[It has been said of financial services that there are as many different advisor business models as there are financial advisors themselves. Advisors bring their unique personalities, perspectives and ways of engaging with their clients to their practices and businesses. The challenge for custodians, wirehouses, independent broker dealers, RIAs, solutions providers and fintech companies is in supporting and helping all these unique businesses grow. Most practice management, business development and service models from these entities tend to be regimented and clustered into service and solutions platforms that address major advisor challenges in the aggregate and are similar in format. This is a wise and efficient way to provide these services at scale, but one that may not address all the particular needs of each individual advisor and their singular vision for their companies and growth goals.
To explore this issue further, we decided to reach out to new Institute members Jim Malgeri, president and COO, and Drew Horter, CEO of Civitas Advisor Solutions — a business development firm for advisors, advisory firms and financial institutions that is based on partnership, community and culture. Their core mission is to evaluate and strategically architect a customized business plan, tailor solutions specific to individualized support needs, and then partner with the firm on a guided implementation and execution plan. We asked Jim and Drew questions to explore their perspectives on building a firm to be the “advisor to advisors” and address the changing business development needs for advisors in this hyper-competitive business environment now being driven by an accelerating rate of change.]
Bill Horz: What is your motivation for launching Civitas and what are the industry challenges you face?
Jim Malgeri: The motivation for launching Civitas Advisor Solutions is truly based on an altruistic quest to help advisors succeed personally and in their consulting practice. Our name, “Civitas”, comes from the Latin meaning “Community” with the basic pillars of the business being Culture, community and partnership. Our goal is to grow a community of like-minded advisors who seek business development support from major financial institutions, broker/dealers and RIA platforms and want to integrate the latest thinking and competitive resources available to grow their individualized businesses.
Drew Horter: Currently, financial institutions and advisory service providers offer transition brokerage advisors and independent financial advisors a “platform” with a variety of services. In today’s business environment, this out-of-the-box approach may prove too restrictive, outdated, and costly for many advisors and RIAs. Many of these advisor support platforms may not be up to date with the accelerating changes taking place in the industry in technology, business model innovation, changing client perspectives and new digital customer engagement strategies. Advisors and RIAs move to an independent “platform” to be offered a static stack of services for a basis point fee. The result is that advisors and RIAs pay up to 30 basis points or more in some cases for a “platform” with generic tiered services, but also, over time, pay the provider of the platform in basis points thanks to increased AUM growth.
Horz: How have you deliberately designed your program to address these challenges and provide a different level of support for advisors and their businesses?
Malgeri: The genesis of Civitas Advisor Solutions is the creation and implementation of the next generation of business and support solutions for advisors and RIAs. We engage Broker Advisors and RIAs through free consultations (no limit on the number of initial conversations) initiate a discovery period to assess their current status. The Civitas team helps define the goals of the counselor and the practice. Several trading options are created and presented for discussion and selection. Then, a personalized plan – unique to that advisor and firm – coupled with specific solutions and ongoing support is established for a flat fee. Ultimately, Civitas reduces overhead from your current custodian or B/D and customizes solutions – e.g. marketing, compliance, technology, etc. – that benefit you and eliminate base point fees.
Horz: Can you discuss some of the differentiators of your advisor support model in more detail?
Malgeri: Our main differentiator is the open architecture allowing unlimited solutions that our team customizes to meet the needs of each advisor or RIA. Additionally, Civitas has been developed to incorporate an advisory branch that consults and plans for each advisor or RIA. The Civitas team will consult, design, execute and support: Advisors, RIAs, FinTechs, Banks and Institutions ranging from $50 million to multi-trillion dollar businesses.
Horz: How exactly do you assess and strategically design a personalized business plan for each advisor or consulting firm client? What criteria and process do you use?
Horter: Leveraging our extensive consultancy, institution and advisory experience, we use a consultative approach that involves behavioral analysis and analysis of current state practices. We capture data points about the advisor, the team of advisors and the practice to frame strategic options in developing a plan. We break down our process into Discovery, Design, Plan, Execute, and Support. Our experience is based on in-depth project management and agile/scrum methodology.
Horz: What is the range of support services that you offer to your clients?
Malgeri: We do not consider our offer as “services” but rather as “consultation” which encompasses personalized solutions that meet the needs of each client. Our range of solutions is limitless and Civitas builds them to suit Advisors, Registered Investment Advisors or Financial Institutions.
We start by offering culture, community and partnership. These pillars are the most important offering we can offer anyone. And from there, we deliver our Solutions Sphere.