On Wednesday, November 28, current students and those interested in our Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning came to our San Francisco campus to hear how our esteemed panelists—many of whom are graduates of our certificate—broke into the field and their current work.
After the panelists’ engaging conversation, members of the audience asked questions and then networked with members of the Bay Area professional community, many of whom were representing firms looking to hire.
Here’s a recap of that panel discussion.
Julie Asti, CFP®
Principal of Asti Financial Management, LLC
2005 certificate graduate
Jose Campos, AIF, EA, CFP®
Vice President, Financial Adviser at Innovative Investment Partners, LLC
2018 certificate graduate
Matt Sampson, CFP®
Financial Planning Associate at First Republic Private Wealth Management
2016 certificate graduate
Kate Wilusz, CFP®, CRPC
Private Wealth Adviser at Wilusz and Associates
CEO and Principal at Concentric Wealth Management
Certificate Advisory Board Member
When did you complete the certificate program and what are you doing now?
Julie Asti: I had always been in the finance industry. In 2003, I had this epiphany that financial planning had changed from a broker-dealer model and that you could be a financial planner and help people with holistic wealth management and financial planning. So I went through the program. When I graduated in 2005, I tried to get a job in the industry, but I thought I knew so much more than I knew.
Financial planning is its own specialty practice, so I went on my own in 2006. The thing that makes my firm unique is that I have an hourly-planning practice. I wanted people to be able to trust me, knowing that the only compensation that I am getting is on an hourly basis. I started getting traction and referrals because I have a unique offering in the Bay Area. We do some wealth management, financial planning and investment planning.
Matt Sampson: I graduated in 2016, but really started thinking about the business in 2010. I had been fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of mentors in my life, none bigger than Kurt Carrasquilla. When I was in college, I wanted to go into finance, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I met Kurt through our fraternity: He was the alumni advisory board president and I was the undergraduate president. I reached out to him.
It’s hard to do, but reach out to anybody because there are so many folks who want to pay back and want to help those who are hungry to help them get to the same success that they had. So Kurt brought me in and I ended up meeting two advisers at Morgan Stanley who I interned with for 10 months. Through those two advisers, I was introduced to the Golub Group, where I worked at for four years and learned so much. I wore a lot of hats: I started as a paraplanner and then moved over to a business development role in the Charles Schwab Advisor Network. Seven months ago, I moved over to First Republic in a comprehensive financial planner role—and I’m loving working with clients on full financial planning.
For the certificate course, I did one full financial plan and now I’m doing at least 30. You learn a lot in this certificate, you learn a lot passing the CFP® Exam; but the real-world experience, you learn something new on every case.
Kate Wilusz: I started at American Express as a financial adviser in 2004. I fell in love with the idea of financial planning and strategy, and the financial decisions being something digestible for clients, something approachable. I passed my CFP® in 2008 and then went out on my own. This is the most amazing, wonderful career that you can have because you impact people’s lives so directly and see the benefit of what you do. And you can also make a great living doing it.
We have seven employees, approximately 180 clients, three CFPs® and $580 million under management. All of our clients are paying us a retainer to be a financial planner. We will do some asset management when it is in my client’s best interest.
Jose, you graduated from Cal State East Bay in 2017. What are you doing now?
I started in the financial planning industry during my first year of college at an internship that I was required to take. It was at a broker-dealer called Cambridge and it taught me about this type of work; I didn’t know that this was even a career. That’s what started me on this track to be an adviser, because although it’s great to talk to other financial advisers and see what they’re doing with their clients, it’s not the same as actually having clients.
They offered me a full-time job six months after the internship ended. I’ve kept growing in that role and finally became an adviser two years ago. I partnered up with another adviser who I was actually recruiting to join the firm. She ended up recruiting me to be an adviser for her. We currently have 60 clients, we’re on track for $60 million in management, and it’s me and one other adviser.
You learn a lot in this certificate, you learn a lot passing the CFP® Exam; but the real-world experience, you learn something new on every case.—Matt Sampson
How do you continue to learn?
Julie: Learning doesn’t stop: You’re learning from clients, you’re learning from industry, tax law changes. There’s a lot of self-learning for me, but one of the biggest sources for me has been the Financial Planning Association in San Francisco. I went to a meeting and worked my way up: on the career committee for a while, president of the chapter, served on the board for a while.
How did you use that to grow your practice?
Julie: By being at the meetings and meeting people from Aspiriant and Wetherby and other wealth-management firms, I take what I call their small fish: people who don’t fit into their model but need financial planning help. I end up getting a lot of business from people sending me their smaller, Roth IRA–type clients.
Matt: The Journal of Financial Planning—read that from cover to cover. The financial-planning Twitter community is fantastic: Brian Portnoy, Patrick O’Shaughnessy. I had a mentor tell me that financial planning means being a lifelong learner. Look into getting your master’s in financial planning; I’m starting at Golden Gate University in January.
What do you love about your job?
Kate: I’m the first person my client calls when they’re pregnant, they’re diagnosed with a terminal illness, when they are thinking about getting divorced, when they need to start thinking about elder care—and that’s a really powerful position. I love that I hang out with 90-year-olds and 25-year-olds. To have that arc of perspective is really valuable. Being there for people and having them consider you important in their lives. What I don’t love is that we are in a hotbed of people thinking they can do this on their own.
Jose: It doesn’t feel like a job most of the time. You know you’re going to help somebody with a problem that only you can solve. You feel important and you’re changing their lives.
Audience member: Julie, how has the appetite for hourly based fees changed since you opened your practice?
Clients have gotten a lot more intelligent. They understand business models, commissions, assets under management. They find me specifically because they know I do hourly financial planning. My business grows every year because there are a lot of people who I call “middle market”: They need straight-old financial planning help. A lot of their money is in 401ks, so the wealth-management model doesn’t work for them.
Kate, what about the retainer model?
It takes a pretty determined person to take our advice and implement it. There’s a really big appetite for it, but then the question is how you scale it. We have a matrix based on case complexity. The range is from $3,000 up to $7,000, and that includes four financial planning meetings per year; if they opt for it, we can help with their 401k and check in on their rebalance.
Matt: My team, it’s a flat fee of $2,500. We work in the $1 to $10 million space.
Being there for people and having them consider you important in their lives.—Kate Wilusz
Audience member: Kate, what’s your business development plan?
Our clients stay with us for our strategy. We convince them to not collateralize their invested options to stretch their goals. They stay with you for your advice. I’m interested in how to scale. My plan is to find more smart CFP®s who believe in strategy and advice and how to scale that. There’s not enough of you guys out there!
Audience member: What do you need to hear in a potential employee’s interview and what do you need to see in a new employee?
Julie: When I bring someone in for an interview, I’m looking for passion and someone who wants to dive in and develop plans and strategies and be very interactive. I find it’s very challenging to find people who are willing to sit in front of a client and discuss plans and establish trust.
Jose: Within the next six months, I need to start looking for a junior to take my role because of our succession plan. What I’m looking for is someone who is willing to do what I had to do, which is continue to learn new things because the industry is evolving. You can’t just be a CFP®; you need to also be a tax adviser and be open to that. For a new employee, I want to see the passion. As I grow my business, I want someone who is confident and able to talk to clients.
Matt: One word: empathy. If you can be an empathetic person and understand that it’s very difficult for people to expose themselves financially. Realizing that they’re coming to you for a reason, but understanding that there may be a lot of things going on in the background that you’ll find out about if you ask the right questions. Once you have the job, I like the grit. Be a sponge. Always say yes to anything that is asked of you.
Kate: In interviews, I care that you’re scrappy, you’re willing to work hard, you’re a little bit humble and a little bit confident. It is okay to not want to be the owner of the firm; we need really strong employees who have no intention of becoming a successor. The first things I notice are their work ethic and their attitude: helping your peers, being a team player. I always think, “Would I want to hang out with this person at the holiday party?” [laughs]
Check out the event photo gallery below!