River Rock Family Wealth Management, an affiliate of
Smith, a Spokane native and longtime financial adviser, started the firm in July of last year, settling into a 1,500-square-foot office space at
"It's close to downtown, but it has the feel of a university campus, which I really love," he says of the space.
Smith says he chose to open his own firm out of a desire to be independent, and because the advantages of being part of a larger firm have dwindled with new technology.
"Big firms used to have the advantage when it came to research and how stocks and bonds can be traded," he says. "Technology has played a big part in that."
Smith himself is a third-generation financial adviser, with both his father and grandfather having worked in the industry.
"Back then, a lot of what they did was managing investment portfolios," he says. "Financial firms have evolved since that time. That's the nature of the business."
He says the financial adviser industry now offers tools that can create financial plans as well as input variables and estimate returns.
"One question I get asked a lot about is
While Smith says the controversy did prompt some calls from clients, he was able to reassure them their information was not affected.
"I can understand their concern, because it is a very deep and complex issue," he says. "But ultimately, there is no link between the bank and what I do, so their information was not impacted."
"I would say 80 percent of the accounts I manage are on a fee basis," he says. "There are certain circumstances, however, where commission is a more favorable way of managing the business."
Smith says in the shift to becoming an independent practice, he was able to transfer over the majority of his clients, although it took about six months to get all of them settled in.
"I serve about 80 households," he says. "We haven't been open very long, so we're still adjusting, but I'm pleased with how well we're doing."
Because of the adjustment period, Smith says, it's hard to gauge revenue growth, but he estimates the firm saw an 8 percent increase in revenue between the first quarter of 2016 and the second. He says the volume of assets he manages also has increased, growing by 12 percent this year.
"I think it's safe to say we're growing at a healthy pace," he says.
So far, Smith and his office assistant are the firm's only employees, but the space does include room for two more financial advisers, one of whom Smith says he hopes will be his replacement.
"I consider this to be my life's work," he says. "So I would like it to be a long, smooth transition, training that person and making sure we're 100 percent philosophically aligned."
As a wealth-management firm,
When asked to describe his work however, Smith says all of these services fall under what he calls holistic wealth management.
"I believe strongly in financial planning," he says. "Although I'm not a CPA or an attorney, I still want to know my client's estate plan, so I can meet with those professionals to make sure their wishes are being servéd."
Smith says that while he knows a little bit about a lot of things in the industry, his specialties are financial planning and investment management.
"We're always working toward that holistic approach, so we can be a part of all aspects of your financial life," he says.
Smith says clients who are new to his practice usually come in asking about when and how they should retire.
"To address that, we start by creating a formal financial plan," he says. This is just a deep analysis of what your assets are and what your goals are in retirement."
He says he asks clients to envision themselves in their future retirement, looking back on what made the last few years "wonderful."
"Once they can answer that question, we can start to plan how to get them there," he says.
Smith says one thing he usually recommends to people who are shopping for a financial adviser, is to take a look at Brockercheck, an online tool created by the
Brockercheck lists a broker's employment history, certifications, and licenses-as well as regulatory actions, violations, or complaints.
"When shopping for a financial adviser, it's wise to take a peek at Brokercheck," he says. "If you type their name into it, you should be able to view their background and spot any red flags."
When it comes to current investment markets, Smith says he's cautiously optimistic.
"I believe in the long-term value of equities and stocks," he says. There are lots of reasons for markets to be volatile, and today's markets are no exception. I'm proud to have helped clients navigate through some of the more difficult periods over the years."
Currently, Smith says the
Previously, investment professionals were only required to offer suitable guidance, meaning advice that suited a client's needs but wasn't necessarily the best option. The new rule means they must work in in the best interest of clients, avoiding any conflicts that come about with commission-based compensation.
According to Smith, independent brokers might need to invest in training and technology to meet the new rule's requirements, and many commission-based advisers will face changes in how they're paid.
"It doesn't affect my firm much, because I was already acting as a fiduciary," he says. "But there are a lot of new reporting requirements, and I think most people are only vaguely aware of the changes."
Smith has a bachelor's in economics from the
He started his career at
Smith has previously held board-level positions at
He says what he likes most about financial advising is that every day is just a little different.
"Some days are wonderful, and others less so," Smith says. "But overall, you really feel you're helping people live the best life they can live."