Providing the ‘right fit’ for advisory clients
Providing the ‘right fit’ for advisory clients
Proactive Advisor Magazine: Anjali, talk about your career path and founding FIT Advisors.
I earned my undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in accountancy, with the objective of pursuing a career with one of the Big Four public accounting firms. The next step was a master’s degree in taxation, which I completed at the same university. This was a challenging curriculum, preparing students to sit for their CPA exam.
During school, I had internships with both Deloitte and PwC, which confirmed for me that I wanted to work in the taxation area. I was hired by PwC in Chicago and spent over six years with the firm, rising to a managerial position and working on engagements for top U.S. public companies. However, I knew that I eventually wanted to transition out of public accounting and consider other career options.
Coincidentally, my husband, who is a physician, was working toward an MBA and took a course in financial planning taught by an experienced advisor. After speaking with the advisor teaching the course, I was intrigued by the idea of putting my background to work on behalf of families, small-business owners, and other professionals, as opposed to large corporations. I studied for the Certified Financial Planner designation, and when I completed that process interviewed with several advisory firms in the Chicago area. I accepted an offer from an established wealth-management firm and worked with them for two years. I received strong mentorship, and I appreciate having had the opportunity to learn investment and advisory best practices from the ground up.
The clients at this firm were primarily entering or in the distribution phase of their lives. I decided I wanted to work with younger clients who were accumulating and building wealth. I reached out to a company that assists advisors in setting up their own firm, and they provided guidance and turnkey services that made that process very smooth.
I founded FIT Advisors in 2015, setting up the firm in a virtual way so that I could remotely serve clients living in different areas. That turned out to be very beneficial as I became pregnant with our first child and moved to Los Angeles in 2016 after my husband accepted a new position there. Looking at the longer term, when the pandemic had its greatest impact in 2020 and 2021, I had the experience and systems in place to serve clients with minimal disruption. Overall, founding my own firm has been challenging but very rewarding. It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.
What do you see as your point of differentiation?
I believe my experience in business management, taxation, finance, and investment strategy has positioned our firm well in serving the diverse financial-planning needs of our clients. I have intentionally tried to keep our client base at a manageable level so we can offer a high degree of personalized service.
I think it is also important to understand our segment focus on physicians and business owners. My husband is a physician, comes from a family of physicians, and has a personal network of many physicians. I have seen firsthand their busy lives and how they are always being pulled in many directions. As they build their careers and families, they need highly skilled guidance in addressing what can be fairly complicated financial-planning objectives and implementing their plan in a stress-free manner.
Similarly, I think I bring a unique perspective to the small-business-owner segment. My experience working as a CPA provided deep insights into not only tax-related matters but also business structuring, financial projections, and a host of other management issues. As a small-business owner myself, I am attuned to the time demands they face. I am here to provide knowledgeable guidance to business owners around their intertwined business and personal financial-planning needs. In many ways, I can act as their virtual CFO.
How do you handle conversations with prospective clients?
When I meet with prospects, I start by asking them about their background and why they are seeking out a financial advisor. I want to learn about them, what their financial concerns are, and—if they are currently working with an advisor—why they think I might be a good fit instead. I always ask about money stressors: “What keeps you up at night?” Growing up as a child of immigrants, I am particularly sensitive to how a family’s attitudes around money can impact someone throughout their adult lives.
“I am a great believer in financial education and empowering people. …”
After a thorough discussion of their broad needs and concerns, I address our experience serving clients and the comprehensive services our firm offers. I assure people that we are highly skilled at the technical side of the advisory business, but what is most important is making a personal connection and building a relationship based on mutual trust. I emphasize that I am a great believer in financial education and empowering people to be knowledgeable about shaping their financial futures.
Describe your approach to financial planning.
I am an analytical technician, which is how I was trained at PwC. Our onboarding process for a new client is very detailed. It starts with a four-step process. The first meeting is about gathering data, both qualitative and quantitative. Our next meeting is devoted to goals and values, exploring how a client sees their life now and in an ideal future. I have a specific exercise that helps people see that while financial independence is important, it is just a means to achieving what is most meaningful to their lives.
The third meeting is devoted to exploring their spending habits, or what I call cash-flow scrubbing. Are their expenditures in line with a sound budgeting process and aligned with their financial objectives? In most cases, there is significant room for improvement. I also will impart a good amount of financial and investment education and explain my approach to investments. The final meeting in this phase brings all of our recommendations together. We outline an implementation plan and the deliverables we will work on over the next year, whether that is college planning, elder-care strategies, or estate planning. The process is adaptable to the specific needs of each client situation. I am also very cognizant of each client’s personality type and how they best receive and process information.
What is your broad investment philosophy?
I believe in extensive diversification in terms of strategies, asset classes, and geographies. Our U.S. equity core portfolios include large-, mid-, and small-cap sector exposure, and we allocate to developed and emerging markets. We usually have a strong fixed-income component and often global REITs. I also believe in impact investing, especially sustainability and corporate responsibility. Many clients are interested in having their investments aligned with their personal values, but that is entirely their decision.
The most important thing is for client portfolios to be as diversified as possible to help mitigate risk in changing market environments. I primarily use one third-party strategist and fund provider for our core portfolio offerings. While I believe that our relatively younger client base has a time horizon that will enable their core portfolio to weather difficult market times without too many short-term adjustments, this provider does incorporate several aspects of active management and hedging within the specific fund offerings that I use for equities and particularly fixed income.
I also don’t believe in creating a model portfolio and just letting it sit there passively. As advisors, we have to keep in mind what’s happening from a macroeconomic perspective and make adjustments in client portfolios if they help to better manage risk. I also work with clients on other investment opportunities outside of their core portfolios if that fits with their objectives. For example, that could be real estate investments or some specific forms of private equity investments.
How would you like a client to describe the experience of working with your firm?
The most gratifying feedback has little to do with the technical side of planning or investment performance. I have many clients share with me how comfortable they are working with our firm, that we relate well to them in terms of understanding their values, and how we pull together the diverse aspects of their financial picture in a seamless fashion. What makes it all worthwhile is hearing a client say we have had a meaningful impact on their lives.
Anjali Jariwala, CFP, CPA, is the founder of FIT Advisors, an advisory firm located in Torrance, California. The firm provides comprehensive financial planning, investment management, and tax planning.
Ms. Jariwala’s parents came to the United States from India in the 1970s. She was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the Chicago area. Her father worked in information technology, and her mother was a preschool teacher’s aide. Ms. Jariwala says her family was close and emphasized education and personal values. She enjoyed playing on the soccer team in high school, performing Indian dance, and focusing on her studies.
Ms. Jariwala attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy. She later earned a Master of Science in Taxation (MST) degree at the same university. Ms. Jariwala is a certified public accountant (CPA) and CFP practitioner. She spent over six years at PwC working with Fortune 500 clients and two years with a wealth-management firm serving high-net-worth individuals.
In 2015, she founded FIT Advisors to empower physicians, business owners, and other clients to “discover and reach their life goals.” She says that her background in finance, wealth management, and taxation has enabled her practice to thrive. Ms. Jariwala has a certificate in blockchain and digital assets. She has been awarded recognition for her advisory work by several industry publications, including Investment News, Financial Advisor magazine, and Investopedia. She is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).
Ms. Jariwala and her husband have a young daughter and reside south of Los Angeles. She says they enjoy the beach, outdoor activities like running and skiing, travel, and spending time with family. She is active in her daughter’s Girl Scout troop and is a board member of Save a Mother, a nonprofit serving women’s health-care needs in India. She is the author of the children’s book “Why We Eat With Our Hands.”
Disclosure: FIT Advisors is an investment adviser registered with the State of Illinois, California, and Texas. All views, expressions, and opinions included in this communication are subject to change. This communication is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy, hold, or sell any financial instrument or investment advisory services. Certified Financial Planner and CFP are trademarks or registered trademarks of The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.
Photography by Genevieve Lauren
New this week:
Clarifying expectations during client onboarding
Anjali Jariwala, CFP, CPA, is the founder and principal advisor at FIT Advisors, an advisory firm located in Torrance, California. The firm provides comprehensive financial-planning, investment management, and tax planning for physicians, small-business owners, and individuals and families.
Ms. Jariwala says, “Our approach is ongoing. A financial plan with FIT Advisors is a living document that evolves with changes in a client’s life. As a financial-life planner, we work with clients to manage the financial implications of career changes, family growth, and new goals.”
She says a major focus is clearly defining expectations during her firm’s comprehensive onboarding process, including discussion of services that may be provided. These include the following:
- Financial planning based on goals, values, and transparency. Addressing money psychology. A fee-based relationship founded on fiduciary principles.
- Organizing financial information and providing a cloud-based client portal and reporting systems that help track priorities and progress.
- Detailed cash-management planning.
- Creating a “Custom FIT” investment plan.
- Business, family, retirement, college, elder-care, and estate planning.
- Risk management and insurance planning (life, disability, property and casualty, and business insurance).
- “Virtual CFO” services for small-business owners.
- Working directly with other service providers (CPA, CFO, attorneys, insurance brokers, etc.).