Building the Bridge Between Generating Wealth and Meeting Financial Goals – A Conversation with Sheryl O’Connor, IncomeConductor

In a piece of music, the bridge acts as a connector – true to its name – often bringing together the chorus and the verse.

For Sheryl O’Connor, professional musician turned CEO and founder of IncomeConductor, financial planning is the bridge in wealth management. “How do clients generate wealth through investing? And how do they use that wealth to meet their goals, which usually involve saving, spending, and passing that wealth on to others?”

On a recent Beacon Flash podcast episode with Beacon Strategies’ Managing Partner Chip Kispert, Sheryl explains that the role of a financial advisor is to ensure his or her clients are financially secure. To do so requires taking a look at their entire balance sheet and approaching financial management as a continuous arc, from working years to retirement. 

Traditionally, Sheryl points out, from a product perspective, there have been two camps: investment and insurance, both competing for client assets, with the investment camp further divided into the wealth and retirement plan camps. 

“From a client’s perspective, it really doesn’t make sense to approach the issues that they have this way,” she says. “It really doesn’t serve them well.”

Instead, being a true fiduciary and acting in the client’s best interest means using products from both the investment and insurance sides based on which product best meets a specific goal. Advisors can no longer be successful simply managing clients’ investment portfolios and running Monte Carlo simulations.

To Sheryl, the future of the advisory business requires restructuring to address each client’s full financial lifecycle, creating a service model where the advisor becomes the go-to professional for all things financial. 

At IncomeConductor, which empowers advisors, their firms and their clients to plan for retirement more simply, more accurately and more reliably, Sheryl and her team bring together the science of financial planning and the client persona. The science, she explains, focuses on rates of return, tax efficiency, withdrawal rates – all traditional elements of financial planning, while the client persona focuses on client goals and concerns, biases and attitudes, and their appetite for risk, along with their health and longevity.

“I think advisors need to surround themselves with the professionals and resources to address their client’s needs,” she points out. “And that includes legal accounting professionals, social services, community services, grief services, having those curated professionals around them at the ready when their clients need them. Can you just imagine how that would increase client satisfaction, client loyalty, and client referrals?”

For more from Sheryl O’Connor and Chip Kispert on bringing together the traditionally siloed elements of a client’s financial life into one place, click here to tune into the full episode!

Tips on Cybersecurity from a Tech Enthusiast – A Conversation with Geoff Moore, Valmark Financial Group

Cybersecurity can keep us up at night. It’s always a major concern for advisors, even when you feel like you’ve done everything right to the best of your ability. It can feel like a never-ending battle. FINRA keeps the pressure on advisors to uphold the most rigorous cybersecurity protocols, but it isn’t just them. From your firm to your clients, everyone is hyper-focused on ensuring private financial data is always secure.

Fortunately for advisors, there are people like Geoff Moore. As Chief Information Officer for our partner, Valmark Financial Group, Geoff leads a team of experts who use technology to solve business challenges and manage the cybersecurity of Valmark and its Member Firms. He has served on multiple industry committees such as the FSI Operations / Tech council, and in 2022, he was selected to the Surge Ventures Advisory Board for his expertise in cybersecurity for financial service firms.

On a recent Beacon Flash podcast episode with Beacon Strategies’ Managing Partner Chip Kispert, the self-proclaimed technology enthusiast shares his best tips for advisors looking to batten down the hatches. “We’re like the perfect target,” shares Geoff, noting that independent advisors work with primarily wealthy families and often have a small team without much technology or cybersecurity awareness.

Geoff recommends advisors consider:

  1. The Smell Test – A lot of scamming occurs via email, and none of us are immune. Advisors must pay attention to avoid costly mistakes. Does that email make sense, is that really coming from someone the advisor knows?
  2. Making Tough Decisions – Compliance and cost intersect, and not always in an optimal way. When compromises are made, advisors should err on the side of security and compliance, but the cost must make sense for the firm.
  3. Improvements Are Essential, But Unpredictable – “Even if it’s something as simple as just doing a single sign on integration. I usually tell somebody it’s either going to take me 15 minutes, or it’s going to take me two months.” As firms update client portals and add new services, it’s great for clients. But advisors should recognize it could take much longer and become far more intense of a project than they might expect.

Right now, Geoff is most excited to see advisors continuing to focus on their work with clients. “We’re helping people realize their dreams in the future.” And to that end, he reminds advisors to stay diligent and up-to-date on their cybersecurity and tech infrastructure, because we are always “one trapdoor away from something happening.”

Tune into the full episode here!

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Are the Regulators asking for more and more information about your vendors and how you are managing that risk?  As the industry outsources systems to the cloud, regulators are demanding a robust annual review of your mission critical vendors that host your client’s personal and private information. 

At Beacon, we have developed a Vendor Management Toolkit to help address these and other issues. Automated questionnaires and scoring of submissions couple with a repository to house the responses can assist in your next audit or exam. Click here to learn more.