Serving a Niche Audience
Steven’s expertise centered around helping investors who had “finished saving” make the best decisions around how to efficiently withdraw their assets to fund their retirement goals. “Our approach was to help investors not make mistakes when withdrawing money so they wouldn’t run out of their assets – a very different advisory firm from those that mostly focused on growing assets through investing,” he noted.
Steven built a unique business model that focused on tax planning and how that can make a difference in investor outcomes, particularly during the withdrawal stage of their financial lives. “The challenge as I saw it was to find a way to practice differently that was not cookie-cutter. Each client has a different need, so we designed our practice to serve this particular niche, and this differentiator helped us stand out from all the other advisors out there,” Steven said.
This approach served Steven well, and he was able to grow the business to $165 million in AUM with one additional advisor and a small support staff.
Planning for Retirement as a Business Owner
As Steven reached his 60s, he felt that it was a good time to start exploring strategic options. “After 10 years or so, I felt I had done a good job of building the practice, but also knew that I had taken it as far as I could and needed to start planning for what was next. I felt that we were at a crossroads.”
Steven then spent the next 4 years experimenting with the idea of bringing in another advisor to fuel the growth of his firm and potentially become a successor. “At that stage in my life and experience, I genuinely believed that we could still grow organically, but we just didn’t have the resources to develop new ways for what we were doing, to create the efficiencies needed,” he said.
Steven also brought in an M&A consultant to evaluate his firm. The advice that he received was to “shed the tax practice and just focus on investment management.” This was anathema to Steven so he continued to search for options. “The consultant just didn’t understand our business or what we wanted to do.”
The Clear Choice
It was at this stage that Steven was introduced to Mercer Advisors. “In today’s world of aggregation and pressure to do more with fewer resources, it was impressive to me that I found an organization that understood the value of deep client relationships and investments in the technology and systems to best service clients,” Steven said.
Steven was excited that he had found a deeply resourced partner that had a similar model focused on client service. Additionally, due to his tax expertise, Schwartz is actively working with other advisors to provide support and significantly enhance Mercer Advisors’ overall tax services.
A New Chapter of Working and Serving Clients
Steven has been impressed with how smooth and speedy the partnership with Mercer Advisors has taken hold. “While the process has been much quicker than I thought, the approach has been gradual and sensitive enough so that clients have not been disrupted,” Steven noted.
“Even though I am now 65, I have no retirement plans. I love what I do and feel fortunate to be able to continue to build the practice with the added resources and support of Mercer Advisors,” he added. “Had I not done the deal with Mercer, I would have had to shrink my tax practice, an outcome I was not looking forward to.”