Adviser explains his process for creating a successful niche practice

Latest in our 'Adviser's Consultant' series, featuring practice management strategies that work

Apr 6, 2015 @ 10:40 am

By Liz Skinner

Scott Oeth could have taken his advisory career in several different directions nearly a decade ago when he decided he wanted to develop a niche practice.

Formerly a competitive volleyball player, Mr. Oeth had a nice collection of blockers and hitters on his client roster. He also had a cluster of physicians whom he was advising.

But when he thought about the type of client he was offering the most value to, he realized it was the corporate executives he was giving advice to, primarily about deferred compensation plans and stock options.

Today, executives make up most of his client list at Cahill Financial Advisors, and that's the area of his business showing the fastest growth.

“It's appealing to be the specialist in an area,” said Mr. Oeth, a principal at the Minneapolis, Minn.-based firm. “When you get a referral, it's almost a prescriptive referral — where a client says to someone in a similar situation, 'You have to talk to my adviser about this.'"

(Watch: Scott Oeth talks about the benefits of a specialty practice and tells his own story)

When advisers specialize, the quality of the advice they provide improves, Mr. Oeth said. He works with many executives at Target Corp. and knows the specific details of the company's stock options, the deferred comp plans, and the investments offered in their retirement plan.

“Having a solid understanding of the tools we have to work with can really help in crafting the advice specific to that client,” he said.

Gaining the knowledge needed to serve a particular group of clients is crucial to becoming a specialty adviser.

Mr. Oeth was already teaching a certified financial planner course that covered much of the information advisers need to serve executives, but he added to his own education a specialized master's degree in financial planning to develop even more skills.

“Make sure you are competent and can deliver what you promise,” Mr. Oeth recommended to other advisers seeking to create a niche. “Don't sell something that you can't really back up.”

(More: What constitutes a niche practice?)

He also built up the relationship he had with an executive at Target, also based in Minneapolis, and created a study group with other professionals and centers of influence who work on different issues for executives. This group of attorneys, trust officers, private bankers and others gather for lunch monthly to discuss specific planning issues of executives.

He also became even more involved with financial planning organizations, which resulted in other advisers recognizing his skills and recommending him when they couldn't meet the needs of certain clients or prospects, Mr. Oeth said.

(More: Top 10 adviser marketing myths)

One of the challenges of focusing on a specialty is having to sometimes turn away clients who aren't part of a firm's “ideal client” demographic.

Practically speaking, such rejections might not be feasible in the earliest years of growing a business, Mr. Oeth said.

And all happy clients, of course, are good “advertising,” he said.

Another challenge is staying focused on a particular specialty when other niches start to present themselves..

“You need a balance between looking around the corner to see what's coming in the industry and looking for opportunities, but not abandoning what you've already put time and money into,” he said.

Tip sheet:

• Identify a group with specific needs, such as those requiring technical expertise or certain financial products to serve them well

• Consider forming a study group with other professionals who target the same clients

• Networking is crucial when you market through centers of influence; take larger roles in industry groups so you become known as an expert in a particular field of study

• If targeting clients directly, use videos, podcasts and other digital media to build a brand that identifies you as an expert at helping this type of client

• Pursue specific certifications or other education that pertains to the area of expertise you're establishing; make sure you are technically competent to provide the advice and deliver what you promise

• Give yourself time to grow this area of business; don't get distracted by other specialties that show promise


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Upcoming Event

Jul 10


Women Adviser Summit

The InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, a one-day workshop now held in four cities due to popular demand, is uniquely designed for the sophisticated female adviser who wants to take her personal and professional self to the next level.... Learn more

Featured video


Advisers should look beyond 529 plans for college planning

Editor Fred Gabriel talks to reporter Ryan Neal about how college-savings strategies are more important than ever as tuition costs soar.

Latest news & opinion

New ways to pay for college

Experts respond to real-life scenarios of people struggling to afford higher education.

How technology is reshaping the advice business

Artificial intelligence, Amazon and robo-advisers are some of the topics on the minds of tech experts.

Best- and worst-performing sector funds and ETFs this year

A rising tide may lift all ships, but a bull market doesn't lift all stock sectors. Here are the best- and worst-performing sectors this year, with the top and bottom fund in each sector.

Betterment slapped with $400,000 fine from Finra

Robo-adviser cited for violating customer protection rule and not maintaining its books and records correctly.

Supreme Court ruling on SEC judges unlikely to upend advice industry

But it could give rise to new hearings for some advisers who are already in litigation with the agency such as Dawn Bennett.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print