Ally of the Self Made Client: Puckett Financial Advisors
Puckett Financial Advisors’ biggest challenge, says Brian Puckett, is retaining the trust and confidence of clients at a time when there has been an erosion of trust in the investment advisory business generally. “I hope I’m not being naïve in saying that I think our clients don’t perceive us as being part of the problem, but rather as an ally of theirs to navigate through a difficult environment in which we all find ourselves. A lot of that has to do with being willing to risk losing a client to tell them the whole unvarnished, ugly truth sometimes. We tell them it’s going to be rough, but we’ll never leave their side. That has brought us through.”
Puckett says his firm’s typical client is “like the person described in Tom Stanley’s book The Millionaire Next Door. They’re successful, and they want to make sure they don’t lose what they’ve worked a lifetime to build. Almost all of our clients worked hard for what they have; they’re smart, they’re frugal, they really pay attention. We’ve also got a couple of lottery winners, but even the lottery winners are really conservative.”
Puckett says the biggest risk his clients face in the medium term is a large, unexpected spike in interest rates. “That could be detrimental to a lot of clients who are too heavily weighted to what were traditionally considered to be conservative investments, fixed income, and not positioning themselves appropriately.” Then there are taxes. “To avoid taxes, you buy municipal bonds; but that may not be the only solution. Wealth managers, myself included, have avoided some investment vehicles?tax shelter annuities, for example. But if we have a doubling of taxes, maybe we need to be more open-minded to different avenues (and I’m not saying tax shelter annuities are the solution). We have to be flexible and not be so mired in a way of thinking that we aren’t able to recognize appropriate solutions. Rigid is dangerous.”
Of the changing regulatory environment, Puckett says: “We are in a business where we are stewards. Whether the law says it or not, our firm proudly says we are fiduciaries.” He sees the move to increased transparency as a good thing. “People are craving to know the truth, craving to know where they stand, good or bad, so they can make the right decisions. This whole notion about transparency can foster that.”—Michael S. Fischer
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