15 transformational advisers: Michael Kitces

Former theater minor in college now a major force in the planning profession

Jun 18, 2013 @ 9:04 am

By Jason Kephart

Michael Kitces
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Kitces: Supply a nerd's eyeview ((Illustration: J.T. Morrow))

Michael Kitces has boldly gone where no psychology major and theater minor has gone before — to the vanguard of innovators in the financial planning community.

Through his Nerd's Eye View blog, Twitter account, newsletter and countless conference appearances, Mr. Kitces has been at the forefront of the evolution of financial planning.

“The research he's doing into how to implement financial planning is groundbreaking,” said Blair Hodgson DuQuesnay, founder and chief executive of Ignite Investments & Planning. “The academic research has been there for investments, but not for financial planning. He's really been a game changer.”

The enthusiasm Mr. Kitces, a partner and director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group Inc., has brought to researching financial planning topics and sharing his views has come naturally for him.

“I'm really passionate about pushing the envelope and upping the standard for financial advisers,” he said. “I assume advisers are a pretty sophisticated bunch, and they want information on how to help their clients.”

His engagement with fellow financial planners through social media also has helped him become a go-to source for advisers seeking an in-depth look at financial planning subjects.

When Carolyn McClanahan, director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners Inc., wanted to know more about combination life and long-term-care policies, she turned to Mr. Kitces.

PHOTO GALLERY 15 transformational advisers

“He's one that probes deeper on many levels of financial planning,” she said. “He will take a subject apart to the nth degree. We need someone doing that,” she said.

No topic seems to be off limits for Mr. Kitces, who clearly has a love for learning. You don't need to look much further than the plethora of degrees and designations he's amassed over the years for proof: MSFS, MTAX, CFP, CLU, ChFC, RHU, REBC, CASL (he's also a proud Trekkie).

Right now, Mr. Kitces is thinking about how financial planners can differentiate themselves in a market he sees growing increasingly more competitive.

“The growth of wealth has slowed since the peak of the financial crisis,” he said. “When the pie is growing slowly — or not at all — it puts a lot of pressure on advisers who are trying to grow business.”

COMPETING FOR CLIENTS

In many cases, it means that advisers will be fighting one another for the same clients.

“We're already starting to see it in our own business,” he said. “We're competing more and more with other firms that we respect.”

The competition means firms are going to have to go extra steps to stand out in the marketplace. That's an area where financial planners who act as a fiduciary have a big advantage, Mr. Kitces said.

“One of the gargantuan opportunities is continuing to push financial planning and real advice,” he said. “Really applying quality financial planning is a differentiator.”

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