‘The Client is Always in the Room:’ Integris Wealth Management
The key to Integris Wealth Management’s success is a real dedication to client service, says the Carmel, Calif. firm’s founder Gifford Lehman. “We have this mantra that the client is always in the room. If the client does not understand what we’re saying, it’s not the client’s fault, it’s our fault because we haven’t communicated ourselves well or we haven’t understood what’s motivating the client.”
Integris’s clients, who range in age from 40 to 80, fall into three categories, says Lehman. Some clients know their financial leverage is in making money, not in managing the money they’ve made. Other clients have acquired a certain measure of wealth and want to have a partner in managing it because they don’t want to start all over again if they make a mistake. And the third group may be able to manage their wealth on their own, but don’t want to spend their time doing so. “The common element, regardless of the specific motivation, is that all three of them are looking to partner with an advisor who is objective and independent and competent.”
Lehman says his firm’s biggest challenge in the medium term is growing while maintaining a high standard of client service. He says the way forward is to make better use of technology to become more efficient?“anything we can do so we can spend more time interfacing with clients or thinking about client situations.” What about merging with another firm? “I don’t think so, though you never say never,” says Lehman. “We’ve had conversations with friendly competitors, but we haven’t found anybody who we feel shares our commitment to the client service. We’re not hearing in those conversations any discussion about what’s in it for the clients.”
As for those clients, Lehman feels they are oftentimes their own worst enemy. “We live in a very connected world, and there’s a tremendous amount of information out there and most of it is noise. Clients have not been well-trained with respect to markets to filter out the noise and focus on what’s important. A big part of what we do is keep our clients disciplined and focused on what is really in their long-term best interest. It’s a tough fight. Two years ago, it was incredibly tough.”—Michael S. Fischer
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