[00:00:11] Luke Sonnen: Hi, I’m Luke Sonnen, welcome to The COO Roundtable, powered by PFI Advisors. Here’s your host, Matt Sonnen.
[00:00:25] Matt Sonnen: Welcome everyone to episode 33 of The COO Roundtable. We’re back to our normal interview format after a short break last month to tell people about our new digital consulting platform, The COO Society. We consider that to be a sister product to this podcast. If you’d like to check it out and you want a discount for your first-month’s subscription, you can check out episode 32 of the podcast. We offered a promo code in there as well as an overview of the platform. Or you can head to our website and just click “COO Society” on the menu bar there. We’re also having a back-to-school special for the month of September, which will discount your first month. We’d love for you to poke around inside the platform and tell us what you think. On today’s podcast, we have two highly respected guests in our industry. Both have a ton of experience, which they’ll walk you through, and we have a really good conversation lined up, so let’s get to it. Jandy Rowe joins us today from Wipfli Financial Advisors headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Wipfli has 19 offices around the country. Jandy works out of the Kansas City office. I just saw your CEO, Jeff Pierce, who I know from his days at DFA. The other day he posted that Wipfli Financial was selected for Financial Advisor magazines 2021 top RIA’s list for the 12th time. The press release that you guys put out said, “Wipfli saw 18.23% growth year over year with assets under management increasing to surpass the $5 billion benchmark in July of 2021.” That was a mouthful but congratulations on that, Jandy, and welcome to the podcast.
[00:02:03] Jandy Rowe: Thank you so much, Matt. I appreciate you inviting me to participate.
[00:02:06] Matt Sonnen: Joining Jandy today is Bradford Hixson of Lido Advisors. Brad works out of Lido’s headquarters here in Los Angeles. Lido has 22 offices listed on their website. They are in the headlines a lot because they’re very active in M&A and in May of this year, they also made headlines when they received what was termed as a “significant investment by Charles Bank Capital Partners”, which is a middle-market private investment firm. Lido’s latest ADV lists your AUM at $7.7 billion but again, you’re so active in M&A, I’m guessing you bought another firm since I started speaking. That $7.7B might be out of date. Brad, welcome to the podcast.
[00:02:45] Brad Hixson: Thank you very much. Happy to be here, Matt.
[00:02:47] Matt Sonnen: Awesome. Jandy I stole some of your thunder, but why don’t you tell us, in your own words, a little bit about Wipfli?
[00:02:52] Jandy Rowe: Sure. Thanks, Matt. The firm was founded in 1999 and as you noted, we do now have $5 billion in assets under management. We have about 90 employees and almost a dozen interns, some of which are currently wrapping up their summer programs with us, so that’s been a lot of fun. Looking at what we would call our “ideal client”, we really have two segments of clients today. We have high net worth, and then we have mass affluent. On the high-net-worth side, we collaborate very closely with our partners at Wipfli on the CPA side, and we have a strong focus on individuals, families, and business owners that have planning needs.
Along with Wipfli, we’re able to offer a wide array of different needs, financial planning, wealth management, tax consulting, charitable giving, just to name a few of those. Then I was also given the opportunity to put together an amazing team that led the charge in building what we call our Avid Platform. That really focuses more on the mass affluent client base. These are really our H.E.N.R.Y’s, children of the high net worth clients that we have, maybe small business owners that are just starting out.
We officially launched that platform last summer and it’s more tech-focused and offers financial planning guidance without building a comprehensive plan. At the point that those clients grow their wealth and start needing like more in-depth financial planning, we actually introduce them to the advisor teams who can meet those more complex planning needs and then potentially shift those clients from the Avid Platform over to the high-net-worth category. So, that was an exciting endeavor that we were able to launch this past year.
Then, really in the past, we’ve grown a lot organically. Working with Wipfli, our CPA partners, we’ve been able to grow our client base significantly on that end. With Wipfli, they’ve been very active in the acquisition area. Working with them, one of the things that we’ve been able to do is really open that door and start focusing on acquisitions on the RIA side. One of our goals that we have kicked off this past year is to look for a few firms that we can partner with over the next two to three years to really start growing inorganically, as well as organically with Wipfli.
[00:04:51] Matt Sonnen: That’s awesome and yes, we’re definitely going to touch on M&A here in a minute. First, Brad, why don’t you give us a background on Lido?
[00:04:57] Brad Hixson: We were founded in 1999 as well, and we were really founded on the premise of bringing what I’ll call a “family office style investment philosophy down to the high-net-worth space.” My founder and my CEO both ran family offices in the LA area in the early ’90s so they had a lot of familiarity with that type of investment philosophy and that’s really part of our guiding principles today. Currently, as you mentioned, we’re spread out throughout the country. We have 110 employees and as an updated AUM, we actually just crossed $10 billion. We’re up a good bit from where we were.
If you look at the growth, it’s really accelerated over the last three years, with Lido. In 2018 our ADV was $2.7B, so you can see the increase there. Ideal client for, we too have two segments. We deal in a high-net-worth segment. Our sweet spot is the $1-10 M, but our fastest-growing segment is our ultra-high net worth with that $10 million-plus for the last three years as a percentage increase, it’s our fastest-growing segment.
I think that comes from that family office background and having that type of investment philosophy. Up until 2019, we were primarily growing organically. For the last five years, we’ve been able to maintain a kegger of an excess of 35%. We’ll probably add somewhere between $2-3B organically this year and look to do that inorganically at least 50 to 75% of that number as well. It’s really, I’d say more focused around, as Jandy mentioned, finding strategic partners, not just looking at AUM, we’re looking at talent, geography and opportunity, and that’s really what our growth plans focused around.
[00:06:34] Matt Sonnen: We’re going to dig into a whole bunch of stuff about the firms but I always love asking this question first. I love everybody’s backstory. Brad, you and I first met when you were at Fidelity, and at the time, I didn’t realize that that was your second stint at the firm. You actually took an eight-year detour during your time at the custodian. Before that, you were even a financial advisor, which I always find fascinating. Walk us through your career path. What led you Lido a few years ago?
[00:07:00] Brad Hixson: Sure. I always joke with my kids, “My career started in the gym.” I asked a guy to spot me when I was 20 and he and I became friends and he was a financial advisor. They invited me to intern with them and that was IDS Financial Services, which I did. Then I became a paraplanner. When I graduated college, I went straight into personal production. Had the opportunity back in Pittsburgh, where I grew up, to find warmer weather, which I found to be very appealing to me and that was my first stint with Fidelity.
I moved out to Los Angeles. I worked in the branch system. I also worked their internal money management product in the Southeast. I spent about two and a half years down in Florida. Came back to follow my mentor who had taken over the realm of First American Trust and spent about eight, nine years there. Great experience and then gravitated towards Fidelity again. As you mentioned, it was on the institutional side this time though. I was a senior relationship manager. I covered what I would say were the 15 largest RAs in the Los Angeles area and it really got me, I think, in a good position to do what I’m doing now.
Under the hood, I got to see what people were doing, right. Maybe where they were making missteps and it really brought my level of understanding up to a new level, having that role. That’s actually where I met Lido. They became a client of mine in 2011 and they were at $7-$800 million at the time. When I knew I was going to the independent side of the equation, I just had a really good cultural fit with them and the opportunity came up, so I took it and that was three and a half years ago.
[00:08:36] Matt Sonnen: That’s awesome. I love that. Quite literally, your career started in the gym. That’s an amazing story.
[00:08:43] Brad Hixson: Ken Rock. I asked him to spot me. Still remember the name.
[00:08:46] Matt Sonnen: That’s awesome. Jandy, you just celebrated your 20th anniversary with Wipfli, which is really amazing, so congrats on that achievement! You’ve had a few different roles leading up to being named the COO, so walk us through that path.
[00:09:00] Jandy Rowe: Sure. Thanks, Matt. This is actually one of my favorite stories to tell, and I still am shocked by the fact that I’ve been here for 20 years. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long but then when I have to tell someone how long I’ve been here and 20 years comes out to my mouth, it’s just still a little bit shocking. 20 years ago I was actually moving from Kansas City out to California and had a bunch of interviews lined up with Charles Schwab ironically, and thought that that was where I was going to be working when I finally pulled into the Bay Area.
I’m pretty sure somewhere along that drive Schwab had a hiring freeze. Needless to say, I did not end up working at Schwab, and the end it all worked out, I found a headhunter in the Bay Area— because it was not easy to find a job at that point in time in this industry. Luckily, I came across Wipfli at that time and they didn’t have any jobs open for anything that I had any experience in, at that time it was really the administrative assistant position, but I was just ready. I knew I wanted to work for the company. I wanted to least get my foot in the door.
I met with them and luckily they actually had a client service role open at that time. They just hadn’t posted for it. That’s where I started, 20 years ago in client service. At the time, there were two of us in client service and I’m sure it had nothing to do with my coming aboard, but right after I came aboard, the other client service person left. That pretty much left me as the only client-service person in the firm. It gave me a great opportunity to learn client service, trading, portfolio, accounting, performance, reporting, a lot of compliance too.
We were a much smaller firm, obviously at that time. I just got to test it all out. The one thing I never did was the front stage. I’ve never been an advisor, never really had a desire to be an advisor. I love the backstage. Starting off in client service and then client service manager. Then as you noted, a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to step into the COO role.
I do think that being able to touch all the little pieces of the backstage of the firm really helped me fit into this role and have a better sense of how all the departments work together. It’s been so much fun, it’s such a great company, and obviously, if you’re going to give a company 20 years, you love the people, you love the job and it’s been a fantastic run.
[00:11:09] Matt Sonnen: That’s awesome. We touched on M&A, but on this operations-minded podcast, I always love talking about what firms are doing operationally to prepare for inorganic growth and to make your firms attractive to sellers looking for a firm to partner with. Our industry’s always talking about the deal structure and valuation, but the listeners here, we all know that it’s really an operations story that a firm needs to tell to an advisor.
You need to convince them that your firm can handle their clients and can onboard their employees in a seamless fashion and hopefully offer them avenues for growth in the future. I’m going to go to Brad first. What have you done in your role as Director of Mergers and Acquisitions to make Lido an attractive landing spot for advisors? You guys have been so successful.
[00:11:55] Brad Hixson: Thanks. It’s interesting because I don’t think you can underscore how important the operation side is on the inorganic growth. When we were talking in late 2017, it was an uncomfortable conversation because I actually mentioned to them, I said, “My expectation is that we’re probably not going to do a deal in 2018.”
They just looked at me funny. I said, “We’re not ready.” You have to have the right technology stack in place. You have the client service model down. You have to have a segmentation model down. You need all of those things or else an acquisition or a roll-up advisor is going to go very poorly. What they’re looking for are efficiencies. Can I do my job better? Can I offer more to my clients? As far as offering more, I think that goes to Jandy’s point that she made about her firm—its investments, its financial planning, its tax planning and, and tax preparation.
They also want to know, as you mentioned, that you can handle the task, can we onboard their clients? Have we put processes in place to make things more efficient? The majority of our paperwork is now automated via DocuSign so that it can be a very seamless process. We’re heavy in the alternative space. As you both know, alternative paperwork is cumbersome and it takes a long time. We’ve automated that, opening an alternative or investing in an alternative from 25 to 30 minutes down to about five.
I think you just always have to be looking at “How can I make the back office better? How can I make the process smoother and how can I leverage technology to do so?” Because if you have those things in place, you have the whole story to tell. Not just the offering for the clients, but that you’re really gonna be there to support and help grow the advisors and provide them the resources they need not just on the financial side, but on the technical side as well.
[00:13:47] Matt Sonnen: We’re preach to the choir here. Hopefully, you all can use that little clip from Brad. I’m sure many of you are getting pressure from your bosses, “We’re not moving fast enough. Why don’t we close as more transactions? Why are we not acquiring more aggressively?” Hopefully, you can use what he just said. You can point to Lido’s success in the area that, I say it all the time, but I just feel like I’m talking into the void sometimes in our industry. The operations have to be in place first before you can get aggressive and have real success in this area.
[00:14:18] Brad Hixson: 2018 was the only time in my career that I’ve been a line-item expense on a P&L, because we were just getting things up and ready. I think it’s imperative that you do that and really prepare for that next step as opposed to just taking it.
[00:14:34] Matt Sonnen: Awesome.Jandy, I know you’ve been very busy in this area as well. What are some of the things you’re doing to make Wipfli attractive to advisors?
[00:14:41] Jandy Rowe: Sure. One of the things we did as we were building up to this was we brought on Katie Cullen. She’s our new Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer. She’s amazing. One of our primary focuses is M&A, and we also have a dedicated leadership team that we don’t serve as advisors. Really, we’ve been able to spend the time dedicated to mapping out the plan and lining the pieces up so that everything’s going to work.
One of the things that Brad had mentioned was making sure that you have that well-oiled backstage team up and running and having the efficiencies. I feel like we’ve been doing that. We’ve had that in place for a while. Now being able to put other things into motion by bringing Katie on and creating an internal team, it’s really their job to onboard firms as we meet them and get them brought into our teams, and be able to help with their client load, and be able to take that backstage work, and the compliance work off those advisors and be able to take that for them.
They’re really focusing on their clients, their prospects, and really being an advisor. We’ve also been really lucky that Wipfli charged this path ahead of us. I know that they’re on the CPA side, but they’ve done so many acquisitions. They’ve kind of learned a lot of what works, what doesn’t work, what should we be paying attention to from some of the technical aspects and then some of the HR aspects.
Being able to rely heavily on them has been super helpful and just starting to build this out. Of course, one of the things that we also did was have an opportunity to work with you, Matt, and your team, and really dive into the operational side of the firm to ensure that it’s strong. Make sure that the pieces are lined up again, going back to what Brad said and asking if there is any gap that we need to be paying attention to, that we need to tighten up to make sure that as we do onboard another firm, bring them in that we just can do it and do it seamlessly.
I feel like we definitely have that lined up. That was a great exercise to go through with your team. Then we, of course, took that next step and really built the road map out. Before going into the first one and saying, “Oh, gosh. We’re having to learn this as we go.” I feel like we did a lot. We’ve been doing a lot of work ahead of that to take a look at everything, to actually build out a true roadmap, and then just position us to bring on another firm effectively and efficiently.
One of the things I always want to make sure that we’re keeping in mind is that, and I think Brad mentioned this even earlier on the call, is that we’re really looking to bring on the right firm. We’re not looking for somebody who’s looking for a succession plan where we just basically bring on their clients and then they’re out the door. We’re looking for the talent. We want to bring people on that want to work with us. We want that great people fit and the cultural alignment. It’s super important to us. As we partner with these firms, we’re bringing them in, and we all collectively win at the end of the day and can just move forward with growth in multiple directions. It’s really exciting.
[00:17:27] Matt Sonnen: I’ll do a quick self-plug. The last article that I just wrote hasn’t even been published yet, but by the time we publish this podcast, it should be, and we’ll link to it. The title is “M&A Prep is More Than Just Securing Financing” and it talks about everything that two of you just hit on. I just think so many firms say, “We’ve got the financing. Let’s go and figure it out as we go along.” I just think it’s too competitive out there for that to be your messaging to these advisors that have spent their entire career building this book of business for the acquirer to say, “We’ll figure it out as we move your clients, you’re going to be our guinea pig.”
I just think you just have to have everything in place. I get so excited on these operations discussions. I never take the conversation one step further and ask about clients. We just discussed attracting advisors to your firm, but let’s talk about how you go about attracting clients. Jandy, I’ll go to you first. What makes Wipfli unique with respect to how you’re serving and attracting clients?
[00:18:24] Jandy Rowe: Sure. Again, I am always on the backstage, but I do know a little bit about the front stage and how all that works. I think the two things that I would really point to that I think are unique about us and just something that I know that the feedback from our clients and advisors has been really positive, is that we lead really with an advisory team approach.
Then we also have what we call Financial Life in Action. We generally don’t go to the client with one advisor and say, “This is your advisor.” Instead, we go to the client saying, “This is your team. We’re here to work with you and help guide you on your financial path.” The team typically consists of a primary advisor along with the secondary advisor. Then, of course, we pair that advisory team with a lead client service specialist.
The team collaboratively works with the client on whatever is needed. Again, the client service person is really there to help with more of the administrative side of whatever our client needs so that the advisors aren’t having to spend their time on that. Instead, they can really have those deeper conversations with the client and then let some of that backstage work be handled by the client service associate.
Then we also have a super consistent approach of leading with Financial Life in Action. It creates this consistent, powerful planning experience across our client base and all the advisors follow this process. Financial Life in Action is a three-step approach that is very interactive with the client. The steps include three meetings. We have Explore, which is hearing the client story. We have Envision, which is an interactive planning meeting, where they get to visualize the next steps with my storyboard.
Then, finally, we have Empower, which is where the client receives a dynamic and proactive financial plan with the recommendations and action items that provide our clients with a clear path for their future. I feel like those two things really are something that just really get to what the client needs and make sure that those needs are met continuously. A team approach is one of those things that I feel has really helped in the succession of the client relationships.
Anytime you’ve got one advisor working with a client and then that advisor leaves or retires, or what have you, not waiting until the last minute and saying, “Oh, we’re going to take you and move you from this advisor over to that advisor. You’re okay with that. Right?” They don’t even feel it because it’s always a team. It’s always multiple people. They’ve got different individuals that they can be reaching out to on different things. They just don’t feel like it’s just them and the advisor, they’re them with Wipfli. We feel like it’s a great approach. Again, the feedback from the clients has been super positive between that and the Financial Life and Action that we run with them.
[00:20:52] Matt Sonnen: Yes. You’re talking about consistency, all of us ops folks love that word. You got to have a consistent client experience. That’s great. Brad, in your mind, what is the secret sauce at Lido?
[00:21:03] Brad Hixson: I think when I’m out talking to other advisors and people about joining Lido, we focus on two areas. One is the family office investment philosophy. If I have to describe that, it really revolves around four pillars. There’s Growth, pillar one, we all know what that is, the stock market long-term exposure. I don’t spend a lot of time there. The second is Protection. We’re very focused on hedging our client’s portfolios.
We’ve been doing that for 5 or 6 years now. We just feel it’s the right approach because our clients have made money. Yes, they want to make more, but just as importantly, they don’t want to lose money. Third pillar is Opportunistic Investing, for example, take what the market gives you. When the market fell 30% last year in March, 2 days later we launched the recovery portfolio. That was an opportunity to pick some stocks that were going to function in that type of environment, and it did very well throughout the recovery.
Then the fourth pillar is Non-correlated Assets. We’re big in the alternative space, real estate, private debt, things along those lines. We think it’s a great way to produce consistent income for our clients, as well as have something that’s not going to go up and down with the stock market. Then you go to step two, which is really the overall wealth planning experience. We have a dedicated financial planning team that works with our advisors throughout the country. That’s got people in 6 different cities from that standpoint and continues to grow.
We have Lido Tax, which provides tax strategies, tax consultation, and tax preparation, if needed, to our clients throughout the country. We have an estate plan attorney on retainer that consults with our clients throughout the country on their state needs. We have access to 3 friendly trust companies that allow us to do the intergenerational planning and asset management from that standpoint. When you pitch that all with the client service, the back office as Jandy mentioned, what we’re really doing is we’re freeing up the advisor to do what they want to do best. As she mentioned, not have to feel like “I have to do it all.” We’re very big on the team approach as well.
We want as many touches and as many contacts as makes sense for a client but being able to fall back and have a financial plan prepared for you. Have a tax people come in and do a tax strategy session with your clients. Not just look at their taxes, but let’s devise a strategy. Having those experts on hand, that’s what we do. We take all that other stuff off their plate and allow them to focus on gaining new clients and taking care of their current ones and I think that’s really what resonates with people when I talk to them.
[00:23:28] Matt Sonnen: We’ve covered the value proposition that you’re making to your clients. Now let’s talk about how you actually execute on the promises that you’re making. Let’s talk about org structure. In my experience, there’s really two primary ways to structure the firm. You can either centralize the back office and run all service tasks through there, or you can work in smaller teams and it’s each advisor and a subset of advisors who have their own service team. They’re siloed. Brad, I think you’ve tried both models at Lido. How is the firm structure today?
[00:23:59] Brad Hixson: We’re actually—in this area, we’re in a transition mode. I’ll say we have our legacy model, which was more the team approach and it’s morphing into more the centralized approach because we’ve realized over the last couple of years with the growth we’ve had and that we want to continue to have that that’s a much more efficient way to handle that aspect of our business. As I mentioned, we’re actually in the transition now.
When I say centralized, it doesn’t mean it’s all located in Kansas City or Texas. I have centralized pods throughout the country so that I’ve got people on the east coast so the advisors and crew aren’t waiting until 11:00 AM to get ahold of somebody their time. It’s really more of a centralized pod approach that we’re moving towards.
I think that’s the way the industry, at least for my firm and our firm that makes more sense. The other way is just too human capital heavy, and I think this is a much more efficient way of accomplishing it. As I said, we want to invest in human capital for the client experience and make sure that we’re always providing that top notch experience for the client, but we want to leverage technology and we want to leverage the efficiencies as much as possible so that we’re able to spend those assets and those folks, those resources elsewhere.
[00:25:13] Matt Sonnen: Yes. That’s really smart. Jandy, I know you’ve done a lot of work in this area. Tell us about your centralized back office.
[00:25:20] Jandy Rowe: Sure. I think from day one, when I joined 20 plus years ago, it’s really been centralized. Although back then it was so small, centralizing it just seemed to make sense, but I’m really happy that we just continued with that approach. My entire time here, we’ve always had everything centralized. We have a trading team, we have an operations team, a client service team, and then we have an investment team. Similarly, we’re not all sitting here in Kansas City, although the client service team is here in Kansas City, but then we’ve got people in a few other offices, but that is what they do.
They are in trading, or they are in operations. We try to pull as much of the day-to-day work as we can into these teams. What we’ve been saying, Brad and I, to allow the advisors to really focus their time and attention on their clients and perspective clients. The centralization not only frees up the advisors from the more administrative tasks, but it also allows us to really hone in on creating efficiencies in our processes.
I think Brad has talked about that as well. Just really, again, going to use the word, believe in having a consistent experience for both the advisors and the clients. We’ve never, I think that I can remember, ever actually had an advisor even allowed to trade like a shut off from day one. They can’t move money. There’s just a lot that we’ve been able to do to be able to make trading happen.
It doesn’t really just happen on its own. Of course, we have traders that do it, but there’s just very little interaction that the advisors have to get into when it’s just the day-to-day stuff. These teams have really been set up to just be able to do what they do. Then when you’re doing a day in and day out, like Brad saying, you can really create those efficiencies and you can look at how you’re doing something and make improvements and you just make it with that smaller team. It’s very easy to then execute and then move on to the next thing that you might be able to improve upon or just create that efficiency.
Again, the main objective of centralizing it is to free up the advisors for not having to do that type of work, but it also just helps you keep so many controls in place. Those of us that are having to oversee the operational side of the business, you need to know that when money is being moved that the processes are being followed that are supposed to be followed, same with trades being placed, all of that stuff. Knowing that you’ve got a team and that is what they focus on, and you can really build out the procedural manual for how it’s done and at that all of those things, it just really helps you know that what you’re doing is always the right thing and you don’t have something rogue happening over on the side.
I’m happy that we created that approach so many years ago, and I always loved talking with other back-office people about it. I think those firms that are now learning that this is really a much more effective and efficient approach. I get calls regularly, “Hey, let’s talk about it. What does it look like? How did you develop it? What are your job descriptions? What’s the career paths?” It’s really fun to talk about it and to see that other firms are taking this approach as well. In my opinion, obviously I’m biased, but I think it’s a really smart approach.
[00:28:12] Matt Sonnen: This conversation has progressed in an interesting way. We attracted the advisors to the firm, then we attracted the clients to the firm, and now we’ve just serviced the clients through the org structure, but I want to talk about the two of you individually now. Our listeners hear me say this all the time, “Your job description is basically do everything around here that isn’t getting done.” That will lead many times to a to do list that can fall on the floor and literally roll out of your office. I’m curious, how do you get everything done every day because I know many of our listeners struggle with this? I’ll go to Jandy first on this one. Jandy, what is your superpower?
[00:28:50] Jandy Rowe: Sure. When I talked about my history and at the firm and I noted that I was the only client service person for a while and at that point you had nothing, but to just do it all. As we’ve grown and built out these teams, I’ve been super lucky to have an amazing team that works around with me. You have those individuals that you can trust and that you can rely on to get things done. Then they’re also the ones that are helping you keep the teams engaged, which is super important.
I’ve just been really lucky to have this particular group that I work with day in and day out. There were times in the past where you couldn’t really even take a vacation and unplug because there was always something. Somebody needed you to weigh in on something here or something over there. That just doesn’t happen anymore. I think with the people that we have in place today, I know that they’re doing what they need to be doing. I know that everything is on track. I know that if there’s something that they need my attention for, of course, they’re going to reach out.
All in all, it’s just a phenomenal team. I think one of the things that I love most about it is not just that they are amazing and get as much done as they do, but we also have so much fun working together. I think when you’ve got that type of an environment where things are getting done, we have exciting things on the horizon, and then you’re having a lot of fun together, it just changes how your day goes and you can have a ton of stuff piled on, but when you’re working with that caliber of people and just having that much fun, it just changes things.
Even over the past year and a half, we’ve been even more remote than we were before because we’re spread across multiple offices. Even what we’ve been able to do while we aren’t together, these new initiatives over the past year and a half have been just as exciting. Now, of course, we’re all just waiting for everything to get back to whatever normal is and get these people back together so we can see each other face to face and continue building on that team dynamic.
For me, I guess it’s not my superpower. Maybe it’s just being able to find the right people that support me and that support the teams that work with us. It has been a life-changer. They’re all super amazing. I would start naming them, but I’ll miss one, like the Oscars that never ends well. It’s an amazing team.
[00:31:00] Matt Sonnen: That’s great. Brad, how do you accomplish so much with only 24 hours in any given day?
[00:31:05] Brad Hixson: Probably could use about four more hours, man, but I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. I think to Jandy’s point, it really is about the team you build, and it’s 2-pointed. One is finding the right people and then empowering them to do their job. The worst thing you could have is the head of operations or the head of trading always wanting to come back and get permission for things that they probably don’t do because they just don’t feel comfortable.
I think when you find the right people, empowering them to make decisions and make changes based on what’s best for the firm is great as well because it helps clear up the day some so that you can focus on more of the strategic things, because as you mentioned, you can get dragged down into the weeds pretty quick, and it’s not the most efficient use of anybody’s time to have those powwows.
It’s really finding the right people and empowering them to do their job. I think if you do that, it helps you get to what your goal is as well. You got to have fun. During the pandemic we had weekly lunches where everybody Zoomed in and you got to keep morale high, especially during these times we didn’t talk business, we played games, we did silly things like that, Trivia, keeping people informed, “What is the vision of the company? Where are we heading and how do we want to get there?”
Regular meetings with all the staff to be able to discuss that, we just had another one on Monday where we were making some organizational changes for the better, and you got to keep people up to speed so they understand what they’re working towards, especially in these remote environments.
[00:32:33] Matt Sonnen: Yes communication is always been important, but it’s hyper important in the pandemic and working from home and everything else. I’m glad you brought that one up.
[00:32:43] Brad Hixson: There were probably 10 people that I’ve never met face-to-face that started during the pandemic, and probably five of them are in LA. I’ll meet them someday, but that’s a different environment to operate in.
[00:32:55] Matt Sonnen: That’s where you turn to internally for help. For our last question, I want to ask what outside resources you leverage as you both manage these multi-billion dollar enterprises. Jandy, where do you turn outside of Wipfli for help?
[00:33:09] Jandy Rowe: Great question. I have a wide array of cohorts across the industry and as I talked a little bit about earlier, this is really the only industry that I’ve known. For 20 years, I’ve been working with Wipfli. Over those 20 years, you start building relationships with other people. You go to conferences where you make connections. I’ve just always been a part of those groups and it wasn’t until recently when my client service manager, I’m pretty sure it was her, when was I introduced her to one of the groups that I was involved with and said, “Here, I want you to take this. I want you to learn from them, share ideas, what have you.”
She came back to me and she was like, “I’m just really curious, what all can I share? These people talk about a lot of stuff where you feel like maybe you’re giving away some of your secrets of how we do business.” I just laughed because I hadn’t really thought about it before because it’s just normal for us. I feel like in this industry, we just share, we obviously know where the boundaries are. There are certain things we’re not allowed to talk about, but for the most part, we’re all actually working in this industry to improve the industry, to improve our businesses collectively together – the sharing of ideas, the bouncing ideas off of one another, taking polls with groups that you participate in to gauge what people are doing. I feel like with the pandemic, I feel like I can count the number of calls that I’ve been in that talk about return to work, “What does it look like for your firm?” It’s a constant sharing of ideas. I’ve been an active member of HIFON for years now. Shaun is amazing and it’s been so much fun to make those connections. I took the Schwab ELP course years ago. From that, created a study group of my own of some great cohorts in the industry. Then recently, obviously, I also joined The COO Society.
That’s a new avenue for us, but just knowing who’s out there, going to these conferences, meeting these people, sharing ideas, it’s such a great way to grow personally, as well as take the company to the next level with different ideas and what have you. I definitely feel like outside of what played, there are so many different people that we can tap into to just grow. It’s a phenomenal industry for that. I still just laugh that I never thought about, oh, are we sharing too much? Again, not at the boundaries, but beyond that, we talk about everything and I absolutely love it.
[00:35:31] Matt Sonnen: It’s a fantastic industry. Brad, talking about the industry, you’ve been around for a while, you have an amazing network. Who do you rely on? Where do you turn?
[00:35:38] Brad Hixson: As Jandy pointed out, you make so many contacts and I think you can’t underscore that enough, that part of what you need to do is make friends in the industry because we’ve got some pretty good ideas, but so do other people. What I’ve always been impressed within this industry is the willingness to share as Jandy mentioned and the willingness to help.
I have regular meetings with other COOs of large RIAs and once a quarter we sit down and ask “What are you struggling with? Here’s something we ran into. Have you ever run into that?” There’s plenty of business out there and people that I think just inherently want to help each other and you need to make those contacts.
You need to go to the conferences. Now that they’re starting back up again, and you need to have regular contracts. The people I worked with when I was at Fidelity, I know very intimate things about their business, obviously, but I still get together with them. We still share ideas from those other RIA because that’s what we do. That’s what I’ve always been impressed within this industry.
It’s interesting, I think, sometimes when you come from a wirehouse or things along those lines, there’s a lot of internal competition, that just isn’t the way we are. I don’t think that’s where our industry is. I think we’re willing to make each other better and we’re always looking for opportunities to make our firms better and you need to take good ideas and get counsel from people that are going through the same things. I think that’s the best part of what we do.
[00:37:00] Matt Sonnen: I love it. Well, Brad and Jandy, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today and helping us all learn from your experience in this industry. This has been a really fun conversation. Thank you both for being here.
[00:37:12] Jandy Rowe: Thank you so much. It’s been fun. Brad, it was nice to meet you. I’ll connect with you at some point so we make sure we share ideas.
[00:37:18] Brad Hixson: Sounds good, Jandy. I look forward to it, Matt. Thanks for having us on, appreciate the opportunity and the time to talk.
[00:37:24] Matt Sonnen: Cool. Thank you. To our listeners, thank you for tuning into another episode. That is a wrap here on episode 33.