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Impeccable Timing is One Sign of a Mature Firm
Financial Planning
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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Louisville, Ky.-based ARGI Financial Group’s business is running smoothly now. The firm has two other offices in Bowling Green, Ky., and Cincinnati. It serves about 800 families, with an average net worth of about $1 million. The firm pulls in around $6 million in annual revenue, and is aiming for $20 million by the end of 2015.

But it wasn’t easy to get to this level — the firm had to overcome some operational hurdles before business really took off. The firm started off in 2003 with a well-regarded custodian. However, ARGI’s Senior Partner and owner Joe Reeves felt the firm’s CRM, investment management, reporting and other financial planning systems, were not well integrated. ARGI was using four or five compartmentalized systems to run the practice, Reeves said. Routine tasks like changing a client’s home address, for instance, became repetitive wastes of valuable time.

“There are only so many hours in the day,” Reeves said. “When you spend so much time on systems, it does not give you time to grow your business.”

Reeves could have plunked down cash for quick-fix solutions, but he knew that would not do, he said. He and the firm’s other leaders did not want to make any major changes to the system unless the solution was completely integrated from end to end.

Changing custodians, ultimately, made the big difference. ARGI Financial shifted the bulk of its assets under management to TD Ameritrade Institutional. Through that custodian, the firm met Interactive Advisory Software.

“To really deliver consistent advice, it has to be systematized,” Reeves said. “We did not want to go with any system that was not 100% integrated.”

The IAS software worked as the hub for ARGI Financial’s entire enterprise. Currently, everything from changing a client’s contact information to providing updates on portfolio performances or giving a client a bird’s-eye view of their financial life can be done smoothly no matter what portion of the system is cued up on an advisor’s screen.

In 2008, when the firm was still working with its original custodian, it had about $300 million in assets under management, Reeves said. As of this year, thanks to operational efficiencies the new systems have allowed, that’s grown to $400 million in AUM. There’s also another $200 million in client assets under advisement — these are the 401(k) plans and other assets for which it gives advice but has no custody agreement.

Holding out for the right technology and integration solution also helped get ARGI Financial in shape to acquire other, smaller firms, a strategy that will in turn boost the firm’s growth rate. “We will organically grow at 30% a year, no matter what, and we know that we can maintain that,” Reeves said.

Obviously, ARGI Financial had the potential to be a large regional firm back when it was still inefficiently entering its clients’ change address information over and over. But waiting to find the right partner and the right systems really positioned it to take off.

 

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