photos by Libby Rogers
That sounds like something we would all like to do, especially as it concerns our finances. Yet, in this topsy-turvy world in which market conditions often change, how do we achieve that peace of mind? And, if we are going to enlist the help of a financial advisor, how do we know whom to trust?
Perhaps the answer lies in the name of one of Huntsville’s oldest independent financial advisory firms, Global Financial Partners. The operative word is “partner.” They are not partners with clients in a legal sense. Each of the company’s financial counselors are advisors and they are independent – meaning they are not tied to any particular product or service that would bias them in their advisory role. However, as Founder and Managing Partner Brian B. Smith, CFP®, points out, they are interested in more than just their clients’ financial portfolios. They get to know their clients as people, which makes the relationships more personal and gives a true sense of being “in this together.”
“It has been very rewarding after all these years to see successful retirements happen; children and grandchildren of clients graduate, marry and have children of their own; businesses prosper; second homes purchased; dream vacations; and many other life goals be accomplished by my clients,” Smith said of the 33 years he has been in business. “It’s what we do–help our people understand their choices, navigate the ups and downs of life, and make solid lifelong financial decisions.”
Sitting down with Smith and the rest of his team at the Global Financial Partners offices makes you feel more like you’re meeting with a group of friends or family members, rather than a financial firm. Smith’s 1956 white pickup truck is parked just outside the front doors, and clients have a choice of sitting at a conference table in one room or in leather recliners circled around a big-screen TV in another.
Smith and his son Riley, who joined the firm in 2016, talk about their backgrounds as Bearkat football players and rib the Baylor alum in the room, while the firm’s Director of Wealth Planning Bryan Masten, CFP®, touts his Aggie affiliation and cracks jokes about his short stature. It’s not all about the men, though. Smith brags about his wife Linda’s role in community relations for the firm, as well as the important work Networking Communications Specialist “Director of Warm and Fuzzy” Paula Armstrong does in showing their clients how much they care. Ally Grounds does not escape notice either, as the firm’s newest associate, eager to learn and grow her business acumen.
In business since 1986, Smith has grown the firm from the ground up, expanding both its staff and its client base from the immediate Huntsville area to Houston and beyond. As a result, it’s become known for its global reach and hometown service. But while the atmosphere is relaxed and the people are fun, Smith and his team take the business they’re in seriously.
In addition to the company’s status as an independent advisory firm, which provides greater latitude in the array of financial strategies clients can employ, two of the advisors hold the Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) designation, which is the financial service’s industry’s highest standard.
“This business can be very complex, so our clients can take comfort knowing we have the education and background to support that. We also work very hard to take that knowledge and simplify it for our clients,” Masten explained.
“At some point, every advisor in our office will be a CFP® professional. It’s one of the things we feel strongly about. Being a CFP® practitioner holds us to a higher standard, even higher than the actual laws. We are required to hold the client’s best interest as paramount. We cannot take into account our own interests, only our client’s, so they know they are going to get the advice and planning that is in their best interest,” Masten said.
The benefit of its depth of expertise is that Global Financial Partners provides a base of stability and security for its longterm clients going forward. When looking to expand the firm’s team of advisors five years ago, Smith sought out Masten, who has been in the nancial services industry since 2006 and obtained his CFP® certification in 2012. He is now close to being a partner in the firm and will carry it forward when Smith eventually retires. Riley Smith, who graduated from Sam Houston State in 2012, is currently working towards his CFP® certification as well.
“Many of our clients come to us when they are 10 to 15 years away from retirement, or even after retirement, and we stay with them. We have one client who is 94 years old and has been with us for more than 20 years,” Smith explained. “We are well prepared to not only help our clients now but to ensure our clients are cared for in the future as well.”
The company has identied ve core challenges its clients – families, professionals, and entrepreneurs – typically face: cleaning out their financial “junk drawer,” creating sustainable income streams in retirement, managing the impact of taxation, protecting against catastrophic loss, and planning for legacy and wealth transfer.
For those who have been accustomed to doing their own investing and financial planning, Masten made this point, “You may not need us now. But at some point, almost everyone will get tired of doing it themselves. Even if they’ve been successful, the amount of time and effort it takes will become laborious when they get to the point of really wanting to slow down or relax and enjoy life or grandchildren or traveling. Almost everybody will get to the point where they want someone else to help.”
The other scenario that is quite common, said Masten and Smith, is where someone who normally takes care of the finances wants to ensure there is a plan in place and someone to help their spouse, in the event that they die or become incapable of handling it anymore.
And, of course, being there is what Global Financial Partners specializes in. they are there with the education, the products, and the technology tools that help their clients achieve their financial goals, and they are there for their clients to celebrate what they want to achieve in life. Wrapping up all their services in a tidy little bow is a core value that runs deep in this firm-kindness. It’s not hard to find. Just look for the 1956 pickup truck out front.