“I can't help but wonder what would Jimmy Buffett do?” These lyrics written by Mr. Margaretville himself – Jimmy Buffet – in his song ‘It’s Five O’clock Somewhere’ comes to mind as Steve James shares his Margarita a Week Plan he came up with in college – and it’s about saving and changing a minor habit for greater reward over time.
Steve James, managing director of Summit Financial Solutions, is a ‘Spirit of Cambirdge1’ honoree. He talked with me about overcoming the current challenges the financial industry is facing, embracing the virtual meeting culture, and the positive effect of cutting back on margarita intake.
“I was in a public speaking class in college and we had to present on something that we felt passionate about, so I decided to present on how to save and how you can change a small habit in your life,” said Steve. He called it, the margarita a week plan to appeal to his audience of college students. He shared his plan with his class, and after the end of the class, several class mates came up to him asked how they could do this because it sounded great.
“I hadn't thought that part through and I thought, wow, this is a cool thing,” said Steve. He followed this path – life and health. He got his first license when he was 20 years old, and eventually went to work for a securities firm after graduating from college. Steve said it was a lot of fun and he really enjoyed it, and he was passionate about saving and financial planning at an early age.
Steve never really considered another career path; however, after working for larger firms, he appreciates the culture of working for a smaller firm and connecting with people on a more personal level in his own business. “I actually got started in this business on the securities side and built up my business by working with clients in the K through 12 and higher education markets.” Steve believes that plan sponsor clients deserve a choice as to who they work with and how, as do teachers and professors. Becoming an independent financial professional, he was able to offer a variety of choices and teachers and professors were receptive.
Prior to coming into Cambridge, Steve and his associates found that they were a bit limited and there were certain things they couldn't do, and certain education markets were dominated by only a couple of companies. “Cambridge did find a way, and it was unique in the industry as no other major broker dealers were doing it at the time. One of the things that we loved about Cambridge right out of the gate was its flexibility and willingness to adapt and help us in this industry.”
Steve said his practice evolved into a full service financial planning firm giving them the ability to provide a comprehensive approach to all their clients. Like Cambridge, Steve believes it comes down to taking care of your clients. It’s important to be reaching out to them on a regular basis and be proactive with their best interests in mind. Even given an unprecedented pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic further pushed the dial on a new era of technology and virtual meetings with clients.
“I actually love these kinds of meetings. I didn't think I would at first, but I have learned to embrace the virtual meeting culture. It is actually more personal than I ever thought it would be. Every financial professional I've talked to has said this is a very efficient way to go about business and they absolutely love it.”
Steve and I share the view that it is important to continually adapt and evolve in the advice profession. The industry continues to grow and change in positive ways for investing clients and the independent financial professionals who serve them. Learning, thriving, and serving others who need guidance to shape and achieve their financial plan. “We are helping people in a huge way. It is important, I think, for financial professionals to take a step back and really identify who you're helping and the impact that you have on people in general.”
Affecting people in a positive way is the core of the advice profession. One of the industry's toughest challenges is inspiring younger people to understand, embrace and love this business. I asked Steve what he would say if we were talking to a group of financial professionals about why they should consider being a part of Summit Financial. “We follow a lot of Cambridge's core values and principles,” said Steve. “We are extremely flexible. We are here to help. We love helping and we feel like we have taken many financial professionals from a relatively successful position to significantly elevated success.” Steve and his firm take pride in the average individual advisor growth rate and their strong group of advisors who network and interact with each other. They are friends outside of work, even though they're all over the nation on the East coast, the South, the North, and the West, as well as all in between. They care about each other, and reach out to each other on a regular basis.
“Relationships are the only thing that matters in business and in life,” said Jerry Weintraub, an American film producer. Relationships and assembling a great team is important, and this includes recognizing strengths and weaknesses and hiring those who bring the right balance. That's how to build a strong foundation, a strong business, and a strong practice focused on serving clients.
This business really is all about people and understanding their wants and needs, as well as being present and patient. Serving clients for life might also entail serving generations related to a client, and Steve expressed that he finds differences when working with younger and older individuals. “The younger generation is more in tune with digital interaction. That's not to say that the older generation isn't learning and picking this up, because they are, and some of my clients who love the virtual format for meetings have surprised me. People also really enjoy getting to know you outside of work, so social media is not always from a business standpoint. I think people are looking at social media to find out what kind of person they're dealing with, and, I'll be honest, I do it too. I am friends with a lot of my clients and our advisors outside of the business relationship.”
Thinking back to Jimmy Buffett, in his song, ‘It’s My Job,’ he wrote, “It's my job to be better than the rest – and that makes the day for me." This is more than a business to most of us. We want to have the emotional connections. Too much of the time people see the advice profession to be a harsh version of Wall Street, and the biggest take away I pulled from my conversation with Steve is there is a distinct difference in what we do. We are here to serve the financial professional and their clients in an honest, independent environment based on values.
Together we are elevating success, and we are stronger when united in purpose.
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to listen to my podcast with Steve to hear more about his insights on serving clients, building a business, and enjoying family, friends and life – and why he is an inspiring part of Cambridge Stronger.
1The Spirit of Cambridge Award is given annually to independent financial professionals who are dedicated to serving their clients while reflecting Cambridge’s core values of integrity, commitment, flexibility, and kindness. Each year, Cambridge home office associates select three award recipients from a pool of outstanding financial professionals who have been affiliated with Cambridge for at least 10 years. The awards are presented during Ignite, Cambridge’s annual national conference, along with a donation by Cambridge to a qualified charity of each recipient’s choice to further honor their spirit and dedication to their clients, Cambridge and the industry. The Spirit of Cambridge awards began in 2012 to recognize quality financial professionals reflecting the Cambridge spirit, and thousands of dollars has been donated in their honor to charities across the country. Given their dedication to their clients, Cambridge, and the financial services industry, this is a well-deserved award for each honoree
Testimonial statements and personal experience stories may not be representative of the experience of others and is no guarantee of future performance or success. Quotes are highlights from the podcast episode and may reflect edits for brevity and/or clarity within this blog by Cambridge’s CEO, Amy Webber. These messages and materials are the confidential property of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. (“Cambridge”). The ideas and information in this presentation are general in nature and provided for informational purposes only. The accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of the information cannot be guaranteed. The information contained herein is not intended to render tax, legal, or investment advice. All rights reserved. Further use is prohibited without prior written consent from Cambridge. Please contact ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ for questions or consent.
Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC, and investment advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of Cambridge Investment Group, Inc. Cambridge and Summit Financial Solutions are not affiliated.
Testimonial statements and personal experience stories may not be representative of the experience of others and is no guarantee of future performance or success.
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