At Money Moxie, we provide non-coma-inducing workshops on personal finance. Education is important to understanding financial concepts, learning about the markets and knowing what questions to ask. But sometimes, people want professional advice on how to invest their money, which funds to pick and how to build a diversified portfolio.
Money Moxie has partnered with Conte Wealth Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to provide an option for professional financial advice. Below is a conversation I recently had with Frank and Tony Conte, father and son team and Managing Partners at Conte Wealth Advisors.
How did Conte Wealth Advisors come about?
Frank: My father started in the financial planning business in the 1960’s and after college, I joined the business. I’ve been in the business for 40 years, with Prudential Financial first and then I started Conte Wealth Advisors in 2005. After 32 years with Prudential I decided I liked the idea of being completely independent and working for the client rather than working for the company.
Tony: Conte Wealth Advisors is a family business. Since I joined, we’ve switched our focus and now do some life insurance, but mostly investments and planning strategies.
What is your role in the firm?
Tony: When I started a few years ago, I was simply a financial advisor, gathering clients and managing assets; now it’s that plus recruiting, marketing and serving as a managing advisor. I look at the big picture and also explore opportunities to move our firm forward.
Frank: I bring in big clients and oversee the firm, kind of like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz!
How would you describe your financial process at Conte Wealth Advisors?
Frank: It’s normally a three-interview process. The first appointment is ‘how you doing?’ and finding out if we have the right chemistry to work together. We gather a prospect’s basic information then. The second appointment is more involved; we drill down to what a client’s financial planning needs and goals are and figure out the right strategy. Then we go to work, come up with a plan and at the third meeting we review the plan and find out how often we should meet with the client.
Tony: We are constantly reviewing the investing and planning strategies we recommend to our clients. We meet with our clients at least every six months, sometimes quarterly, to review their financial picture. When we meet with them we look at the strategy in place and in reviewing what they have, we look at what they don’t have and what they might need. For example, whether the clients has alternative class assets.
Frank, you’ve been a financial advisor since you graduated college. Tony, what did you do before joining Conte Wealth Advisors?
Tony: I was a writer/producer for CNN in Atlanta and NY. I spent one year working on the ill-fated “Connie Chung Tonight.” I then moved on to Paula Zahn’s show then Anderson Cooper for a bit. I never would have expected that I would like doing this [wealth management]. One thing people don’t understand is how intriguing it is—you sit in front of different types of people who tell you everything and you get to share solutions and help them.
Tony, how do you think your past experience prepared you for a role in wealth management?
My experience with CNN really helped me in working with different types of people and tense situations. I worked the control room on Sept 12, 2001 and spent a month after that working nonstop and being exposed to some really graphic, traumatizing images and stories. That experience really affected me, and without that understanding I would not have been able to manage the role I’m in now and remain calm.
I guess the unique aspect of this job is the power we have to really get to know our clients. Not every profession lets you sit in front of someone and say, “What do you regret?” And then be able to give them something back.
What is the best part of your job?
Tony: Meeting with clients and learning about their situations but I also love the investment side of things. I love learning about companies and trading strategies.
Frank: I love the process of bringing on a new client and then actually becoming friends with them.
What is the worst part of your job?
Tony: Telling people that they’re not going to be fine in retirement. A lot of advisors don’t tell them. There were a few clients I had to sit them down and say ‘you either have to go back to work or you have to spend less.’
How does your firm work with clients and families that you believe sets you apart from other firms?
Frank: I guess the huge difference is that some other firms work in a vacuum. If they have a 20-person group, all the advisors work individually. But at our firm, we share information about our clients and have Monday meetings to discuss the various situations and possible solutions.
Tony: We bring a family-team approach to our practice. We share databases, all the information that we need to share about our clients so that if I’m out of the office, someone else can handle a client situation.
Do you have any advice for professional women and how they should approach financial planning?
Tony: Well the most important thing for anybody is if your company offers a 401(k) and matches a percentage of your contributions, you must at least save the matching amount because that’s free money. If you’re in your late 20’s you should start saving at least 10% for retirement and you’ll be on the right track.
Frank: In the past, I’ve seen women stand back and let their spouses make the financial decision. I think the woman needs to be involved in her family’s financial planning, even more than her spouse because she will likely be the one handling the money at the end of the day. She needs to educate herself as much as possible, go to seminars, learn about investing so that she’s prepared.
How do you see the coming election and how the elections will affect the market?
Tony: Well, I have a different view on the elections than my father. The stock market has historically been a forward-thinking instrument. There was a lot of talk a few months back that the markets have already priced in an Obama win. But looking at Romney’s platform and the changes that he plans to make—it’s easy for people to think these changes would be good for the economy. But Romney is still relatively unknown so that could lead to more uncertainty which would affect the market negatively. Whatever people think of Obama, at least his policies are known and that’s better for the market than dealing with the unknown.
Frank: I’m cautiously optimistic. I think the market will do very little for the rest of this year. If a Republican wins the election, the markets will do well. But if you look at this year overall, the market has done very well; even in the past three years we’ve had great returns.