“Controlling what you can control” -- that is the philosophy that can help clients outperform their peers, according to Charles E. Carrick, a partner at DMJ Wealth Advisors in Greensboro, N.C. In his view, the client’s specific needs should drive the way an investment portfolio is structured, with a focus on aspects of the financial plan such as cash flow, tax planning, and estate planning that can actually be controlled by the client and his or her advisors.
DMJ Wealth Advisors has three financial planners who have primary responsibility for the clients. Each financial planner in the firm works with a client service person, as well. There is also a full-time planner who looks over all the plans to provide consistency throughout the firm, an operation supervisor who is responsible for overseeing the client services professionals, and other support staff.
The firm provides guidance on over $200 million in assets and has provided indirect guidance for $130 million of institutional accounts.
One of the unusual aspects of DMJ Wealth Advisors, Carrick said, is its relationship with sister firm Davenport, Marvin, Joyce & Co., LLP, a certified public accounting firm. Davenport, Marvin, Joyce & Co. has 40 employees, including 30 certified public accountants on staff. The two firms have common ownership and work together to provide comprehensive planning for clients, Carrick said. In fact, he said, a majority of DMJ Wealth Advisors’ clients come from the work they do with the CPA firm. The two firms also develop new clients together, he said, targeting markets that can provide clients for both sets of services.
Carrick said this relationship makes DMJ unique. “Although we abide by all confidentially requirements, we essentially work as one for the client,” he said. This partnership “provides a much greater degree of talent focused on each client's needs.
Working with a firm that has both financial planning and CPA services also means the client does not have to be concerned that all his or her advisors are providing coordinated and complimentary advice, he said. “We greatly value the multi-professional approach to planning,” he said, not just with the CPAs at the sister firm but also with lawyers, stock brokers, insurance agents or other advisors a client may be working with.
Carrick said another important feature of DMJ Wealth Advisors is its focus on the importance of real financial planning and the clients who are looking for that.
“We are selective in clients we accept,” Carrick said. “If they don’t understand the value of planning, they generally are not, at least today, a client that will obtain the best value from our firm.”
In addition, “we believe in using third party manager programs as we believe this has been somewhat commoditized and our value comes from the planning process,” Carrick said. However, “it is critical that the third party managers provide a process where we clearly understand the portfolio metrics,” he added.
DMJ Wealth Advisors avoids the silo mentality, he said, instead focusing on developing a “best of practice” approach to solving problems for clients. “We work hard to develop a common thought process for meeting client goals and executing plans,” he said.
Carrick also said his firm has taken full use of an online portal, for daily aggregation, live financial plans, document storage and other needs. This is similar to what is done at many other financial planning firms, he acknowledged, but what is different is how fully integrated the technology is into the work done at DMJ Wealth Advisors for its clients. The online portal is “the core foundation for every meeting and every decision with the client,” he said, and clients have had a “strong buy-in across all age groups,” regularly using the system to update themselves on information related to their investments.
Carrick said DMJ Wealth Advisors intends to continue to grow and evolve, developing new planners from within and expanding into new markets – including developing a way to provide “a lighter version of our planning to address an underserved market.”
While it can be difficult remain successful in a rapidly changing market, “we challenge our professionals to keep our firm ahead of the curve,” he said.