Interview with Michael Kitces

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Q&As and Interviews

Interview with Michael Kitces

Shauna O'Brien Nov 06, 2014

We recently spoke with rockstar financial advisor Michael Kitces regarding his success and his role in the financial industry. Kitces is a well known blogger and is definitely one of the best advisors to follow on Twitter.

In addition, he is the Director of Planning Research at Pinnacle Advisory Group.

Insights from Michael Kitces

In looking at your numerous certifications and degrees, it may be safe to say that you are the one of the most decorated financial advisors out there, not to mention the tons of speaking engagements you do over the course of a year. How do you keep such a frenetic pace, and what drives you to motivate your social media followers and clients?

Indeed with 3 blog posts a week, almost 70 speaking engagements, and a number of additional businesses that I’m involved with, I maintain a strong focus on personal productivity to keep the pace that I do. My business lives entirely in the cloud so I can access it from anywhere, and I always have a smartphone, tablet, and mobile laptop with a standalone mobile hotspot to ensure that I’m able to do so. I also make use of a virtual assistant to delegate some tasks (e.g., contracting and invoicing for my speaking engagements, bookkeeping, etc.). I focus heavily on spending as much of my time as possible on my highest and best uses to advance the mission of my business(es)!

In regards to the rapid pace at which the financial services industry is changing, what are some of the biggest positives you are seeing and what areas of the financial advisory market still need improvements?

The pluses for advisor adoption of technology right now include finally getting all of our core software transitioned to the cloud (the last major CRM and financial planning software providers finally completed the process over just the past year!), rapid adoption of mobile-device-based tools like mobile check deposit for clients, the growing use of video technology for communicating with clients, and the use of financial planning software in a more live and collaborative approach with clients. The biggest area the financial advisory market still needs improvement, though, is in its tools and technology for supporting the client experience – a gap that the recent “robo-advisor” trend has really highlighted (though ultimately the best solution will likely be a combination of technology and humans, not “pure” human or “pure” robo).

At the same time, we would imagine your specific day-to-day approach has also undergone possible changes. Could you bring us up close to what what a normal work day/week looks like for you?

With so many businesses I’m involved with, it’s difficult to paint a “typical” day; even a typical week is difficult! Most weeks will include at least one conference I’m traveling to speak at for a day or two, a number of meetings for our wealth management firm (either internally with staff or with some clients) that will be mostly virtual but may require a physical day in the office, and the rest of my time is holed up in a home office where I do the bulk of my writing and research! Because of the sheer volume of connections I have, a significant chunk of my time in the home office is simply getting through email communication – I easily spent 2-3 hours every day just responding to messages! My social media activity is generally just done in small bursts when I’m taking a break; on days when I’m at the home office in particular, it’s basically the equivalent of my “taking a breather and chatting at the water cooler”!

As for your investing approach, what do you see as the most optimum strategies your clients can follow when it comes to financial/investment planning?

From the investment perspective, our firm’s investment process is what the industry would characterize as a “tactical asset allocation” firm (although we’ve been doing it this way since 2002, long before the term became popular!). We are skeptical of the value we could realistically provide trying to pick individual stocks and bonds, but see a lot of opportunity to rotate amongst asset classes, which we do by looking at a combination of valuation, momentum and technical analysis, and macroeconomic analysis. Over the years, we’ve implemented this with a combination of mutual funds and ETFs, depending on the particular asset class we’re investing in and what vehicle gives us the most effective low-cost exposure. The goal is not simply to try to generate higher returns (although it’s nice when that happens!), but simply to manage risk, as most of our clients are retirees or near-retirees and as the research clearly shows, it’s crucial to effectively manage portfolio volatility and sequence-of-return risk for portfolios that need to generate ongoing withdrawals!

Finally, what are the core elements any financial advisor meeting with a new client should be focusing on?

In early meetings with a client, there’s often a lot to cover, from delivering a financial plan to getting them up to speed on the portfolio strategies being implemented, and more. But at the most basic level, the key issue every advisor should focus on as a new client is getting started is the importance of trust. When any new client starts a relationship with a financial planner, the question lingering in their mind is still “Have I chosen the right advisor? Is this someone that I can trust?” Focus on building trust first and foremost, and everything else can fall into place over time.

The Bottom Line

For additional commentary from Michael Kitces, be sure to check out his website and his newsletter.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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