Thomas H. Oliver
President and CEO, United Planners Financial Services of America
Headquarters: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Number of producing advisors: 333
Total firm AUM: $8.5 billion
1. What makes your firm different?
The level of securities experience among our back-office staff is well above the industry average. Another key difference is in the firm’s structure as a limited partnership. Our advisors who qualify as limited partners of the firm have a vested interest in the firm and share in the profits each year. This is unique to United Planners and results in our representatives benefitting as legitimate business partners.
2. What is your firm’s specialty or niche?
While many firms are leery of new and proposed regulation concerning ERISA accounts, United Planners has dedicated resources to embrace the regulation and create policies and procedures to adhere to doing the business correctly.
3. Which regulations are the most burdensome or counter-productive to your business?
When it comes to investor disclosures, there seems to be a misstep in what is or is not acceptable. There should be an expected level of responsibility accepted by any investor to read and understand the printed material incorporated into a prospectus. Product features, facts and disclosures are printed there for a reason. Being responsible for one’s own actions applies to everyone.
4. In an environment where recruiting is tough, how do you go about doing it successfully?
Financial advisors today are looking for clarity, honesty and transparency. The days of proprietary firms with smoke-and-mirror payout schedules are numbered, if not over. When we come across a prospect that is unclear about their own gross production, we find one of two things to be true. They are either not wanting to share how little they actually do, or they have been brainwashed by their current firm using “point systems,” “weighting systems” or “deferred commissions” designed to confuse, distort and delay the true level of gross compensation owed them as a result of their activities. This is an unfortunate practice that we do not condone.
United Planners uses a committee of officers to review prospective financial advisors with a regulatory history. We ultimately take a vote to determine if we want to extend an invitation for them to join our firm. Venting any and all issues prior to affiliation has proven to be a good business decision. It is acceptable and prudent to set the bar high for those affiliating just as it is acceptable to reject a product that we feel has undue risk.
5. What do you think is the next shoe to drop on the independent space?
Broker/dealers must prepare themselves to satisfy a seemingly new regulator, the Department of Labor. The DOL is now issuing audits to broker/dealers and RIA firms alike. B/ds must prepare by having access to reconcilable data and creating and implementing worthy policies and procedures for the way they allow advisors to service ERISA business.