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Why advisors should go the hybrid route

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The crash of 2008 helped galvanize financial advisors looking to act more as advocates for their clients’ wealth, rather than only be subject to a “suitability” standard.

This led to an industry narrative that focuses on the fee-based model as being the only real approach to do what is best for a client.

Some argue, however, that an advisor isn’t able to truly serve a client holistically solely with this approach, as some financial products are sold on a commission basis, insurance, for example. Given this, they maintain that a hybrid approach best serves both the client and advisor as it provides alternate revenue streams for growth.

“In today’s environment, it’s hard to address the entire client’s concerns based on each individual’s situation, using just one venue,” says Greg Hammer, chief executive and president of Hammer Financial Group Inc. in Schererville, Ind. “If you just have assets under management, you may not be able to create the best plan given the risks today.

Insurance products, for example, “can be very effective [at] addressing the sequence of returns and longevity in market risk,” Hammer says. “Having the availability of different products allows you the opportunity to create a more holistic plan.”

Mark Cortazzo, a certified financial planner and senior partner of MACRO Consulting Group LLC, a hybrid wealth management firm in Parsippany, N.J., agrees.

“The hybrid structure gives a broader palette of investment options,” he says. “There are situations where products are price-neutral, and a hybrid advisor can use the commissions to reduce the client’s overall fee.”

For its part, Raymond James takes a holistic approach to serving clients. Advisors mostly provide fee-based solutions to meet clients’ goals and objectives.

As each client is unique it means that each solution is tailored to the client’s financial plan.

Clients’ needs can be met by using fee-based solutions, commission-based products or both, according to Raymond James.

“It’s an opportunity to offer solutions to clients that may not otherwise be available through only a fee-based approach,” says Barry Papa, a CFP and the director of Advisor Choice Consulting at Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg, Fla. “We put full disclosure and the client first in the process of providing holistic planning.”

Papa, whose team consults with advisors in the affiliation process, says that advisors can affiliate through five business models. In each affiliation option, advisors may provide clients with hybrid solutions based on how the client would like to pay for advice.

But while acknowledging the advantages of the hybrid approach, David Shriner-Cahn, founder and president of TEND Strategic Partners, a management consulting firm in New York that works with advisors, thinks that it presents ethical issues that can never be fully resolved.

“By definition, a ‘service’ business should be ‘serving’ the interests of the client who is paying for the service,” he says. “But the seller of anything, whether a service or a product, can never be 100% aligned with the interests of [the] buyer.”

Bruce W. Fraser, a New York financial writer, contributes to Financial Planning and On Wall Street magazines.

This is part of a 30/30 series on how to prosper as an advisor.

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