Rookie adviser likes support of a small firm

By Darla Mercado

Nov 11, 2012 @ 12:01 am (Updated 3:58 pm) EST

Tyler J Landes' career as a financial adviser has been a few years in the making, but it will all come together next June when he becomes a certified financial planner.

At 26, Mr. Landes, a financial associate at fee-only Sound Stewardship LLC in Overland Park, Kan., and 2009 graduate of the University of Missouri, has been steadily chipping away at his required three years' work experience necessary to become a CFP.

Since he took and passed the test in 2010, much of his work has consisted of trading, following up with clients after they have met with their advisers and answering any questions they may have about their accounts. At one point, Mr. Landes even had to help catalog a basement full of inventory at a client's jewelry supply business.

But what the budding adviser is really looking forward to is sitting across from clients and guiding them through a financial plan.

“We've had clients who've gotten so spooked that they want to go to cash,” Mr. Landes said.

“I've never had to be the guy tempering those fears in that moment,” he said. “Handling those fears one-on-one is going to be the biggest change for me.”

In college, the idea of providing financial advice didn't jump out at Mr. Landes right away. He wanted to study business at Mizzou but found that he wasn't necessarily excited about macroeconomics and other business-centric courses.

After two years there, Mr. Landes looked into the university's personal-financial-planning program, which is registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. The curriculum included estate planning, taxes, investments and insurance.

It was then that Mr. Landes got his first experience helping others face to face, via a volunteer program.

“We helped prepare tax returns for those who made $40,000 a year or less,” he said.

"FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE'

“As part of that, we gained firsthand experience dealing with families and people on campus. I really liked that aspect of the program,” Mr. Landes said.

Naturally, while the program laid the groundwork for a career in providing financial advice, there were some components that weren't all that interesting to him.

For instance, the students had a research-oriented course called Assessing the American Dream, which required a term paper at the end. The class has since been replaced with a practicum in which students go through case studies and draw up financial plans, Mr. Landes said.

“We didn't have a class that brought it all together,” he said.

When the time came to find a job, Mr. Landes checked out both fee-only and commission-based firms. Although his classmates went on to careers as insurance agents or as registered representatives at brokerage firms, he went with Sound Stewardship for a number of reasons.

“I like the idea that the product you're selling is your service,” Mr. Landes said.

The firm charges a flat fee based on net worth for clients seeking an annual planning relationship, but it also does hourly work for clients who have fewer assets.

Another plus for choosing Sound Stewardship is that there are only five employees.

“I knew I wanted to be at a smaller firm where I'd get more individual attention and they would be more invested in my success,” Mr. Landes said.

That will also come in handy once he is ready to start taking on his own clients come June, as junior advisers there tend to kick off their career with the smaller hourly clients. Much of the business comes from referrals, and the firm doesn't do any cold calling.

“I'll go out there and market myself,” Mr. Landes said. “But at the same time, I feel there is enough support here in terms of new clients coming in that I can get some hourly experience while I get up and running.”

dmercado@investmentnews.com, Twitter: @darla_mercado

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