‘Disciplined Innovation:’ Brightworth, LLC
Brightworth, LLC differentiates itself through three main actions, says Chris Dardaman, CEO and partner: Disciplined innovation, open architecture, and a global investment solution. The first encompasses “creative thinking, continuous learning, and customized planning across financial disciplines…deep expertise in everything from investment management to wealth planning…and taking into account the client’s unique goals and values.” The second comes from independence and a fee-only structure, and the third makes use of alternative managers to help moderate market volatility.
Clients generally come in through referrals by existing clients or other professional advisors, says Dardaman, but as they seek to grow the business and “find clients who are the right fit for what we do…we’ve also developed a number of clients through personal networks.”
The client base falls into four broad categories: executives and professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs, widows and heirs, and sports figures and entertainers. When asked if there’s a “typical” client, Dardaman says, “Yes and no.” Clients who are a good fit share four characteristics, he explains. First is available investment resources of at least a million—clients range from a few million “well into nine figures.” Second are the desire and need to delegate—“Certain personality types can’t.” Third is to have a reasonable expectation of the markets, and of the firm’s ability to give advice—“When clients interview us, we interview them for the right fit,” Dardaman says; “Brightworth’s average client retention rate is 98% since we began measuring in January of 2000.” And fourth is “personality and chemistry. Because we maintain a high retention rate, we will work for them for many, many years, and want it to be a mutually beneficial relationship.” Dardaman says he feels “very blessed” to have such great clients.
While Dardaman says most clients are originally looking for a comprehensive financial advisor—“many will have a CPA, estate attorney, insurance agent, broker, and probably a banker”—no one is looking at all of these areas in an integrated fashion. “The bigger they get,” Dardaman warns, “the bigger the gaps are and the more important.” So while Brightworth encompasses many roles, chief among them is to act as the client’s personal CFO “for comprehensive advice on all areas of financial life.”
The question of fiduciary duty has a single answer for Dardaman and Brightworth: “We believe that advisors should and do have a fiduciary duty to clients, and we feel that leveling the playing field [is the best option for the consumer], so they don’t have to worry if their advisor is looking out for their best interests. In the long run, it’s best for the consumer, and we’re certainly for that.” Dardaman adds that he expects the outcome of the SEC study will “in all likelihood create a higher standard of accountability for advisors in the broker/dealer world…Consumers and customers want and…deserve to know that their advisor is looking out for their interests first.”—Marlene Y. Satter
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