Hectic is the new normal

By Liz Skinner

Dec 15, 2013 @ 12:01 am (Updated 6:01 pm) EST

Matt Romeo has been helping his firm's financial advisers who work on retirement plans with a rush of year-end activity.

The graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University said that many of Gordon Asset Management's clients want 401(k) and other retirement plans in place by the start of next year. That has required Mr. Romeo to shift some of his focus away from investment management for high-net-worth clients.

“I'm trying to get used to how hectic it is,” he said. “It's a great opportunity to learn.”

Mr. Romeo, 23, said that he has been surprised by the lack of general financial knowledge exhibited by plan participants. They need much more education than he expected, and he wishes financial instruction were a more integral part of the high school curriculum.

It has been great to learn from the advisers how to approach different retirement plan participants and how to talk to them about these subjects, Mr. Romeo said.

“It's a challenge to take something we understand so intuitively, and break it down and make it simple for the everyday person to understand,” he said.

Six months into his two-year apprenticeship, Mr. Romeo is e-mailing or talking to clients over the phone almost daily. He is responsible for following up with clients on different recommendations, finalizing paperwork for new accounts, and helping clients transfer funds and view account information online.

CFP EXAMS

Mr. Romeo plans to take the certified financial planner exams in June. After that, he is contemplating whether to try for the chartered alternative investment analyst designation or possibly the chartered financial analyst credential.

Over Thanksgiving, Mr. Romeo discovered that holidays can be busy for advisory firms because that is when some clients finally have free time to think about their lives and investments, and make decisions that they have been putting off.

Clients e-mailed him throughout the Thanksgiving holiday and following weekend, an experience that made him realize that advisers always need to be available to clients if they want to do well, he said.

“You really have to live it and always be connected,” Mr. Romeo said.

Certainly, the advisers of Durham, N.C.-based Gordon Asset Management lead by example.

Mr. Romeo said that he commonly receives 5:30 a.m. e-mails from advisers at the firm, while others send notes at midnight sharing articles or links to sites with worthwhile industry news.

“I don't know when these guys sleep,” Mr. Romeo said.