Setting up shop in Oak Partners, Inc.’s inviting office in downtown Valparaiso, Chris Mahlmann, Founder of the Life Sites, convened a round-table discussion with members of the Oak Partners team. The group covered a lot of ground in the space of an hour, uncovering interesting and even somewhat surprising insights into why financial planning matters – and for whom. Welcome to Part 2 of a two-part in-depth series on how solid financial advice can significantly improve your quality of life.
The best financial advisors form relationships with their clients, relationships that extend beyond the office. To establish that trust and advise their clients in a way best suited to their interests, they get to know their clients’ life story in addition to their spending habits. As Partner and Wealth Advisor Mario Ruiz put it, they’re studying clients’ investments and how they relate to their goals.
Tracing back clients’ major investments often leads to their families. From bigger homes to college savings accounts to designating beneficiaries, planning for a family’s quality of life is one of the most important reasons to seek a financial advisor’s expertise. Who better to understand that value than a family who built their own financial planning company?
The Ruiz family founded their Oak Partners, Inc. in 1993, and with more than 25 years of experience, they’re well-versed in providing advice. Seeing their father navigate the industry in the company’s fledgling stages inspired Mario and Partner and Wealth Advisor Marc Ruiz to follow in his footsteps.
“Being a member of the second generation to build this company is rewarding,” Mario said. “When my dad started Oak Partners, Inc., or Oak Tree Financial Services, as it was called back then, I found it interesting. His handle of financial markets and working so closely with clients held my attention.”
Once Marc joined the family business, Mario was able to see his brother’s career in action, too. He described his own decision to follow suit and the ensuing years of company success as a “snowball effect” of the best kind. Though starting out as young advisors was no picnic, being raised in the industry tremendously influenced the Ruiz brothers’ experience knowledge.
“I think we both have a firm understanding of what the business is,” Marc said. “There was a comfort level with the hardship of the front end of it that maybe not everybody has.”
With offices in Crown Point, Valparaiso, Lafayette, Auburn, and Cincinnati, OH and clients across the United States, the hardship is paying off.
A Changing Industry
With the determination through hardships comes a knack for adaptability. The financial planning industry has been through a wealth of changes in just the last decade. To make use of Partner and Wealth Advisor Stephen Kavois’ quote from our first installment, “Oak Partners has been around since the irrational exuberance of the late ‘90s, the tech bubble of 2000, the great recession of 2008, Brexit, Ebola, all the things that have scared the market—we’ve been working with our clients through all those things.”
Even with the accessibility of online advising and trading tools, teams like the one at Oak Partners, Inc. are more valuable now than ever. Financial advisors can help clients navigate their decisions with an individual approach to their investments.
“Many people come to us because they don’t want to be deep in the weeds with the stock market. We make their investments tangible by showing them detailed charts and graphs,” said Michael Barancyk, partner and wealth advisor. “Recently, our team has started showing clients their different ‘buckets’ of money. That way, they can see if they have a long-term bucket that can handle a little more volatility. We like to bring their portfolio to a level where they feel comfortable and understand.”
“Plus, the typical person can’t time markets. It’s next to impossible for us to time markets!” Marc said. “Our job is to help clients plan appropriately, make the proper allocations and adjustments when the markets are quiet, and help them stay the course when it gets crazy.”
Helpful visuals and language keep clients knowledgeable. Beyond their veteran guidance and desire to build a relationship the professionals at Oak Partners, Inc. strive to do the most for their clients because they have taken a fiduciary oath to do so. As a fiduciary in advisory relationships, advisors are legally obligated to act in clients' best interests, and they don't push or sell any products to their customers.
“The fundamental business model of the online brokers is that they make all their revenue off the money market in the account, and they know that, with a high profitability, all that money eventually goes to money market,” Marc explained. “Investing is hard and it’s situational—and it’s extremely time-consuming. With everything else going on in their lives, people just don’t have the proper time for it. I don’t even consider the online platforms to be competitors anymore.”
Maintaining the Balance
As mentioned, Oak Partners, Inc. gets to know their clients beyond the boundaries of office walls. They know the cities and schools they were raised in, the names of their kids, their favorite places to travel. The list goes on. This relationship is built partly through discussion but also through a distinctive difference: social gatherings.
“About 15 or 20 years ago we started hosting regular events. It was usually just your typical dinner seminar, where we talked about investment strategies,” Marc said. “Then, we just enjoyed hanging out with our clients so much, we started doing fun, social things just to spend more time with them. The clients come, and then they meet other clients and bring their friends. It’s snowballed to the point that we’ve had marriages between clients who met at our events!”
No one enjoys the social element of these events more than the person who organizes them, Crystal DeHaven, director of client experience. She loves meeting her clients’ extended families, future beneficiaries, and loved ones. She also loves finding the balance between the different types of clients the company draws.
“It’s communication, something we really love and value in our culture. We also love keeping our clients educated and informed, so we do have educational events,” DeHaven said. “We have analytical clients who really love to hear the technical side of things. But it’s our social [events] that are most engaging.”
DeHaven said the closeness between clients and the Oak Partners team is especially valuable to her.
“I started out in marketing. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think I’d be around this long, but I love my job,” she gushed. “I love the people I work with, and I love my clients.”
The whole team agreed—at Oak Partners, Inc., the relationship makes all the difference.
For more information, visit their website.
Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.