As I have built my practice through strategic and professional partnerships, I am often asked: How do I effectively work with CPAs?
Advisers understand the benefits of having a revenue-sharing relationship with top accounting firms. Conversely, more and more CPAs have been getting licensed as advisers, so that in addition to working as accountants they can act as financial planners and avoid sharing/losing out on additional revenue.
Though the trend of CPAs seeking financial advisory licenses does exist, many successful CPAs believe teaming up with top financial advisers is their best way to bring optimum services to their clients. Some CPAs have learned the hard way and some realized early on it is more advantageous for them to have a revenue-sharing relationship with a financial adviser than to risk reaching a complexity ceiling alone. Many CPAs come to this realization on their own, or by learning about the services their clients are missing out on by not working with an adviser.
That said, when seeking a revenue-sharing partnership, it is imperative that you be in a position to explain to a CPA the benefits of entering into a partnership rather than going it alone. These relationships are not about educating each other; they are about working together to build a successful full-service offering. The best partnerships are formed when each side recognizes their own (and each other's) strengths and weaknesses. As advisers, you need to recognize with certainty what offerings you can bring to the table that a CPA with an advisory license cannot.
In my experience, CPAs who are planners themselves typically take on little advisory work. They tend to advise only their low- to mid-level clients. If they do venture into the high-net-worth landscape, they tend to handle only small pieces of their clients' financial plans (for example, managing an IRA, issuing a life insurance policy, etc.). This is often the case due to a lack of staff, a lack of time, or a fear of not being able to manage the full financial planning process.
An adviser who knows how to be successful in the high-net-worth planning arena adds immense value in this situation, and can therefore access a much larger piece of revenue. The key to working with these clients is to be seen as their trusted adviser. The high-net-worth client wants to know that you have their best interests in mind and that you bring the knowledge and experience, as well as a forward-thinking approach and the ability to propose new and fresh ideas that will help them reach their goals.
Although there are many facets to perfecting the CPA-adviser partnership, the first step is to consider where you can add value. Can you advise HNW clientele? Are you a pro at keeping your clients' financial plans up to date? Have you handled large sums of money? Do you specialize in trusts and estate planning? The key to success is first and foremost to know your own value and, equally, what you offer that a CPA needs, and therefore values most.
Paul Saganey is president of Integrated Financial Partners Inc. He has affiliations with NAIFA, GAMA, MDRT, The Society of Financial Services Professionals and FPA.