It’s hard to believe that we’re nearly at the halfway mark of 2021.
Amidst the new executive branch administration and the economy re-opening from covid-19 shutdowns, I am proud of the progress Zenith continues to make towards our mission of inspiring smart and impactful financial decisions for our clients and audience. With Zenith’s core values of quality, simplicity, forward-thinking, and flexibility front of mind, I’m excited to discuss our progress so far this year.
Our clients have taken meaningful steps towards accomplishing their goals and objectives, while also providing us with valuable feedback on our processes, technology, and people. Feedback is invaluable in our commitment to quality service.
We continue to focus on the number of engagements with clients, which is defined as the number of opportunities for Zenith to inspire confidence, validation, or value on someone’s financial journey through a meeting, phone call, or event. Our number of engagements has meaningfully increased this year versus last year. This is positive and allows our team to learn from client engagements while also build our internal capacity. So far this year, we have had 265 engagements as compared to 150 total in 2020. We are keenly aware of the impact that growth has on our ability to deliver quality service and drive client success, which is vital to our mission.
We have taken the following two steps to address and increase capacity and our ability to service clients and prospects.
1/ Our team is expanding! This is the best part of our growth. We are working with some truly outstanding contributors, such as our new operations assistant, Mauri Douglas, who joins us with impressive experience in non-profits and development roles. We are further joined by three excellent summer interns – Alexandra Vuono, Edwin Duke, and Emmanuel Collins. These new team members will be essential players to improve our investment research, operations, wealth planning, and communication – all to the benefit of client investment returns and financial plan success.
2/ We are investing heavily in our technology stack. Most notably, we are implementing Morningstar Office to improve our public investment operations, research, and reporting. We are also providing our current technology providers with heaps of feedback, which is being implemented to the benefit of our clients and internal processes. A clear next step is to begin to automate a number of our back-office processes, which includes (but is not limited to) record retention, scheduling, and communication. These two developments are both exciting and critical to our mission and value proposition moving forward. In addition to this, we are expanding our avenues for learning and development.
Continuous improvement is vital to compound success. I am excited to announce that we are formalizing an advisory board, co-chaired by Steven Sanders and Michael Forman, to provide us with strategic guidance, brainstorming, and validation in our firm’s progress. Steven Sanders has a rich history of growing investment management firms and is currently the CEO of Beltraith Capital, who acquires, launches, and grows small to mid-sized investment management firms. Michael Forman also is a proven investor with a vision to help investors access alternative sources of income, growth, and diversification formerly only available to large institutions and the wealthiest individuals. He is currently the founder, CEO, and Chairman of FS Investments, an alternative asset management firm based in Philadelphia.
These two leaders and industry titans have been tremendous sources of mentorship to our firm to date. It is truly a pleasure to formalize our relationship for our team’s growth and development.
Further, we are working in partnership with Permit Capital Advisors to improve our research, impact investing framework, and access to alternative investments while delivering wealth planning services to their organization. Permit is an exceptional investment advisory firm with a storied history of success with their clients. Our engagement with them will certainly add value to our investment process for clients, expand our clients’ access to alternative investments, and be a source of ideas and expertise.
We find (and hopefully our clients agree) that objective advisors, like those listed above, tend to help tremendously.
These developments in people, technology, and learning will enable us to improve the quality of our engagements, while also helping us to inspire actions. We define action as an activity performed by a client that resulted from our advice or education. This metric is a clear measure of client success, which is the core driver of our business. The aforementioned developments will help our clients take more action in pursuit of their goals and objectives.
We now serve 120 clients in both ongoing wealth planning and investment management combined. We are striving to increase this number by 2x before year end, provided we can optimize our capacity and quality with the two steps listed above. In addition, we are striving to end the year with 750 engagements with clients and our target audiences – students, organizations, young professionals, and families.