When a well-to-do rancher from deep in the heart of Texas visited the Dallas office of Vaughn Asset Advisory, the firm’s founding president greeted him in jeans, boots and a western shirt. First impressions may not be everything, but they do mean something, and it made for easy discourse between the two men.
Easy discourse on what can be a most uneasy subject. For many folks find it unnatural talking money in the presence of someone in an expensive suit and bling. Not the best way to commence with a discussion of wealth management or financial and estate planning.
“People do have trouble talking about money for several reasons,” David V. Thomas Jr., the amiable president and managing member of Vaughn tells Vision in July. “They may not want to admit what they don’t know about investment vehicles and the newest products.”
Or they may be baby boomers, the second largest generation with wealth at this point in time. Many grew up in households where it was considered rude to even inquire about their parents’ earnings and savings. Old habits die slowly, if at all.
“It can be hard to open up at 40 or 50 years of age, and suddenly disclose all your assets,” Thomas says. “Especially if you want to be the humble millionaire next door.”
You still can be. You’ll just need to open up about some subjects to Thomas and his team, who will put you at ease and honor client confidentiality.
Other wealth-management firms will say the process begins with extensive discovery. At Vaughn, that discovery process may be even more extensive than what goes on elsewhere. However, it’s preceded by the simple, yet significant, step of ensuring that the client is comfortable from the get-go, for, as Thomas likes to say, “We don’t practice any snobbery here. We dress for the clients’ success.”
Thomas is also quick to say that the conversation won’t be dumbed down, despite the casual attire. After all, Vaughn clients are likely to be very accomplished in their own lines of work. Whether it’s a respected professional or successful business owner needing advice with a company retirement plan, that financial world is ever in spin and no one need be embarrassed about admitting what they don’t know.
“I might have a client who owns a printing company and I’ll tell him, ‘If I need to have a brochure printed, I’m coming to you because you’re the expert,’” Thomas says. “Well part of our job is to be the specialist when it comes to guiding you to where you want to be. That’s why you’re coming to Vaughn Asset Advisory for guidance and I’m coming to you to serve my printing needs.”
Vaughn’s goal-based investment management strategy ensures that the client not only actively participates in the investment process, but that both sides are accountable to each other. Thomas explains that Vaughn has a five-step process—discovery, goal setting, custom solutions, daily and monthly monitoring, and review-reporting-client communication—with extensive interaction every step of the way. There might be 15 or 20 meetings, calls or electronic correspondences in the course of a year, more if necessary.
“It’s most important that the client participates,” says Richard Torres, vice president and senior wealth and retirement advisor. “We want them to understand the path we’re taking them and why we believe it will help them reach their goals.”
Equities in the long term
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, Thomas and Torres say that from a general perspective, equities may be a suitable way to pursue long-term financial goals. As far as the specific vehicles are concerned, that depends on a variety of factors, including the individual’s net worth and risk tolerance. Low-cost ETF and mutual funds may be good options depending on each client’s situation.
As for the typical client, he or she is likely to be midcareer or nearing retirement. While the door isn’t shut to anyone, Thomas says he’ll refer a prospect to another firm if Vaughn doesn’t seem to be their best option.
“We don’t like to think there are any minimums for working with us,” he says. “More important are forming and sustaining great relationships. We want to help our clients plan for successful retirements.”
Client or not, the Vaughn bosses would encourage everyone to get into the wealth management and financial planning games early, since there’s no makeup for lost time.
“One of the hardest conversations we have is when we tell someone we’re willing to help them, but they can’t afford to retire when they want to because they haven’t saved enough,” laments Thomas, a Roanoke College grad who earned his finance degree in 2002. “They have to make up the deficiency if they want to accomplish their goals, or just make different plans. This could be avoided with earlier planning.”
Worn out by wirehouses
Time was when Thomas would don more formal attire when meeting with clients. But that was during the early part of his career that included stops at Bear Stearns, Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo.
Valuable training grounds with ample rewards, those big wirehouses, Thomas acknowledges, but not the kinds of places where he wanted to settle. Not enough opportunity for the kind of personal interaction that led to him to take positions at smaller firms in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, BOK Financial and Summit Partners, prior to founding Vaughn in August 2016.
The boutique firm has substantially grown assets under management and is able to service a growing clientele with a lean staff headed by Thomas, Torres and senior wealth retirement advisers Todd Bausley and Brad Cain—all of whom can boast a wall full of professional designations and a closet full of casual clothes.
“Our revenues have grown 100 percent since our first full year,” says Thomas. “They key thing is our relatively small client base; we’re not going to serve a million clients. A couple hundred households, with our growth organic and often coming from client referrals. It’s been a very positive experience.”
Give them a call to see if they may be a good fit for you.
Registered Representatives offering securities and advisory services through Cetera advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SPIC. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity. Branch office: 1910 Pacific Avenue Suite 18650 Dallas, TX 75201
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