Millennial financial advisor James Osborne and his non-traditional way of running his practice

Millennial financial advisor


Steve Sanduski: Advisors with a specialized niche will always be in demand regardless of what happens with robo technology.
Steve Sanduski: Prepare for the day when the value of basic asset allocation, rebalancing, and tax loss harvesting is only worth about 25 basis points.

MILLENNIAL FINANCIAL ADVISOR JAMES OSBORNE STARTED OUT ON A TRADITIONAL FINANCIAL ADVISOR TRACK then he became disillusioned.

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He noticed there wasn’t much difference in the services he provided to a client with a 3 or 4 million dollar portfolio versus a client with a half million dollar portfolio. As he told me, “It started to feel that the fee structure was not based on what we did for people or the value proposition, but was really based on ability to pay.”

So what did he do?

He left the traditional RIA, started his own firm, and began charging a flat fee of $4,500 per year, which includes financial planning and investment management services.

Today, after just three years, James has about $100 million in AUM, roughly 50 clients, and is earning a nice living running a lifestyle practice in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.

If you do the math, you’ll notice his fee comes out to about 25 basis points on $100 million in assets. That’s equal to what the average robo advisor charges but in James’ case–it also includes personal financial planning directly with him

He’s beating the robo advisors at their own game!

His pricing structure is just one of the many ways he’s reimagining the financial services industry. We discuss them all in the podcast.

(Download the transcript here.)

This is the second in my podcast series on how millennial financial advisors are shaking up the industry. Be sure to checkout the first one with Brittney Castro–including her finance rap video.


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James Osborne: Yeah, this is a lifestyle practice, I'm okay with that.
James Osborne: Yeah, this is a lifestyle practice, I’m okay with that.

James Osborne

James is a Certified Financial Planner® professional who has spent his career in the investment management industry. In addition to the CFP® professional designation, he has an MBA in Investment Management from the University of Colorado. His disillusionment with the standard practice of investment management firms led to the creation of Bason Asset Management in late 2012.

He has contributed to or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Motley Fool, Investment News, Financial Planning, CoBiz Magazine, USA Today, Morningstar Magazine, ThinkAdvisorMoneymagazine and Business Insider. James was named to Brightscope’s “Top 100 Social Influencer” list for financial professionals in 2014.

(Click here for my podcast with top editors Jim Pavia and Fred Gabriel on how you can work with the media.)

Show Comments

Here are several areas James and I discuss in today’s episode.

  1. I’m telling my coaching clients to prepare for the day when the value of traditional asset allocation, rebalancing, and tax loss harvesting is only worth about 25 basis points. While that’s a threat due to robo advisors, there’s also a tremendous opportunity for advisors to offer specialized investment management services as well as upgraded planning services that can only be delivered by a human. For James, he delivers investment management AND financial planning for the equivalent of about 25 basis points. We discuss the implications of this.
  2. We discuss alternative ways advisors can charge for their services. James said, “I think that you’re going to continue to see more financial planning retainers. I think you’re going to see more, potentially with the use of technology, financial planning only practices that are built around a recurring monthly retainer, annual retainer, or something like that.
  3. Most advisory firms are trying to “institutionalize” the client relationship to mitigate the risk of an advisor leaving and taking clients with them. James has a completely different view of this. He said, “I think it’s really hard for a bigger firm to endear a client relationship to a firm or a brand versus individual advisors. I think that those firms would probably find it much more profitable to keep those advisors happy and on board and make sure that they are doing everything they can do to strengthen and deepen client relationships versus trying to end around the advisor essentially and trying to make the client relationship sticky.”
  4. It’s a common refrain in the industry that the small one and two advisor “practices” are dying. James says, “I don’t buy that at all. In one part because I see clients and prospective clients who come to me who want a one on one relationship who are comfortable with a smaller practice, who are comfortable with a sole proprietor. I don’t think that demand is going to dry up.” For a different point of view, checkout my podcasts with Joe Duran of United Capital and Elliot Weissbluth of HighTower.
  5. Many millennial financial advisors get most of their new business from online sources. James is no exception. He said, “Most new business this year has come from online, whether that’s a combination of the dental community or organic searches, or people looking for an alternative fee structure.”
  6. Are you on Twitter? I am and it drives a lot of traffic to my website. Click here to follow me. James said, “I’m on Twitter, I really like Twitter. It’s fun, it’s informative. There are good conversations. The great thing about it is there are a lot of thoughtful people in our industry there. It’s a cocktail party. If you want to participate in the conversation then you can participate in the conversation. If there are two very intelligent people sharing thoughtful considerations, then you can stand there and listen. That part of it’s great. The last part of it is I’ve had real relationships now that have come out of that community, both locally and across the country. Those are invaluable.”

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast and read the transcript. I’ve just highlighted a few comments from the show.

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To listen to all the podcast interviews in your car, on your phone, or at the gym, go to iTunes or your podcast app and subscribe to the Between Now and Success podcast. It’s super easy and pretty soon you’ll be ditching radio and just listening to podcasts!

Click on the icons below to subscribe.

download-on-itunes Soundcloud


Please share this page and the podcast with your friends and colleagues via Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook. You can use the share buttons. Thanks!

Got a question? Email it to me and I’ll give you my take on it. 

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Steve is the founder of Belay Advisor and a NYT bestselling author, podcast host, speaker, and financial advisor coach.

1 Comment on Millennial financial advisor James Osborne and his non-traditional way of running his practice

  1. If he tried to use this strategy within anywhere in Canada and/or with any full-service platform, which btw would be needed to provide those services to his clients, he would be shown the door for not meeting revenue minimum standards. Might work in the US, but in Canada, you would make more money working at McDonalds…

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