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How having the right business intel can help boost your firm's health

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3 months 2 weeks
Submitted by mark.mcdermott on Wed, 02/28/2018 - 15:47
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How having the right business intel can help boost your firm's health

Do you check your firm's vital signs? See how Westmount Asset Management uses comparative data to improve the health and strength of their business.

Understanding the true value of how data and insights can help grow your firm is critical, but how do you make it happen? How do you compile this information? How do you make sure it is applicable to your business model?

"Schwab's Benchmarking Study confirms the steps we've taken to improve the health and strength of our business and helps us identify areas where we can and should devote more attention and resources."


—Jim Berliner
Westmount Asset Management

Fortunately, advisors who custody with Schwab have the opportunity to participate in Schwab’s annual RIA Benchmarking Study. Participants benefit from eye-opening data, comparisons to peers, and insights to help firms thrive and grow amid increasing competition. Westmount Asset Management is just one of over 1,000 firms that participate in the study each year. In their own words, Westmount explains how business intelligence has helped both accelerate their firm's growth and strengthen their business.

When Jim Berliner and his father started Westmount Asset Management in Southern California nearly 30 years ago, they adopted the emerging RIA model because they felt it would allow them to deliver the best client experience. That drive for excellence has guided the management of their firm as well, with tools and processes that have helped them excel through all phases of their growth.

Now the firm has roughly $2.7 billion under management, with seven partners, 31 employees, and about 1,000 clients. Along the way, they’ve found business intelligence essential to managing their business for long-term growth and continuous improvement.

Annual assessment

"We participate in Schwab's Benchmarking Study for the same reason that people get an annual checkup. It’s a great way to find out how we're doing," explained Jim Berliner, the firm’s president.

Berliner further noted that the study "confirms the steps we've taken to improve the health and strength of our business and it helps us identify areas where we can and should devote more attention and resources."

Partner Mike Amash added that "this is a very fragmented industry. You can feel that you're operating in a silo." He values the peer group comparison as a true assessment of what the rest of the industry is doing—it gives the firm a better perspective.

Impactful adjustments

Over the years, the firm's leadership has made a number of impactful decisions with the help of data and peer group information.

For one, cumulative benchmarking data revealed that as the firm's client size increased, its fees dropped well below those of its peers. Getting consistent reporting on an annual basis gave the firm reliable, repeatable information that made it an easy decision to implement fee changes.

"I would describe the Benchmarking Study as an essential tool for anyone who cares about running their business well."

—Mike Amash
Westmount Asset Management

Another impactful example involved the number of advisors at the firm. "It was enlightening for us," said Amash. "The benchmarking data really let us see below the hood with regard to our profitability," and indicated that the firm was likely understaffed. "It led us to work on rightsizing our staffing to make sure clients got the attention we want to give them," added Berliner.

One especially helpful aspect of the study is Schwab's online compensation tool, said chief operating officer Chris Werner. "I use the tool regularly to get good comparative data on compensation ranges."

Essential to the firm's success

All in all, said Berliner, "participating in the Benchmarking Study is a very comprehensive and introspective process. It forces you to look deep within your firm and know aspects of it that maybe you weren't very well acquainted with."

Amash added that the Benchmarking Study is an "essential tool for anyone who cares about running their business well. Once you do the study, you realize it's a necessity because the data points are so critical to making good decisions."

What Schwab's RIA Benchmarking Study can do for you

Open from January to March each year, the Benchmarking Study provides powerful insights on topics like asset and revenue growth, pricing, profitability, technology, staffing, and compensation. Participants receive customized benchmarking reports:

  • Peer Report showing where you stand relative to RIAs of a similar size and business model
  • Compensation Report with salary and incentive data on 27 key roles along with access to Schwab's online Compensation Tool

These personalized reports provide a side-by-side comparison of your firm's data against that of other firms with similar AUM and business models. Learn more about the RIA Benchmarking Study today.

If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, consider a custodian that invests in your success. Contact us to learn more about the benefits of a custodial relationship with Schwab.

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