Well, it’s finally 2021— a year most of us looked forward to with hope and anticipation. After starting out on a high note, 2020 became our worst nightmare within just a few weeks. COVID-19 and its effects on the nation’s physical and economic well-being along with worries related to the election cycle dominated the headlines and our clients’ primary concerns throughout the year.
Our firm, like many small businesses around the country, did our best to adapt to our changing environment last year. Luckily, we had already invested in the technology necessary for us all to work remotely, and we were able to transition and continue serving clients without missing a beat. And though we missed seeing our clients in person, we felt good about our ability to serve your best interests while protecting your health — and ours.
From a business standpoint, 2020 was a positive year for AMDG Financial and our sister company, AMDG Business Advisory Services. As we start the new year, I thought you might like an update on how we’re doing, and what we’re planning in the months ahead.
Like many companies, we set our targets high last year, and while we didn’t reach the goals we set for ourselves, AMDG Financial continued to increase the number of families we serve to 282, up nearly five percent from 2019. AMDG Business Advisory Services added new individual tax clients and new business clients. Since much of our business comes from referrals, we owe our clients and friends much gratitude for your support in such a difficult year. We now have clients in 23 states and the District of Columbia, though the majority are in Michigan.
Two more members of our team became equity partners. Adviser Chris Carlson, who started with the firm in 2016, became a partner in the business as of January 2020 and we voted to admit Melissa Orlando, who joined AMDG Business Advisory Services merging her tax and accounting practice with ours in November 2019. She became our tax and accounting operations lead at that time and became our partner last month. Chris and Melissa join AMDG Financial’s Director of Operations, Becky Stroud, who increased her ownership in 2020, Ramey Becker, our director of communication, and me. As owners, we are committed to serving our community with integrity, stewardship, and trust, and to helping our entire team learn, grow, and serve along with us.
Each year, we participate in Dimensional’s Investor Feedback Survey, which gauges our clients’ sentiments and compares our firm to all firms that use Dimensional Funds. In 2020, 69 of our clients were kind enough to share their opinions with Dimensional, and I’d like to highlight some of your feedback:
How likely Are You to Refer Your Advisor?
While referrals are the lifeblood of our business, the purpose of this question is to help us better understand your level of satisfaction. People who are genuinely happy with their experience tend to be loyal to the business and tend to recommend it to their family and friends. Answers to this question make up our Net Promoter Score — a metric that determines whether someone is a “promoter,” someone who actively recommends the business; “passive,” meaning the person is happy with the service received, but not happy enough to recommend it; and “detractors,” people who are unsatisfied to the point of potentially ending their relationship with the company and discouraging others from engaging. In this year’s Investor Feedback Survey, we received a Net Promoter Score of 75.4, compared to 70.7 for all Dimensional Firms. While there are no specific benchmarks for financial advisory firms, some analysts place it around 40 for investment firms.
What attribute do you consider most important in your advisor relationship?
On this question, your answers mirrored the clients of other firms in the survey — you considered “experience with clients like me” to be the most important attribute in your relationship with us. “Investment returns” came in second; however, when asked, “How do you primarily measure the value received from your advisor?” investment returns placed fourth, after “sense of security, peace of mind,” “knowledge of my personal financial situation,” and “progress toward my goals.”
When you connect with your advisor, what is the percentage of time you want to spend in each of the following areas? (My investments, progress toward my goals, current market, and personal matters)
Like the clients in the “all firms” category, you told us that you preferred to spend most of our time together discussing your investments (41.84%), followed by progress toward your goals (32.90%), the current market (16.29%), and personal matters (8.97%). Your questions regarding these areas included:
- Where your investments are and why we chose them
- Returns in relation to the broader markets
- Asset allocation and performance improvement without sacrificing risk
- Strategy for investment proportions
- Tax implications
- Impact of the presidential election
- How the current market affects your goals
- Which market segments are expected to be most vulnerable during the pandemic
- When to take Social Security
What is your greatest fear about your personal finances?
Your answers tracked exactly to what clients of all the other firms expressed: that you might not have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. “Losing my job” placed second, which is not surprising considering the number of people who have, in fact, lost their jobs or have seen their hours reduced because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
AMDG Financial’s COVID Response
Most of you were pleased with the frequency and methods of contact we’ve used to reach out to you during the pandemic, and the majority of you (49%) indicated that you would prefer to interact with us virtually in the near future. A significant number (31%) said they still preferred in-person meetings, and we expect to resume those as soon as it is safe!
Our 2021 Plans
As a result of your feedback, we identified themes expressed in your feedback. We heard multiple times in the survey that you desire to learn more — about investing, our strategy, the markets, the potential impact of the November election, and who you should contact with specific questions regarding your accounts. We’re sure other questions come up from time to time outside of your scheduled meetings with us, so this year, we’re planning a series of quarterly “Ask Us Anything” Zoom meetings. These will be informal sessions in which you can pose a question to any member of our advisory team, including Chris Carlson, Becky Stroud and me. Our first “Ask Us Anything” meeting is set for Wednesday, Jan. 27 at noon ET, and we’re excited to hear what’s on your mind! If you’d like to join us, you can register here. Bring your lunch, and turn your camera on!
Over the last year, Becky has heard from our female clients that they often have questions, but don’t always feel confident about asking them. Based on that feedback, we’re creating an online conversation circle called, “Invest in Yourself.” Our first group will be limited to just 12 participants, so everyone will have an opportunity to participate fully as we discuss investing basics, setting life and financial goals, and how to handle finances without becoming overwhelmed. An email invitation will be going out this week, and our first event will be on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 6 PM ET.
We’re looking forward to another positive year, and always, we appreciate having you as part of our AMDG family. Here’s to 2021!