Broker Check

2022 Client Letter

Proud of my Profession: A higher standard of Care for Clients

I had a dream in 1989 as I thought about where this financial planning career could take me and what I could do to make a significant impact on it. I didn’t want a job. I wanted to transform lives and help this “make shift” industry of investments and insurance sales to something that it should be.

At that time, the only major firm embracing this for the future was IDS/American Express. They showed me a vision of an industry that was trying to become a Profession. An experience that would give clients the relationship and trust that would rival that of other advisors at the time vis a vi Accountants and Attorneys. The way to create the foundation of this trusting relationship was already mapped out by the College of Financial Planning. They had a process of study, exams and experience working in the field to earn and then maintain a Certification that will be the marks of the future. That designation is the CFP; Certified Financial Planner.  

As soon as I got my career going at IDS, I also immediately started working on the CFP marks. I knew that this process would take 3 years but it does not end there. You must maintain the marks by a clean compliance and ethical record and by completing 30 hours of continuing education which is audited every 2 years. The bottom line is CFP Board set a standard for CFP Professionals and enforced compliance. For me it was more than that.

My vision was to run a financial planning practice that would push the highest possible standard of comprehensive fiduciary advice and lead by example a Duty of Loyalty and Care for the people/clients I work with.   When asked today if I am a fiduciary, I laugh to myself because in my heart, in my mind, in my soul, and in all that I have ever done working with clients since 1989, I have been and will always be a Fiduciary; and I have been one before I had ever heard of the “F” word (fiduciary) and even before how our industry was going to eventually set a standard with it.

The big problem was that not everyone in my industry was a Fiduciary. Even more so, there were even fewer CFP Professionals. General advice from licensed people in my industry in a lot of cases was not always given in the best interest of the client. The advice would always have to meet some kind of industry suitability, but there is a big difference between Fiduciary Advice and advice that meets suitability standards.

Fast forward to 2022, but looking back to all the steps to where we are today in the industry starting with the landmark signing of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, there have been companies fighting to strike down this reform. Their argument is that they want their brokers and licensed agents to be able to sell any financial products to anyone that meets suitability standards and not have to comply with Best Interest or Fiduciary standards. In my opinion, the Major problem with that is that the person selling the product call themselves a “financial planner”, the client assumes a duty of care and diligence and the products are sold with a suitability standard not in the best interest of the client.   I see this all the time with the friends, coworkers and relatives that you introduce me to. They come in with a ton of great questions and investments that are all over the place like a mixed-up puzzle. I get extremely angry and upset at my industry to allow this to happen to good people so I get right to work to right the wrongs these people experienced with our comprehensive fiduciary planning process.  

Our industry took another major step in 2017 as the pushback continued and now starting on June 30, 2022 the Best Interest Contract will be the next major step in our industry.   It is basically saying to those who want to continue to sell products, and act as brokers you can keep doing that. You just cannot call yourself a Financial Planner, you will have to let your clients know that you are acting as a broker giving suitability advice, not entering into a Best Interest Contract agreement with the client so they have some type of understanding of what you are doing for them.

As for my practice, we are so far ahead of this curve because of the CFP Board. As of October 2019, the CFP Board introduced our new, easier to understand Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct. In the Code of Ethics, a CFP Professional Must:

  1. Act with honesty, integrity, competence and diligence
  2. Act in the Clients best interests
  3. Exercise due care
  4. Avoid or disclose and manage conflicts of interest
  5. Maintain the confidentiality and protect the privacy of client information
  6. Act in a manner that reflects positively on the financial planning profession and CFP certification.

Also, as a summary of Standards of Conduct, it all starts with Duties owed to clients that starts with Fiduciary Duty. Under that heading, we detail the Duty of Loyalty, Duty of Care and Duty to follow client’s instructions.

The Standards continue with a full and comprehensive overview of how we are to act with clients, how to apply the practice standards for the financial planning process and duties owed to firms and subordinates, and duties owed to the CFP Board.

I am so proud of what the CFP Board has done to raise the standard in our industry, while the industry itself is fighting over how to or not to disclose if actions taken by licensed individuals should be disclosed as in the best interest for the clients.   For Financial Planning to be a profession, these steps need to be taken to set the bar and to grow that duty to clients for the future.   I’m proud that there is no argument in the CFP community.   We will lead this industry to those higher standards and let the industry catch up to us as we lead by example.

In the last few months, I have met with the people you have introduced us to, and as we have gone through our initial process, I have been amazed at 2 things.   One is more and more people are asking if we are acting as a Fiduciary for our clients, and I am so happy they now have that on their radar screen. The second thing is after we have our 3rd meeting together and once they see the full scope of what a CFP Fiduciary does in just an initial planning process, they are blown away and seem to almost always say, “I should have met you 10 years ago!!”   Of course, I mention I have been doing this for over 30 years so just blame YOU, the client who introduced us, for keeping me a secret all this time! (ha ha)

As we go into 2022 with the new SECURE Act, the new Best Interest Contract (6/30/2022) date, the Election, and more, we will keep you on top of what is going on in the outside world so we can help you in your world.  

Also, we are in a position with our team at maximum efficiency, that we have the capacity to help more of the people you know who may not be experiencing the benefits of the CFP and Fiduciary relationship. We are working on ways to make it easier for you to tell the story and be able to introduce us in a way that is comfortable for you and the person you are introducing to us. Our bottom line is that we want to continue to help people gain full control of their financial lives, and empower them to live that life. As you help us get introduced to more families we can help, as a firm, we can just continue our focus to provide more resources and great value to our current client relationships. Our mantra for 2022 and moving forward is we want to scale our practice by Being More, Doing More and Mattering More to our clients. That will always be my Primary Focus.   That is why I want to thank you for helping me grow our firm and our nice small community by introducing us to the people you care about so I don’t have to worry about that. I only want you to tell people about us if we are providing amazing value to you. Not just great service, but a higher standard of great experiences and great moments with our team. That is the way we can show you how much we care about you and your family.

I want to finish by saying thank you for your continued trust in confidence in me, my team and my firm.   Trust and confidence are something that can only be earned over time and is the greatest compliment I get and something that I would never take for granted.

I wish you and your family a great 2022 and look forward to seeing you in the office soon.


Ronald E. Williams, Jr., CFP