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

Bradford D. Creger, AAMS, AIFA, CFS, CLTC, CPFA • Glendale, CA
BFF Financial Inc. • Centaurus Financial Inc.

I began my financial-services career in 1993 after spending several of my post-college years in the music industry in Los Angeles. Although I am still extremely passionate about music—and it was a hard decision to leave that profession—my father’s serious illness was a catalyst to build a stable and long-lasting career in financial services, where I could have a significant positive impact on people’s lives.

I was always interested in finance and the markets and majored in economics at UCLA. My economics background provides the strong foundation that allows me to serve clients and understand macroeconomic and financial market trends. It has been enhanced through my rigorous industry training and the ongoing professional education necessary to earn numerous industry professional designations.

I feel fortunate to have started my career with CIGNA Financial Advisors, which offered the industry’s most prestigious cross-disciplinary training program, including financial planning, taxation, estate and business-succession planning, risk management and insurance, investment management, and retirement-income planning.

Our practice is centered on comprehensive wealth management for individuals, families, and business owners. This includes access to the services of affiliated companies under the BFF umbrella focused on tax planning and preparation, third-party 401(k) administration (TPA), employee benefits planning, and a full-service insurance agency meeting the needs of individuals and businesses.

Philosophically, the hallmarks of our approach are thought leadership, creativity, and innovation. We do not just accept the “status quo” of the financial-services industry and are consistently looking for creative ways to deliver higher value to clients.

While there are many examples of this, there are two of particular note.

‘Springing special needs provisions’ for trust documents

In the early 2000s, I was the lead architect and developer of new language for trust documents, which was very important to families that would later be forced to unexpectedly deal with specific health situations or disabilities. We called this addition to trust document language “springing special needs provisions.” This language has since been widely adopted by many professionals in the advisory and legal spaces.

To put it simply, this language represents a significant improvement over the traditional “ascertainable standard” language, which was used for decades but ignored low-probability health situations, which do occur, and would otherwise be devastating without springing special needs provisions included in a trust document.

Springing special needs provisions were designed to help prevent heirs from losing their inheritance paying for basic and often very expensive health care that otherwise would have been covered by the government if the springing special needs provisions had previously been incorporated into the trust documents. These provisions keep the inheritance available to make sure that the child or grandchild, despite any specific health situation or disability they are facing, is able to experience and enjoy more than the bare-minimum lifestyle provided by the government.

‘360° Fiduciary-Centric 401(k) plan design’

In 2020, we brought together the final pieces to launch our proprietary offering to businesses, which we call the “360° Fiduciary-Centric 401(k) plan.”

I believe this innovative approach will ultimately change the 401(k) industry.

It creates a new “open oversight-architecture” approach for the 401(k) plan, which accomplishes the following:

  • Eliminates unnecessary fiduciary liability for plan fiduciaries.

  • Simplifies annual plan oversight through our proprietary Fiduciary Statement of Plan Management, or FSPM.

  • Lowers the costs of administering a 401(k) plan by eliminating the need for investment committee meetings, plan administration committee meetings, and having employees deal with day-to-day plan administration issues.

  • Provides plan participants with a “managed account” for their 401(k). Plan participants are provided with an actively managed investment portfolio designed to respond to changing markets—on a weekly basis, if necessary.

When plan participants are allowed to select their own investments, the plan’s fiduciaries have personal liability for all of the specific investment decisions of plan participants. Our managed account structure eliminates this liability. The managed account structure delivers active professional management (for a fee) of the participants’ most important financial asset—their 401(k) account.

Now the financial advisor for the plan can focus on providing investment advice (through the managed accounts) to each participant. Therefore, the advisor can give participants specific financial advice about their 401(k) account as well as any other financial issues they may face.

For any participant who believes they have the knowledge and expertise to manage their own 401(k) account, our “open-architecture” platform offers a complete lineup of both low-cost index funds and actively managed mutual funds. We also offer target-date funds. Because these participants are making the investment decisions for themselves, they do not pay any fees to the plan’s financial advisor.

***

We are very proud of the innovative thinking illustrated in both of the examples described above. Our firm looks forward to continuing to provide thought leadership within the financial-services industry with one objective in mind—helping individuals and businesses find new and effective ways to manage their entire financial picture.

Disclosure: The financial consultants of BFF Financial are with and securities and advisory services offered through Centaurus Financial Inc., member FINRA and SIPC, a registered investment advisor. Fee-based planning services offered through BFF Wealth Management Inc., a registered investment advisor. Tax planning and tax preparation services offered through BFF Tax Pros Inc. BFF Financial and its affiliates and/or subsidiaries are not affiliated with Centaurus Financial.

360° Fiduciary-Centric, Fiduciary Statement of Plan Management, and FSPM are trademarks or registered trademarks of BFF Financial Inc.

Photography by Edward Carreon

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