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How To Assemble The Right Financial Management Team

Orange County Business Journal | August 7th, 2009

by Ben Frank, Vice President and Relationship Manager & Jason Raefski, Chief Financial Officer, Sunwest Bank

From the moment we receive that coveted college acceptance letter and move away from home, we are programmed to select a major and prepare for a career. From the second we accept that first job, we are programmed to sign up for a 401K program, begin a savings account and fantasize about the day we might become our own boss.

We all work hard to build our net worth and grow our assets, homes, businesses and investments. These are assets we not only enjoy during our lives, but also serve as the legacy we leave behind to support our family and ensure their future.

Protecting one’s assets and planning for the future is essential. The process of selecting the team of professionals needed to properly manage your investments and execute your estate plan can be daunting. There are many considerations that should be taken into account when selecting your financial planning team to ensure you are entrusting your assets into the hands of the right people.

Getting Started: What to Consider When Selecting a Wealth Management Team

As you begin the process of selecting your professional team, look no further than your existing contacts, trusted professionals and other business owners to obtain referrals for firms and individuals with whom they have had a positive working relationship. Conducting an Internet search for an attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), wealth manager or bank leaves too much to chance. Instead, seek referrals from like-minded professionals in your field who can recommend individuals that have a proven track record of success, have years of experience in the industry, and are professional and dedicated to helping clients meet their individual needs.

Most business owners require more than one professional to properly manage their investments. As a result, open communication among the different members of the team is crucial. When assembling your asset management team, you need to be certain that your bank, attorney, CPA and wealth manager are meeting on a regular basis and all share a common understanding of both your personal and professional goals. This continuous dialogue also safeguards your investments from potential problems by ensuring that each member of your team is knowledgeable and aware of what the other is doing in order to achieve those goals. If your team is not communicating properly, the recommendations of one may inadvertently hamper the efforts being made by another. By keeping an open line of communication, your team will be able to work more effectively and efficiently for you.

Selecting the Right Bank

Banking with the right institution for you and your business is a critical component to the strength and success of your investment management team. Particularly in today’s economy, you need to be certain that you are putting your money into the hands of a stable, healthy bank that is not at risk of being shut down.

Many community lenders, such as Sunwest Bank, have not only weathered the recession, but are thriving in it amidst the daily announcements of bank closures across the country. Local lenders possess a thorough understanding of the communities in which they live and work. Generally, community banks support the local economy by lending to businesses in the area. Because of their understanding of the local landscape, community lenders have a unique insight into the profit potential of a business based on location and the service provided, allowing them to make wise credit decisions and reduce their loss exposure. This extensive local market knowledge affords community lenders the opportunity to grant loans that many national banks would not.

Sunwest Bank, for example, grew its net income by 20-percent year-over-year in the first half of 2009. Its assets increased by 29 percent during the same period, making Sunwest one of California’s strongest and healthiest community banks. Unlike many lenders today, Sunwest is well capitalized and actively lending, originating $56 million in new loan production in the first half of the year. This kind of financial health at the bank serves as both a safe place for your assets, as well as a potential partner for asset and business growth.

Service Makes the Difference

When selecting a bank, you want to find an institution that will serve as a true partner that can support your goals, the other members of your team, and can help you grow your business. Community banks are unique in that they are able to offer a more personal level of customer service that cannot be found with larger banks. With communication serving such a vital role as part of an effective investment management team, banking with an institution that sees your business as nothing more than an account number can greatly hinder your success. You need to be certain you are with a bank that will put a priority on your business and will have time to be a part of the active dialogue happening with the rest of your asset team.

At Sunwest Bank, each client is provided with one primary point of contact in addition to five additional banking professionals that are well versed on the customers’ business and personal information. If a customer, or one of their professional advisors, has a question or a need, they have immediate access by direct phone line or personal email to a banker that knows them by name. Clients also have access to the executive management team to discuss any problems, questions or issues that may arise. For community banks, success is entirely reliant upon their customers’ success, thus, every client is truly valued.

Accountability

Accountability is important in every aspect of business. Community bankers are held personally responsible to their customers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This heightened level of accountability is not just extended to the customer, but equally to the other professionals on your asset team.  If a community banker were to make an error, they risk not only compromising their relationship with you, but also with the other professionals on your team with whom they have a relationship. In an industry where a history of success and positive referrals is so important, community banks have a vested interest in being accessible and available to the customer at all times.

Knowledge

Community banks also make strong business partners because they take the time to really get to know your business. Because they are small in nature, community banks do not have separate credit underwriting teams that make the decisions about whether or not to provide financing for a business; our bankers are required to be a part of the underwriting process from beginning to end. This benefits business owners and the other members of the advisory team because from the very beginning of the relationship, the banker you are dealing with possesses an understanding of how your business works. That understanding allows your banker to provide the other members of the team with more insightful, knowledgeable advice and strategy on attaining your goals.

Partner with Success

At every phase in life, we are programmed to plan for the future and anticipate the next step. The team managing your investments should be required to care for your future as much as you do.  The relationship you share with your financial management team should be a personal one in which you employ experienced, accountable individuals who work together cohesively in order to help you achieve your goals. Everyone should make sure they are partnering with professionals who have a proven track record of success.