Articulate June 2017

Falcon Financial Management: Firm of the Future

Written By: Alyssa Ramos

Picture caption: From left to right: Jeff Davis, Chad Justice, John Davis III

No Magic 8 Ball can predict a layoff, car accident, or worse, an untimely death. Based on the box of Kleenex sitting next to the bowl of chocolates in Jeff Davis’ office, the president of Falcon Financial Management, Inc. knows what to do when the unexpected strikes. After Davis had a heart attack, he wasn’t sure if he would survive. When the status of his health seemed uncertain, he decided to draw a path of succession.

“I survived a heart attack that only 10 percent of folks survive. If I wasn’t 15 minutes away from a hospital, I’d be dead,” Davis said. “Only three percent go back to work, so I’ve been ahead of these numbers.”

In a niche industry dominated by aging independent advisers like Davis, they are left wondering: what’s next for their companies? To be ahead of the game, FFM, a Gainesville and fee-based financial management firm, recently partnered with CollaborativeWealth, a wealth management and financial planning firm from Orlando.

In the same way that Obamacare changed health care, changes in fiduciary rules propagated by the Department of Labor will shake up the financial industry. In the next three to five years, Davis predicts that the solo practitioner like him will be nonexistent. This partnership will galvanize Falcon Financial for a changing future in the financial industry.

“This is a whole new market, and we’ve got people I know from all over the country that look just like me, and they’re all facing the same questions that I’m facing,” Davis said. “I think we can bring them a solution that helps them be able to maximize what their future is going to be.”      Out of the 12 companies that Davis interviewed, CollaborativeWealth stood out for two reasons: the vision of the future and Chad Justice.

At a young age, Justice has had a wide breadth of experience, 13 years of it being a financial adviser. At age 24, Chad Justice was two years out of Baylor College when he founded CollaborativeWealth out of his home. The acquisition of a practice in Orlando had him commuting from Texas to Orlando until the recession hit in 2008. At that point, his services were needed in Orlando full time. So in June of that year, he dropped everything and uprooted his life and moved to Orlando.

Over the past eight years, Justice has been acquiring financial planning practices and using the advisorRETIRE model, a trademarked succession plan, to grow his firm. A firm that is still expanding.

“Having the fee-based platform and proven service model has given us an opportunity to help older advisers either retire or take on a different role in the firms,” Justice said.

Justice has the same vision as Davis. He expects the independent advisory space to consolidate as more and more 65-year-old financial advisers leave the business. It was Justice’s expertise, drive and ambition that appealed to Davis.

CollaborativeWealth currently has six companies in Lake Nona, Coral Springs, Mount Dora, Melbourne, Gainesville and soon two in Orlando.

“We’d rather be one of the first ones doing this than the last ones doing this,” Davis said.

CollaborativeWealth’s innovative cloud-based, wealth-planning platform puts the company above the rest, while allowing remote work and collaboration.

“It’s bringing a team environment to the service for the client rather than having a person be an expert at all things,” Justice said. “That’s the concept behind CollaborativeWealth.”

The cloud opens channels of communication between different experts so that it combines skills – insurance, estate planning and accounting – and assets of every person.

In this way, clients can still receive the same service, but in an even more customized and refined manner.

Justice’s role essentially comes down to management and growth. He takes care of operational responsibilities, payroll, bringing and enhancing service models to advisers, recruiting new advisers and refining platform technologies like the cloud.

“I’m taking all the headaches away, and I’m letting the piece that he (Jeff Davis) enjoys the most, working with clients, be his focus,” Justice said. This leaves Davis in a place where he can spend his time on what he believes is the most crucial part of the business: the relationships.

People assume that the merger is a big euphemism for Davis’s departure. Clients say, “You’re really leaving aren’t you?” But Davis is cut from the same cloth of people who want to die in their boots. So as far as his clients go, nothing is changing.

“I hope you (the client) don’t see any change. This isn’t one of those situations where we merge our two restaurants, and we’re going to give people half as much food for twice as much money,” Davis said. “Our goal is to continue to service at the same level.”

Creating the firm of the future does not mean compromising the clients. If anything, Davis and Justice expect their competitors to change in the same way that they have. Davis said this will be new for Gainesville, but Davis has the foresight to prepare for the future instead of reacting to the present.      He’s not afraid to take a risk. FFM was one of the original fee-based companies in Gainesville since 1994, and at that time, everybody thought Davis was crazy. For Davis, he is simply moving where the puck is going, not where the puck is at.

With this merger, Davis will continue to do what he does best – work with his clients. More importantly, it will allow Davis to pave the way for his son and wrestling coach, John Davis. Davis wants to extend his same opportunities to his son, and for John Davis that merges the best of both worlds.

“One of the big gems is that he’s (Jeff Davis) going to accommodate the clients who are staying with us while Chad is providing us with a future-oriented approach and the ability to move forward and adapt,” said John Davis. “We’ve got to be able to get to where the markets of the future will be while at the same time care for and service the clients we have now.”

Financial management may seem cut and dry, but when it comes to money and trust, FFM prioritizes relationships. With Jeff Davis, the investments are just a commodity, but it is the advice he gives that brings value. As Davis gestures toward his son, John, and his business partner, Justice, he sees the future. And he trusts these two men to take them there.

“This isn’t one of those situations where we merge our two restaurants, and we’re going to give people half as much food for twice as much money. Our goal is to continue to service at the same level.”—Jeff Davis

Alyssa Ramos is a second year Journalism major at the University of Florida with a minor in French. She is an aspiring magazine journalist, a fashion enthusiast, and a Netflix binger with hopes of telling people’s stories through all forms of media. For now, she is still honing her writing skills, but she’s always in search of a good book and a strong cup of coffee. 

Photography provided by Falcon Financial

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