August 30, 2022

EP 19: The Truth About Being An Independent Financial Advisor ft. Steve Spaeth, CFP®

Ep. 19 – Steve Spaeth, CFP®

Disruption Blueprint

We’re back with another episode of Disruption Blueprint! Today, we are joined by Steve Spaeth, CFP®, Founder and CEO of River Oak Asset Advisory out of Cincinnati, OH.  Steve recently marked his one-year anniversary of going independent after leaving a billion-dollar self-built business in the wirehouse channel. Reflecting on his more than 28 years in wealth management, Steve notes that while he had success and partners who supported his growth, ultimately the wirehouse model had limitations. His decision to go independent in 2021 was based largely on his interest in deepening client relationships and optimizing his business model.

In today’s episode, RFG President Shannon Spotswood and Steve discuss what it’s like to create a more fulfilled, intentional, and rewarding career as an independent advisory owner. It’s never easy to leave a successful business that has taken years to build. Steve reflects upon his prior illusion of freedom, his passion for his clients, and how “each win matters.”

Through his journey to independence, Steve acknowledges improved family connections and deeper intentionality in everything he does. Instead of putting in face time at the office, his focus is now on the things that truly matter personally and professionally. One of the most important mindset shifts for Steve is that he now holds himself accountable, rather than allowing outside influences to impact where and how he invests his time throughout the day.

Earlier growth under the wirehouse model was very different than the way independent advisors grow their clientele. “Passion Prospecting” – coined by Shannon – is something that newly independent advisors often struggle with – not because they don’t want to explore it, but because it is so different than what they are used to doing. Now, Steve can lead with what he enjoys doing while seeking others who also share those interests. There is almost zero challenge in attracting the right clients when he hosts events that surround those activities. He has experienced incredible growth from this strategy. Steve recommend advisors make an effort to know where every client likes to eat out, what they like to do in their spare time, and make an effort to connect with them outside of the office. Building a true relationship is key to earning trust and delivering advice.

In conclusion, Steve shares his advice for both younger and more seasoned advisors. For experienced advisors like himself, Steve shares that it’s easy to keep your blinders on. It may feel like you have a multitude of resources at your disposal, but you should look beyond your existing toolset for other places that may offer better technology, deeper resources and more accessible support. The big custodial name on client statements matters a lot less to clients than advisors think. In fact, all of his clients came with him when he announced his transition, and that is a reflection that relationships and quality service are the two most important catalysts for client retention.

As for his advice for younger advisors considering independence, he shares that it really is true that most independent advisors say, “I should have done this sooner.”

Join the conversation to hear all about:

  • 04:30: Why independence after building a multi-billion wirehouse practice.
  • 07:55: Time management as an independent advisor.
  • 09:02: Impact of the transition on family.
  • 11:15: Building enterprise value on your personal balance sheet.
  • 15:05: Creating the ideal base of operations.
  • 17:30: Attracting the right clientele.
  • 20:00: Refining your story as an independent advisor.
  • 23:30: Advice for seasoned advisors considering independence
  • 24:40: Tackling fears in going independent
  • 25:55: Economic upside of going independent

Here are the three takeaways that will inspire you to embrace independence:

  1. Find professional and personal fulfillment. Your clients are your clients, and your business is yourbusiness. It’s a new level of excitement around what you can achieve. You set the bar, you hold yourself accountable, and you decide what matters. Time spent in the office takes on a very different meaning. You no longer have to impress your bosses or coworkers, and instead now you make intentional decisions on where to be and when to be there.
  2. Managing your personal balance sheet. Finding that higher personal motivation to do what matters is also important to “put in those good reps.” Steve creates his personal task list every day and feels his own pressure to accomplish those goals. You must push yourself to learn new ways to approach technology, time management, client service. The beginning of your independence journey will look different than it does one year later, as you remap your brain to think like a truly independent business owner.
  3. Refining Your Compelling Story: Steve spent a lot of time reflecting on what mattered in his personal story. Really embracing his values and sharing those activities and experiences with clients made a difference. His advice is to invite and attract people who have genuinely similar interests because it eliminates any feeling of “working” and instead it’s comfortable and enjoyable. Check out his videos, linked below, to hear his story, his why, and how this has impacted his family.

Referenced Materials