July 4th was a beautiful day at Lake Winona in northern Indiana as forty-five members of our family came together to celebrate our country’s founding. The day began with twenty-two of us running in a 5k race. Next came the annual Winona Lake parade, where family members built a 1st Place float that included a dozen of our children dressed in doctors’ costumes handing out candy. Then, after a large family dinner, as dusk arrived, we gathered on rafts and multiple boats and went out on the lake. Tradition motivates us to sing Boy Scout songs like “The Great Ship Titanic” as we wait for a spectacular fireworks display shot from two heavily laden barges taken to the center of the lake. The picture on the below shows one of our boats loaded with kids on the top and adults on the bottom. Suffice it to say, Independence Day is an important celebration for our family. We celebrate our freedom to make our own personal and business decisions, faith choices, and the recognition that all people are born with inalienable rights.
This holiday, along with the exciting news announced in the accompanying article, made me think of another similar day for us, December 2, 1996. That was our “Independents Day”, when Janet, Linda, Sonya and I resigned from a regional brokerage firm and aligned ourselves with a broker/dealer, Investment Planners, Inc. (IPI) based in Decatur, Illinois. There are many reasons we left a wire-house-type environment, but they were positive, not negative or based on self-interest.
My ten years with that brokerage firm were nothing short of spectacular. I began with fifteen other people from around the country, forming a class to practice and learn basic finance skills. Fortunately, I had two finance emphasis degrees, was mature at forty-two years of age, and knew many people from various community activities. For two years, the fifteen of us met for work-shops and competed with each other as we established our businesses. I was the top gatherer of assets and was the top producer every single month. By my sixth year in this exciting career, I had achieved entry into the “President’s Club” recognizing the top three percent in production of the 400 advisors in the country. I repeated this achievement each year and became a Vice-President of Sales, then later, First Vice President of the firm.
I am not mentioning these things to stroke my ego, but I want you to see we left a very positive career experience for a reason and that was to provide our clients “more service than sales,” and in our judgment that called us to seek independent status. December 2nd was full of potentially career-ending risk for us, but hard work and loyal clients made it work.
Kyle joined us at the start as he had just graduated with his finance degree from Butler University. The five of us became The Volkers Group. We have quadrupled in client assets while clients have withdrawn an estimated $75 million to supplement their incomes over the 18 year history.
So why has the independent model worked so well? We work as a team; it is all about you the client. Our recommendations are not pushed on us by management, nor are they part of some contest participation, but from what we believe is best for you. No small client is forced away; we will spend hours with your grandson to help him learn. We enjoy educating as much as we do studying the markets. We also know the internals of what we provide to our clients, like the retirement plans and asset allocation models; nothing is a boiler-plated production with data not understood by the client or advisor. We make the choices of what architecture and client services we provide, not the chief accountant. We make the choice as to whether our broker/dealer or clearing house (RBC) are still the best with whom we can service you.
In short, it is not a corporate name, but we are responsible for our reputation through close relationships, customer service and results. As a result, we have reduced our average client commission cost from 1.3% of assets invested to .75% during our independence. We have also averaged nearly a 98% retention rate of client assets compared to the 90% national average (Registered Representative, May 2014).
We hope you will join us at our open house to help celebrate the independent model of investing and we thank you for being an essential part of our success.
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