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Active investment management’s weekly magazine for fee-based advisors

Helping clients save, grow, protect, and enjoy their money

by Nov 6, 2019Advisor Interviews

Helping clients save, grow, protect, and enjoy their money

by Nov 6, 2019Advisor Interviews

Proactive Advisor Magazine: Sunny, talk about your philosophy in serving clients.

I have a statement on our firm’s website that I have taken great care in writing and think is a good reflection of my personal mission in working with clients. It is quite different from the typical advisor “mission statement.” I encourage anyone considering working with our firm to read it.

As an independent financial advisor, I’ve been helping people for nearly 20 years and strive to educate them on how to save, grow, protect, and enjoy their money. It’s absolutely my passion and my purpose in life to help people achieve their financial dreams. I always feel so fortunate to be able to build a great career based on how many people I have helped. This is also why I chose to be independent—my efforts are not driven by sales quotas or incentive bonuses. I’m proud to say that my advice is truly objective. I want to always serve clients in an honest, independent, experienced, creative, and caring fashion, and have worked hard to become highly knowledgeable in the many diverse areas that are critical to holistic financial planning and execution.

I want to develop relationships with clients that go far beyond a transactional nature. I think clients deserve to know what kind of person I am, what is important to me in my life and values, and how my thought process works. I want to learn the same about them. Being a financial advisor means more than traditional financial planning and being adept with a spreadsheet. I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach—the lives of individuals and families are rich and complicated and deserve a highly personalized approach. I want to take as much time as necessary to get to know my clients before addressing the recommendation phase of financial or investment planning. Psychology tells us that people often struggle with identifying what they truly want for themselves in both their finances and their lives. I want to help guide clients in their journey of figuring that out.

What types of clients do you work with, and what services do you provide?

I work with a diverse client base and have clients across the demographic spectrum, from various occupations, and with different levels of income and assets. However, being a relatively young advisor based in the Silicon Valley area, it is not surprising that the majority of my clients are younger in age, work in the technology field, tend to be well-educated and affluent, and are focused on their careers. I work with a good number of engineers and technology specialists who are employed by some of the most well-known technology companies. Many are married, have children, and are part of dual-income households. They are far more likely to be looking at many years of wealth accumulation than being close to entering the distribution phase.

I started in the financial-services industry on the insurance side for a large national firm and have a strong grounding there. Over time, I acquired my investment licenses and have a deep professional interest in and knowledge of the financial markets and investment theory. Investment planning and implementation is a very important part of my practice. However, I am passionate about comprehensive financial planning—not just the dimensions of insurance and investments. Our firm offers a wide spectrum of services to clients: financial planning, investment solutions, insurance services, planning for funding education, retirement-income planning, risk-management strategies, business planning, tax strategies as they relate to overall financial strategies, and other consultative services.

I find it very satisfying on both a professional and personal level to have clients feel they can consult with me on just about any aspect of their financial life. I love working with smart people, being challenged to perform, and seeing clients also become my friends. I am often asked to advise on major purchases or investments from a planning perspective, such as real estate, or to help clients make well-informed benefit plan choices or implement sound debt-reduction strategies.

Describe the key elements of your financial-planning process.

Just about everyone I work with is a financial-planning client, and I offer several different ways to engage with clients from a compensation perspective. I want to serve the client in the way that best fits their needs.

As I mentioned, perhaps the most important phase in the planning process occurs in our initial meeting, as we get to know each other, discover what is truly important in each other’s lives, and talk about goals and aspirations on a more philosophical level. I love to ask the simple question, “Why did you decide to come see me—what are you looking for from a financial advisor?” That usually opens the door to a wide-ranging discussion.

In terms of formal process, there are five core steps to my financial-planning process, which I explain to clients in this fashion:

  • Step 1: Getting to know you and the most important people in your life. Without knowing you and what’s important to you, how can I make sound suggestions on your financial future?
  • Step 2: Setting goals. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get anywhere? Let’s figure out where you want to be first.
  • Step 3: Prioritize your goals. There are a lot of different things we’d like to accomplish in our lives. It’s impossible to achieve all of them at once. We have to prioritize what’s most important first and then develop a written action plan to attack other priorities in the future.
  • Step 4: Initiate a plan of action. Having a plan without taking action is a waste of everyone’s time. My job is to make sure that you implement the plan within a reasonable period of time.
  • Step 5: Review and improve. Planning should be an ongoing process. Like anything in life, plans and priorities change. I want to be there with you when they do and help you to create a sound financial life for you and your loved ones.

Risk management is at the heart of my financial-planning process, and that crosses all areas: investments, insurance strategies, tax strategies, retirement planning, college funding, and business planning. Throughout the planning process, I use comprehensive planning software that is modular, goals-based, efficient to use, and offers an educational component for clients that helps them better understand key planning, financial, and investment concepts. I am very focused on planning for unforeseen circumstances and making sure families have adequate protection in case of personal life-changing events or major changes in the market and economic environment.

What is your broad investment philosophy for clients?

I am an advocate for the use of third-party investment management for clients, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the appropriate managers can provide a level of experience, constant vigilance, and research and strategic-development capabilities that would be impossible for me to replicate on my own. Second, my focus is on handling the wide-ranging holistic financial needs of clients, and I cannot monitor day-to-day market developments or conduct exhaustive research the way investment managers can. Third, working with several money managers allows me to have exposure to sophisticated investment philosophies and different strategic approaches, all developed by some very experienced and capable people. That is, in my opinion, a way for me to add value for clients.

I take charge of the asset-allocation process with clients, based on a goals- and risk-based assessment flowing from their financial plan. I work closely with clients in presenting options, discussing pros and cons, and arriving at decisions we jointly believe are suitable and that are going to work hard toward helping them achieve their objectives. I have no pre-set conceptions about what any specific client’s investment plan will look like going into the process. But I usually recommend for clients a multiple-strategy, multiple-asset-class approach that can blend active, tactical strategies with more strategic or passive elements within the investment plan.

“Risk management is at the heart of my financial-planning process.”
How would you ideally like one of your current clients to describe working with you to a friend or associate?
The types of attributes I mentioned before are important: being trustworthy, caring, professional and knowledgeable, and with a strong personal touch. I truly live the phrase, “helping clients save, grow, protect, and enjoy their money.” I tell clients, “Let me worry about your family’s financial future so you can focus on the present.” This flows from my philosophy in life—that while the past and future are truly important, the reality we experience is “the now.”

Developing strong relationships through personalized financial planning

Sunny (Shuai) Wang is the president of Essence Wealth and Investment Services, located in Santa Clara, California. He wants to “develop client relationships that go far beyond a transactional nature” and employs a specific financial-planning process that he describes to clients in this way:

  • “Step 1: Getting to know you and the most important people in your life. Without knowing you and what’s important to you, how can I make sound suggestions on your financial future?
  • “Step 2: Setting goals. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get anywhere? Let’s figure out where you want to be first.
  • “Step 3: Prioritize your goals. There are a lot of different things we’d like to accomplish in our lives. It’s impossible to achieve all of them at once. We have to prioritize what’s most important first and then develop a written action plan to attack other priorities in the future.
  • “Step 4: Initiate a plan of action. Having a plan without taking action is a waste of everyone’s time. My job is to make sure that you implement the plan within a reasonable period of time.
  • “Step 5: Review and improve. Planning should be an ongoing process. Like anything in life, plans and priorities change. I want to be there with you when they do and help you to create a sound financial life for you and your loved ones.”

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Sunny (Shuai) Wang is the founder, president, and principal financial advisor of Essence Wealth and Investment Services, located in Santa Clara, California. He says his passion is to “help people achieve their financial dreams.” His firm has a focus on comprehensive financial planning, risk management, and a variety of wealth-management products and services.

Mr. Wang was born and raised in Changchun, China, before joining his mother in the United States at age 19. He “put in tremendous effort” to learn English as rapidly as possible, studying first at a local community college before attending San Jose State University and earning a bachelor’s degree in finance. He interned throughout college for Northwestern Mutual and earned recognition as a top nationally ranked intern. He accepted a permanent position with the company after graduation and worked with Northwestern for five years, primarily focusing on plan-based insurance products and strategies for clients.

Mr. Wang joined Strategic Financial Group of California, a full-service financial advisory firm, where he recruited, trained, and managed financial advisors while also serving his own client base. He founded Essence Wealth & Insurance Services in 2012. Many of his clients are employed by major Silicon Valley technology companies.

Mr. Wang has been involved in several entrepreneurial efforts and is the founder of a company that specializes in helping parents and students with college-planning needs. In his spare time, Mr. Wang enjoys golfing, mixed martial arts, science, snowboarding, backpacking, hiking, and traveling.

Disclosure: Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Essence Wealth & Insurance Services are not affiliated.

Photography by Brian Byllesby


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