in the market dictate making changes. We must ride it out.”
Matthews feels a lot of people in the investment business allocate money. “We manage money,” he said. “We try to take an active role and be proactive. I hear people say they only hear from their financial advisors when they want to sell something or that they never hear.”
The members of this organization say listening to clients’ objectives and concerns and then helping them define clear, realistic goals is a top priority. Once goals are established, a plan is developed and implemented to accomplish those goals. Annual reviews are set up to identify changes, review performance and make the necessary adjustments to stay on track.
While the U.S. economy may be slowing down, these financial advisors don’t think we’ll see the market turn negative at this point.
“We’re in the later stages of a bull market and historically we see it more sensitive to information and reacts to it with more volatility,” McAlpin said.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.