Ivy Exec recently interviewed J.D. Bruce, President of Abacus Wealth Partners.
Abacus Wealth Partners uses their financial planning and investment management expertise to help clients achieve their most important personal, family, and professional goals. They have enduring relationships with clients in 35 states but are independent of every Wall Street firm, allowing them to recommend strategies for each clients’ unique life circumstance.
Ivy Exec: In which area of your company do you expect the most growth over the next 12 to 18 months?
J.D. Bruce: Abacus is focused on growing two areas in particular outside of our core wealth management.
The first is our new subsidiary, Align Impact, which works with very wealthy clients who want to create more social impact with their investments and giving.
The second is our monthly retainer planning service for clients with fewer assets than traditional advisors require. We have no investment minimums and can provide real financial planning for as low as $200 per month.
IE: What changes and challenges do you think your company and industry will see in the next 5 years?
JB: I think the wealth management industry will have intense pressure to increase our technological capabilities. A lot of venture capital money has been poured into building slick automation for investment advice and financial planning, and traditional advisors will need to keep up in order to stay competitive. Abacus tries to be on the front edge of the innovation in the industry and it’s challenging to stay on that edge without distracting ourselves with all the new shiny tech.
IE: What attracts clients to Abacus Wealth?
JB: We’re very different than traditional Wealth Managers. Everything we do is ties to our mission to expand what’s possible with money.
We help our clients match their portfolio with their values, whether that means putting in an environmental screen, divesting from companies that test on animals, or investing in a portfolio of private companies devoted to providing clean water in Africa.
We also have consistently lowered our minimum client assets size so that we can help anyone who wants our help. Amazingly, this has proved to be very attractive to our very wealthy clients because they resonate with our desire to help the “little guy”. Our wealthy clients can refer us anyone without worrying that we’ll tell their best friend that they are too poor to work with us.
Our advisors are also trained to guide our clients to find a sense of “enough” now instead of waiting until they hit some magical number. The peace that comes from being satisfied with today actually helps our clients be more financially successful in the future. If you stop striving, you’ll end up going farther faster.
IE: What three words best describe your culture?
JB: Flexible, caring, family.
IE: What are the best perks that employees get at your company?
JB: We actually publish our employee manual (at least the fun parts) on our website. It’s a great recruiting tool since we try and provide all the benefits that anyone could ask for. The most notable is the unlimited vacation, but we have all the typical stuff too. We also have a cappuccino bar and yoga room at our headquarters, but that’s more about who we are than just a benefit (I’m really into coffee, and our CEO is really into Yoga, so…)
IE: Which leadership qualities best insure success at Abacus Wealth?
JB: The people who do best at Abacus are very self motivated. I’m not a micromanager and I expect people to take ownership of making this place the best company in the world. There’s not a lot of approval processes or need to ask permission. Sometimes I’m the last one to know.
A deep level of caring about our clients is also something that we all share. Most of us could make a lot more money if we threw our ethics out the window and sold products that our clients don’t need. We’re here because we stand between our clients and disaster.
IE: What gets you excited about going to work each day?
JB: I’m not just the President, I’m also a client. Several years ago, I had a pretty serious personal financial crisis. My wife and I felt that we had to sell our house and were days away from listing it at a loss. We sat down with our financial planner and walked into the meeting already in tears, hands and teeth clenched. After a two-hour meeting, we figured out that the situation wasn’t that bad and we were able to keep our house. We had someone independent and unemotional to help us see the things that our strong emotions stopped us from seeing. I walked out of that meeting and told my advisor that he saved my life. Now, I want every one of my clients to have that experience and say, “Abacus saved my life”.