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Wealth Manager Targets CPA Firms for Partnerships

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By Michael Cohn
February 27, 2013

Accountants who want to offer wealth management services for clients can benefit from a knowledgeable partner, and that’s what Paul Saganey, president of Integrated Financial Partners, hopes to provide.

Saganey, a Certified Financial Planner, has been targeting accounting firms to team up with his Waltham, Mass.-based firm, which offers wealth management and a variety of other financial advisory services. His firm has $4 billion in assets under advisement, he said during a visit to the Accounting Today offices on Tuesday. Currently IFP is working with approximately 140 accounting firms, primarily in New England and some in New York.

But Saganey has also been expanding south since starting IFP in 1996, making deals with firms in Virginia, Maryland and Florida, and he hopes to extend his alliances westward to Chicago, California and the states in between. Many of the firms he works with are affiliated with the BDO Business Resource Network. His firm started out by servicing high-net-worth individuals with upwards of $10 million, especially business owners with complex financial and tax situations.

Paul Saganey

“Our model is one of co-sourcing,” he said. “The accountant serves the purpose of introducing us to their clients that they think would be the most appropriate for us to work with and then we come in and we do all of the work. We have our own financial planning department, our own in-house attorneys, and a design team so we actually put the cases all together.”

Saganey noted that a typical accounting firm that engages IFP has been looking to add financial planning to its alternative revenue sources as well as to provide a service for its clients. “They like our particular model because we have the ability and the talent to handle the more complex clients,” he said. “That’s been a real differentiating factor for us: the fact that we can get in and work with business succession issues, high-net-worth estate plans, the whole nine yards.”

The firm now has 120 financial advisors and is continuing to grow its accounting firm alliances. “We will locate an accounting firm that would like to add financial planning to their services, and we’ll come in, present what we do, and have our advisors come and work with the firm at that time,” said Saganey.

He said his firm is independent in that it doesn’t have any affiliation with particular insurance companies or money management firms. “Our advisors are totally agnostic when it comes to product recommendations,” he said.

When he started the firm in 1996, it had a team of accountants who had been involved with the financial planners on his team, and he asked them what they would want in the way of services. One of the suggestions was indemnification, so IFP will indemnify accounting firms from the work it does with their affluent clients. One of IFP’s priorities is to never embarrass the accountant in front of their clients. “The worst thing you can do is make a mistake or somehow put them into a conflict with their better accounting clients,” said Saganey.

IFP will also help firms fund their succession plans through financial planning services. “We’re not looking to work with every single accounting firm in the world,” said Saganey. “The ones we’re having the greatest success with are the kinds of firms where there are a couple of senior partners, and they’ve got some juniors running around. The senior partners are within eight to 10 years of retirement, and they’re saying, ‘How am I going to sell the business and go off my merry way?’ We come in the door with a way to bring financial planning to their clients.”

For many firms, IFP will help them do their own business succession plans that can then be extended to their clients. “We’ll sit down and help them structure their own business succession plan and they get to experience the process, which we then can bring to their clients,” said Saganey. “It’s been a nice one-two punch for us. For many of our firms now, the accountants who are within one or two years of retirement decide to hang around now to be an ambassador to introduce our advisors to their best clients. We truly try to make our program look like we’re part of their firm. All of our meetings are held at their firm. We’re not bringing clients to our offices and trying to ever be in conflict with the accountant. We’re always doing it in their world. But the additional revenue from the services that we’re providing is actually helping to fund the succession plans of these more senior accountants.”

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