Each month, our goal is to write about a topic that is both relevant and educational. This month is a little different as we are writing about "the changes we wish to see in the financial services industry" - using our own business model as an example.
The trigger for this month's blog was launching our new website, which details the core of our business and what we value.
How do we differentiate ourselves in a marketplace that is noisy and confusing, filled with tens of thousands of financial advisors? We try to lead by example - building a company based on our values of financial discipline and personal integrity… caring for our clients, respecting our team, and being a steward of our community and the environment.
A few elements at the core of our business:
A Holistic, Educational Approach. Our financial planning approach is designed to look at your needs and goals, rather than just focusing on selling a specific product. We start with your life goals and follow with a discussion on your financial goals. Everything we plan takes place in the context of your life goals. Along the way, we strive to educate you - not just on the potential benefits of an investment approach or product, but also the risks and costs. This way, together, we can make an informed decision as to what's the right fit for you.
Socially Responsible Investing. In the spring of this year, we became a Certified Benefit Corporation (“B Corp”). B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the non-profit “B Lab” that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Becoming a B Corp was an important part of our evolution. We are fully committed to this rigorous accountability model, with assessments being required every two years. (See initial assessment outcomes below.)
Part of this accountability model is to assess the level of social responsibility of each of the companies and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in which we invest. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is an investment discipline that considers environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria to generate long-term competitive financial returns, as well as positive societal impact. We analyze the sustainability for each stock and ETF included in our portfolios, with the goal of investing 70 - 80% (and a greater percentage in the future) of client assets in companies and securities that have medium-to-medium-high score.
Proprietary Model Portfolios. We have built our own proprietary models that support us in applying a data-driven approach to determining when and what to buy in each of our portfolios - and equally, if not more important, when to sell and reduce exposure to the stock market. Our investment approach is informed by my experience working for nearly 10 years on Wall Street, in Connecticut and London in institutional money management, where managing downside risk was a core component of building wealth.
Managing our own portfolios also means that our clients have direct access to the money manager. (It’s tough to get a mutual fund manager on the phone!) This becomes increasingly important during market volatility when investors want to better understand the strategy of the portfolio manager. In our case, all you need to do is pick up the phone and give us a call.
A Positive Impact on Our Community. “Alexis” means “helper, defender, advocate.” Since launching Alexis Advisors, we have been committed to helping working professionals and businesses align their money decisions behind what they value most. As a Certified B Corp, we don’t exist just to turn a profit. Our goal is to use our business as a force for good in our community, being intentional about how we run our business, and how we give back to the RVA community.
Our goal is to provide at least 100 hours of pro-bono financial planning and community service each year, as well as give 1-2% of our gross revenues to non-profits in our community. In 2013 and 2014, we gave to Junior Achievement of Central Virginia and The Chrysalis Institute; in 2016, we will be adding the Richmond YWCA for the work they do to support women in our community.
Transparent, Fee Only Services. As a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor, we are financial fiduciaries, and are legally required to put our clients’ interests before our own. We never receive back-end commissions or fee-sharing from insurance companies or mutual fund companies, nor do we accept referral fees or soft-dollar arrangements. Rather, we charge an asset-based fee for managing your investments, and an hourly rate for our financial planning services. This results in our interests and those of our clients being aligned, with potential conflicts of interest being reduced or eliminated.
We are excited about the launch of our new website. Please take a look! And as always, your feedback is appreciated.