Frequently Asked Questions

About FocusPoint

No.

FocusPoint Solutions is not a broker-dealer. We are an SEC Registered Investment Advisor with advisors who partner with us and use our services, nationwide.

FocusPoint Solutions is an all-inclusive, turnkey solution designed by advisors… for advisors.

You can feel confident partnering us because of our firm’s longevity, our real-life experience, our industry relationships and our reputation. We are not a fly-by-night outsourcing firm. We pioneered the turnkey RIA outsourcing solution.

FocusPoint has been evolving since it was developed to support our founder’s fee-based practice in 1990. We have 20+ years of experience dealing with the issues advisors face. We have strong custodial relationships. Our virtual office is totally integrated. We continually innovate based on what advisors tell us they and their clients need.

We support you in every aspect of your business, invisibly, behind the scenes. Our relationship is with you – not your clients. We are a true private label solution. FocusPoint Solutions is the ultimate business solution for independent, fee-based advisors. We help advisors create efficient fee-based businesses through turnkey systems, strategies, and support.

No. FocusPoint Solutions is not a TAMP. While we do offer investment management/model portfolios as part of our service offering, we are different from a third-party money manager for several reasons:

Advisors who partner with us enjoy a certain degree of flexibility when it comes to portfolio management, and they always have discretion over their clients’ account – which allows them to speak with clients from a “we” versus a “they” standpoint when it comes to money management.

We are totally invisible to your clients. We don’t want our name showing up anywhere on your client communications – because you may not want it to, and we want you to have the ability to decide whether and how to disclose FocusPoint to your clients. Everything is private labeled with your firm’s name and/or logo.

FocusPoint does not have discretion over your clients’ accounts – you do.

Advisors are constantly aware of proposed asset class and style weighting changes and are thus able to communicate more effectively and frequently with clients about the way that their accounts are being managed. Typically our investment committee recommends 6-8 changes a year to our models, including weighting shifts (leans, never leaps) or full-blown mutual fund, ETF, and/or stock changes.

For those advisors who choose to utilize and private label FocusPoint’s investment philosophy/model portfolios, e hold an interactive monthly virtual meeting during which monthly and long-term performance is discussed (i.e. which investments contributed to the portfolios’ performance that month and why; what our value-added numbers look like in comparison to the various blended benchmarks; next month’s market outlook, etc.). For these reasons, you will have very good, clean, concise information from which to form an opinion on whether you agree with any changes we may propose.

The most important differentiator is, perhaps, that all the systems we have in place were created by advisors, for advisors. We’re not outsiders or industry “experts” trying to figure out your business and tell you what you need. We KNOW what works because we built it for ourselves; now we offer it to you, the truly client-centered advisor.

Everything we do is designed with the client (and you) in mind. The investment management piece of our business model is only one part of what FocusPoint Solutions does for partners.

View our unique investment management solution

Advisor Transitions

This is often a real stumbling block for advisors. However, we have been doing exactly this for 20+ years and have therefore developed systems to accommodate these assets.

FocusPoint has built appropriate models for large accounts, small accounts, annuity accounts and even socially responsible investors. We’ve created systems to monitor special assets like individual stocks or even limited partnerships. We want to remove obstacles to you satisfying your clients’ real needs and wants.

We all know that having more consistent portfolios really enhances your ability to provide a high level of service to your clients, largely because you simply know the portfolios better and can make changes more quickly and easily when required. However, most advisors don’t believe there is a clear and concise way to take all the divergent assets they have accumulated over years and years and cram them all into a neat package that is more manageable.

The constant theme for our transition team is, “How can we move ALL assets into a fee-based business model?” FocusPoint’s transition team reviews every account. We confirm each client’s basic asset allocation, derived from their individual need for return and their risk tolerance. From there we begin looking at the specific allocation, meaning we determine what weightings are in each specific asset class (small-cap, large-cap, mid-cap, international, specialty equity, government bonds, intermediate bonds, and specialty bonds).

Then we can evaluate all the assets held in the account. We will look for all of the following: cost basis issues, surrender issues, and securities that cannot be sold (deciding if we need to exchange them into another sub-account or build the portfolio around them). We know each portfolio can be a little different.

To give a clearer picture to our process, here is a typical example of a client’s taxable portfolio:

Security Value Date Sold Cost Basis
XYZ Variable Annuity $125,000 1994 $100,000
ABC Bond Annuity $75,000 1996 $60,000
Fund Family #1 HighYield Bond Class B $45,000 2002 $50,000
Fund Family #2 Fund Class A $40,000 2000 $45,000
Fund Family #3 Class A $65,000 1998 $75,000
Total Value $350,000 $330,000

Perhaps you have determined that this client needs an allocation of 70% stocks and 30% equities. In this example, we would start with the funds and look at cost basis, recommending the following:

  • We would sell the Fund Family #2 and #3 shares and capture the $15,000 in losses.
  • Next, we would talk to you about the ABC annuity to see if we should think about selling it. In this scenario there would be no tax issue; it would just be a matter of asking, “Is it out of surrender or not?” Let’s assume we could sell it. (Now we have $180,000 in cash and $170,000 in securities that cannot be sold at this time.)
  • Our next step would be to evaluate if Fund Family #1 is the manager we want to use for specialty bonds. Our CFA team determines the best manager #1 has and we decide to make the recommendation to you to exchange these B shares for their Growth & Income Fund. We capture a $5,000 loss and don’t trigger the back-end load.
  • Now, we would look at the XYZ annuity and the sub-accounts that are offered to the client within it. We see that PIMCO’s Bill Gross is running the bonds for them and want to use him for the bond allocation, so we allocate a portion of the annuity to the government and intermediate bond position. They also have a good large cap manager so we allocate the rest of the annuity to that manager.
  • At this point, we have dealt with all the securities that we cannot sell and we would use the remaining cash to purchase securities in the remaining asset classes.

In the above scenario, we have achieved the proper allocation that the client and advisor wanted-and happened to capture a $5,000 loss. From this point forward, our experienced team would manage the portfolio in an active manner. We would also flag the B shares so that we know when they should be converted to A shares.

We have now captured all the information about the portfolio inside our streamlined systems, and you now have all the information at your fingertips (i.e. cost basis of the overall portfolio, information about B shares, and the original cost of the annuity with purchase date). Now this portfolio can be effectively managed.

As for the portfolios themselves, we currently manage 30+ models: Socially Responsible (3 asset allocations), Extended (6 asset allocations), Extended Focused (6 asset allocations), Companion (3 asset allocations), Variable Annuity (Ameritas, Fidelity, and American Skandia) (6 asset allocations), ERISA (6 asset allocations), Limited ETF (6 asset allocations), as well as an Individual Stock and Income Distribution portfolio.

Each of these models is designed for specific accounts and size. Companion accounts have four asset classes and are managed for accounts under $40,000. Extended Focused accounts are managed with all asset classes but one fund per asset class. They are designed for accounts ranging in value from $40,000 to $125,000. Extended accounts are designed with all asset classes and multiple funds per asset classes for accounts above $75,000.

This is just a quick overview of how we help advisors pull in and then manage all accounts in a fee-based business. Our team would be happy to go through this in greater detail with you at any time.

This really depends on how quickly you would like to meet with your clients.

We will help you to create a personalized transition timeline based on your wants and needs. Some of our transitions take only a couple of months; others will take longer. This timeline is based on several factors, chiefly the number and length of your client meetings, and your RIA formation (if necessary).

Learn how we assist advisors with their transitions

At FocusPoint Solutions, our strongest belief is that an advisor’s time is best spent in front of clients, maintaining and cultivating relationships.

Therefore, it goes to follow that we are extremely involved in your transition process from start to finish.

After you have made the decision to move forward with FocusPoint Solutions, our transition/compliance team will work with you create a customized transition timeline and business analysis based on your needs.

We will handle any necessary initial paperwork and administration so that you can focus on meeting with clients to explain your new business model and your ability to now service them at an even higher level.

Learn how we assist advisors with their transitions

Conservatively, here are the fees our partners should expect to incur as they make a transition with us:

Minimal software start-up fees; RIA formation fees (if necessary); E&O expenses (if choosing to leave a broker-dealer who had covered these in the past); potential minimal account FocusPoint Solutions setup fees (to be discussed once an advisor makes the decision to proceed with his/her transition); potential minimal close-out fees as assets are transitioned (typically shared between FocusPoint and the custodian).

**We do not charge anything for contact management data migration. We are able to transfer cost basis history provided by the custodian.

Our transition team will handle this piece of the transition process for you and your staff, so that you are able to focus on meeting with clients.

In most cases, we are able to move all pertinent information into the new system.

  • Group synergy – One of the greatest benefits of FocusPoint Solutions is the synergy of being associated with a terrific group of successful fee-based/fee-only advisors. Their wisdom and experience is freely shared through regularly scheduled teleconferences, Web conferences and onsite meetings. Participation in our group calls and meetings is highly encouraged.
  • Compliance support – One of the biggest concerns for many advisors who are making the transition to an independent fee-based business model is how they will take care of the compliance side of the business. FocusPoint Solutions lightens that burden for you. Our strategic partnership with compliance expert, Carr Butterfield, gives you access to a trusted resource and preferred pricing.
  • Client communications and reporting systems – If you’ve cobbled together your own account management and client information systems, you’re going to love our fully integrated Web-based system. With just an Internet connection and the push of a few buttons, you’ll have access to consolidated client information and current status of all transactions and account activities. Our system even provides detailed performance reporting and billing options. As with our entire solutions system, you control all client communications while we support you, transparently, behind the scenes. Everything is private labeled for you.
  • Marketing support – Our marketing team can help you craft client communications and pieces as you need us. We can also help you set up or improve your social media marketing strategy.
  • Technology support – We employ a full-time Network Services expert who is available to assist you with all your technology needs. For services beyond those included in the FocusPoint Solutions offering, we can also refer you to other excellent resources who can pick up where we leave off (for example, to help you build or update your website).

Back/Middle Office

In regard to client billing, FocusPoint Solutions works out an agreement with each of our partners, clarifying which of their client accounts are to have their retainer fee deducted directly from their accounts. These (most) clients then simply see this fee – deemed a “management fee” – deducted from their account balance every three months. This transaction will show up on their monthly statement which comes directly from the custodian.

Bottom line: we do not invoice or communicate with your clients, period.

Your clients do not call FocusPoint; they call you.

No. FocusPoint Solutions does not send anything to your clients.

The only thing your clients will see from anyone besides you (and/or your firm) is a simple monthly statement, generated by the custodian. Only your contact information is available on this monthly statement, which advisors typically choose to be a very concise snapshot of total market value that month versus the month before – there is no performance information or difficult-to-understand cost basis information. Your clients are encouraged to contact you with any questions.

Additionally, we do not dictate when or how advisors who work with us contact their clients with performance information and/or statements – we simply provide the tools and resources for client communication and leave this decision up to you.

FocusPoint Solutions is not mentioned in or on any of your literature, statements or marketing pieces. We are transparent to your clients, unless you choose to tell them about us.

While the majority of firms we support utilize our full-service model, we are able to offer only specific services to advisors depending on their unique needs.

Start customizing an ideal solution to suit your unique needs

Investment Management

Yes. We can manage your model portfolios OR you may choose to utilize, and private label the fully diversified, portfolios we’ve designed and managed since 1994. Advisors also have the option of using a set of models which incorporate a more actively managed strategy. There are several choices available to the advisors we support.

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer involves your investment process, trading frequency, investment choices, and other variables. Contact us at (866) 201-3034 to learn more.

If you choose to utilize and private label FocusPoint’s models for your own clients, you have access to a full-time Research Committee (also referred to as Investment Policy Committee), comprised of a team led by a credentialed CFA, several veteran financial advisors and operational/compliance staff.

Learn more about our research committee

You participate fully in the decision-making process and ultimately “own” the investment management decisions. We make sure you are in the position of providing a service to your clients, so that you can truly say “these are the changes WE are making in your portfolio.”

The Research Committee guides and coordinates a clearly disciplined investment management process. We have created a system of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly communications and discussions that involve all advisors we support.

You will never again have to say “these are the changes THEY are making to your portfolio” because you are a part of the continual process. If desired, you can tell your clients that you engage the services of a CFA team and about our investment committee, but how, when, and if you communicate with your clients is always your choice. If you like, we can even assist you with how to position/communicate this to your clients.

We are firm believers in the power of systems and clearly defined goals and strategies, and therefore adhere to a strict investment philosophy and process.

Mutual funds are our primary investment choice. We believe value can be added, in many asset classes, using actively managed mutual funds. We offer several different mutual fund, ETF, and individual stock portfolios from which advisors choose for their clients.

We regularly build around existing positions (legacy assets, investments not yet out of surrender, etc.) based on what you decide is best for your clients. (It is not an all-or-nothing scenario; we operate in the real world and recognize that some clients’ assets need to stay put.)

Because of the large amount of money we are able to allocate to each investment, our investment committee has regular access to portfolio managers we work with. Part of our process is to regularly interview each manager.

We strongly believe in asset allocation as the investment strategy that provides clients with the best risk/reward tradeoff. We will periodically overweight or underweight an asset class based upon valuations. Additionally, we sometimes gently skew the style within a particular asset class. Contact us at (866) 201-3034 to learn more about our investment philosophy.

We can accommodate all account sizes at no additional cost.

FocusPoint Solutions offers advisors the unique opportunity to actively manage smaller accounts (typically less than $50,000 but this number is flexible) based on our personal experience as advisors.

Let’s say your large client has a family member who wants to set up a Roth IRA with an initial contribution of $4,000. What do you do with it? With few options at his/her disposal, most times an advisor ends up sending this money to a no-load fund family or something of that nature, which then results in another reporting system, different statements, different custodian, etc.

Our system allows advisors who partner with us to house these smaller accounts and actively manage and report on them.

FocusPoint does not communicate directly with your clients.

We recognize the client relationships belong to you, the advisor. We provide the format and tools to help advisors to communicate more effectively with clients.

If we plan on proposing a rebalance or change, our Research Committee informs all advisors, who then have five business days to let us know if they do not want us to make this change throughout their clients’ portfolios. Typically, advisors who partner with FocusPoint feel very confident in allowing us to make changes such as this and we execute trading in each affected account.

You will always have discretion over your clients’ accounts, so a portfolio move doesn’t result in a phone call or meeting with a client who is asking, “Why did ‘they” do this in my account?” To which you would have to reply, “I don’t know why they did that, let me find out for you.”

Advisors who utilize and private labelFocusPoint’s model portfolios are made aware of suggested movements, and when and why they are taking place, so that they are able to say to clients, “We did this because…”

Essentially we are running all the portfolios at your discretion but in a really tight format so that you can make an informed decision based on very good information.

If we think there is an opportunity to underweight or overweight we simply discuss it in our monthly conference calls with all advisors to keep them up to speed on general performance, asset class, and market information. Our CFA-led Research Committee also communicates weekly with all our advisors to keep them informed on market changes as well as investment information pertaining to the portfolios.

Ours is a unique, all-inclusive system, which was created to give our advisors a certain level of flexibility on the investments side-but more importantly, to ultimately free up their valuable time sot they can spend it building business and cultivating client and referral relationships.

Yes.

However, typically our advisors we support ultimately expect to move 75-80% of their clients’ assets into some version of either FocusPoint’s models, their own models, or models utilizing a more actively managed strategy offered through FocusPoint..

FocusPoint Solutions offers advisors a very streamlined business model – with some flexibility. With your thoughts and guidance, we seek to do what is in your clients’ best interest.

It is important to note that there may be additional trading fees associated with working with investments outside of our model portfolios. Whenever possible, we will group these trades (ETFs, individual securities, etc.) together to substantially lessen any trading fees which may arise.

If you wish, any trading costs that are incurred can be absorbed by you; therefore your client would never even know that there was a cost to begin with.

No.

We provide a complete business solution – a philosophy and a way of operating your entire business. FocusPoint Solutions is a commitment to a business model.

We can be as invisible to your clients as you choose. We respect your relationship with your clients and do not expect to have any contact with them.

Yes, as long as we (via the custodian(s)) are able to get a feed on the account information.

Advisors who work with us are able to gather just about any type of asset including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, LP’s – virtually any type of traded security. We are also able to manage all client accounts on a fee basis, regardless of their size.

Yes.

Miscellaneous

We believe that the choice of fee-based or fee-only should be up to each advisor.

Some advisors feel in certain situations (i.e., variable life in estate planning) that commission products will provide the best solution for the client. Some advisors prefer to work solely fee-only. We can fully support either strategic choice.

Our expectation is a commitment to a primarily fee-only business model.

Absolutely.

In fact, once we have had initial conversations to determine that we will be able to add value to your business, we always encourage you to talk to one or more of the advisors we support. We’ll try to match you up with appropriate advisors based on your particular questions, goals, and business model.

We have found this to be the best, most valuable use of your time.

If you’d like to hear something immediately, feel free to read some thorough interviews we’ve done with at least two advisors to describe their unique experiences.

Please contact us at (866) 201-3034 to learn more.

Read our case studies

Generally we expect advisors to have a minimum of $10 million in potential assets under management.

We say “potential” because, particularly in the case of a transitioning advisor, there are often many more assets that can be converted to management than the advisor may initially realize (read more about this on Core Belief #5 page of our philosophy).

We can help you do a full analysis of your business to determine the potential. You may be surprised at what you find.

The biggest things you’ll need to give up are the notions that (1) a successful transition will take way too long and be a terrible process, and (2) that you’ll take a substantial reduction in income for any extended period of time.

For a completely successful and swift transition, you’ll also need to:

  • Put aside any fear or self-doubt you may have.
  • Embrace and maintain unwavering commitment to the plan.
  • Accept our guidance as we lead you through the transition phase.
  • Push through a few short months of meeting with clients and presenting your new, improved program to them.

Our goal is for you to have a higher net income within the first full quarter after the transition is complete.

Read our case study to get an idea of what we mean

We are very proud of the solutions and service we offer, however, we prefer to answer your remaining questions personally to ensure you fully understand the value our program provides.

Frankly, the business solution we offer is so comprehensive and unique that it’s hard to convey the full benefit via a brochure or even a website. Many advisors have difficulty completely understanding the scope and value of our program until they speak with us.

Our pricing is very straightforward: It is based upon assets under management. Ideally, our objective is to have you net a minimum of 1% after our service fee deduction.

The majority of our advisors who work with us do achieve the goal of netting 1%. Because they are freed up to focus on the things that matter most in building a long-term successful business – spending more time with clients and promoting their firm’s services – they have the ability to bring more assets under management and become even more profitable.

Because we’ve worked hard to ensure that our system rarely limits advisors from managing most every account on a fee basis, they have the freedom to gather not only all types of assets and registrations, but also all sizes of accounts. The strategic advice we provide helps them leverage their activities and maximize their results. All these factors, combined, contribute to a very healthy bottom line for advisors who partner with us.

Then, of course, there are the intangibles like “more energy,” “less stress,” “ability to focus on the things I want to do versus the things I need or have to do” – and more. If you’ve been through our website, you probably picked up on the quality of life and enhanced profitability comments provided in the Case Study and Partner Comments posted there.

Read more about this case study

As we state in our Mission Statement, we exist to provide profitable solutions and services for advisors we support. We take our promises seriously, and we normally guarantee that you will be more profitable when your transition is complete.

If you’d like to hear all the details of our guarantee and determine if our program could be the right solution for you, just call us at (866) 201-3034. Whether you choose to join us or not, we promise that your time on the phone will be well spent.

We are sure you will agree that our comprehensive, turnkey business solution is a terrific value, with very little risk to you and much exciting potential. We know that you will be impressed with the scope of service, our commitment to helping fee-based advisors and, more importantly, the incredible value that FocusPoint Solutions could bring to your practice.

We feel very strongly about what we do and the value we provide to advisors.

If you completely commit to our program and fully implement our advice, at the end of the first full quarter following the completion of your transition, you will not only be more profitable than you were before the transition, but you’ll be happier and more productive. In addition to enhancing overall profitability and building greater equity in your business, our aim is to significantly increase your sense of freedom and accomplishment.

We’ll free you up so that you can concentrate on the things that matter most in building a long-term successful business – and, like the other advisors who have chosen to partner with us, you will even have time to build a rewarding life outside of your business.

We state $30 – 35 million a hypothetical amount for those advisors who are in the process of growing their business. That being said, many advisors have come to us with an existing staff of fantastic team members who are essential to their clients and to the success of their business.

This situation creates a wonderful opportunity for advisors to be able to better engage their top-quality staff and/or assistant in more client-centric activities such as contacting clients for appointments and carrying out various other relationship-oriented tasks.

Yes, and this is something we strongly suggest to those advisors who are seriously considering working with our company.

However, at this point we do not host them on specific dates; we are happy to create one to suit your schedule. Typically, an advisor will visit our offices here in Portland, OR, for a day-and-a-half of meetings with our entire team. This is a great chance to visit with each and every member of our group and get to know them on a personal basis.

We view our relationships with advisors as a long-term commitment. While we definitely have an agenda for these meetings, we like to personalize them to suit each advisor’s individual needs and questions – this allows us to focus on and dig deeper into the areas of highest personal importance.

Please call Chris Easton at (866) 201-3034.

After briefly discussing your business goals and going through an initial consultation/discovery session with you, we will invite you to personally preview all of FocusPoint Solutions’ proprietary systems, strategies via a virtual meeting. This will allow you to view all the systems, technology, and automation advisors we support see and utilize every day: Not only the CRM, reporting, document storage, workflow capabilities, and other benefits we offer, but also the general simplicity of our systems.

Yes, always.

Strategic Guidance

No, this is your choice.

We have relationships with advisors who have broker-dealer affiliations. We also have relationships with fee-only advisors who do not have broker-dealer affiliations.

Typically advisors choose to work with us if their broker-dealer will allow them to form or keep their own RIA. There are even some who choose to utilize their broker-dealer’s corporate RIA.

If you’re not sure, contact us at (866) 201-3034 to have a confidential conversation about this.

Yes.

One of the biggest concerns for many advisors who are making the transition to an independent fee-based business model is how they will take care of the compliance side of the business. FocusPoint Solutions lightens that burden for you by providing strategic guidance, document review, and connection with one of the top compliance firms in our industry.

FocusPoint’s strategic partnership with compliance expert, Carr Butterfield, gives you access to a trusted resource and preferred pricing.

Learn more about Carr Butterfield

We hold occasional Best Practices, Workflow, and other information-sharing virtual meetings, where we encourage advisors to share their best systems and even business-building/marketing ideas.

Advisors we support do not have to reinvent the wheel. Over the years, we’ve compiled the best of advisor-generated documents and client communication pieces.

Additionally, we send out (at minimum) quarterly client newsletters, discussing timely general/broad market topics, to advisors for optional use with their clients. We also offer regular client newsletter ideas to advisors. For example, if our Research Committee suggests and makes a fund change or rebalance, we may create a letter for advisors utilizing our model portfolios to send to their clients (if they choose). We believe that it is easier to edit something than to create a brand new piece. We’ve found that most advisors do not really care to write, but they can tweak our pieces to fit their own tone and style.

As far as statements and quarterly letters, we never send your clients anything because we do not dictate to you how and when you should be communicating with your clients.

We make suggestions and provide resources but, at the end of the day, we want you to have the flexibility to do whatever you feel is best for you and your clients.

Yes.

We have a virtual strategic business alliance with Hanslits Case Design Services. They are on retainer with our firm to provide strategy and education sessions for our monthly Web meetings. Additionally, they will work on a retainer basis (or shared fee basis) with individual advisors to provide strategy, case design and case writing support.

Learn about our strategic alliances

Technology

FocusPoint’s advisor partners are able to access our fully integrated Web-based system from anywhere, as long as they have an Internet connection.

As our partner you can view your consolidated client information—all scanned in documents and every activity you’ve ever done for a client via robust CRM and SEC-compliant scanning software—plus review the current status of all transactions and account activities, and run custom reports with powerful portfolio performance reporting software. You may also choose to take advantage of other tools such as a client portal (available to your clients through your own website) and risk profiling software. You can choose to keep everything out on our server (so that you don’t have to worry about maintaining your own); we handle all nightly and weekly backups, and utilize an additional server at an offsite location. We even host email for some advisors.

Everything we offer is non-proprietary. We do not dictate how you manage your business; we simply give you the tools to run things as you choose.

From our personalized Advisor Console, you can run Web-based investment policy statements and client presentations, all private labeled with your company name and logo. Our partners also have access to detailed performance reporting and billing options.

As with our entire solutions system, you control all client communications while we support you, transparently, behind the scenes. Everything is truly private labeled for you.

View our technology services