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An ‘enlightened’ planning philosophy in guiding clients

by Apr 10, 2024Advisor perspectives

An ‘enlightened’ planning philosophy in guiding clients

by Apr 10, 2024Advisor perspectives

Diana Avery, CFP • Atlanta, GA
Avery Financial Services • LPL Financial
Read full biography below

Proactive Advisor Magazine: Diana, talk about your personal background and how you became a financial advisor.

I was raised for the early part of my childhood in New York City, where my parents first met. My family, including my brother and three sisters, lived in Brooklyn. My father was a truck driver and my mother, who had been the valedictorian of her high school class, worked for the board of education for New York City. While money was always a little tight, we had a great, supportive family life. My parents were dedicated to the idea that their children get a college education—and we all did.

We moved to Roanoke, Virginia, when I was in junior high. Initially, it was a bit of a culture shock, but I settled in, enjoyed playing basketball in high school, and was a good student. I attended Virginia Union University, where I was involved in a lot of activities. Although I majored in business administration, my favorite courses were in finance. That strong interest in financial markets and analyzing companies was one of the early influences in my later career path. I moved back to New York after college and held several positions with banks and Wall Street investment firms, including working in the research area. This was a great experience for me, gaining exposure to senior executives and seeing the inner workings of several top financial firms.

I then decided to move to the Atlanta area and took a job with a national firm that focused on providing financial products and services to the middle-income market. This was a consultative sales position and helped me develop my skills in working with clients, ascertaining their financial objectives and finding solutions that were right for them. I also spent several years in Atlanta servicing the 403(b) market, where I provided basic financial planning and guidance on retirement plans primarily to educators.

I took a great deal of satisfaction in building relationships with clients, understanding their goals, and helping them make sound decisions regarding their retirement plans. With my background in research, investment and insurance solutions, and financial and retirement planning, I decided it was time to become an independent advisor and founded Avery Financial Services in Atlanta. I think it was a great decision, and our firm has shown steady growth over the years.

“We take what I call an enlightened philosophy in working with clients.”

Please describe your mission in working with clients.

We believe everyone should feel more confident about their financial future. By seeing how all of the financial pieces of their lives fit together, clients will hopefully be able to successfully navigate the path to financial independence for their retirement years.

We take what I call an enlightened philosophy in working with clients that focuses on the role of money in their lives and how they can best deploy it. I explain to clients that money itself is not the final objective. It is essentially a tool to help them achieve what is truly important in their lives: attaining a comfortable and secure lifestyle, taking care of their family, advancing in their career, and planning for their retirement and legacy.

We are committed to excellence in our process of working with clients. We treat our clients as we would want to be treated ourselves and strive to create meaningful long-term relationships. We act as a fiduciary, which means we are held to a high standard and work only in our clients’ best interests. As an independent firm, we can review a wide universe of products and services with clients and help guide them toward strategies that address their unique needs and objectives.

We apply our holistic approach to clients from all walks of life and age ranges, everyone from millennials to those already in their retirement years. Our firm’s bull’s-eye segment consists of people who are looking to retire in five years or less or who have retired within the last five years. Quality of life is something we focus on, so our relationship with clients involves knowing everything we can about their life goals and what they hold most important.

What are the steps in your planning process?

​Over recent years, I have devoted a significant amount of time and effort to refining and enhancing our financial-planning approach. Our firm uses what we call the Multiplication Method for financial planning. This method uses seven critical pillars to build a comprehensive, or panoramic, view of a client’s financial road map: wealth management; risk management; tax-planning strategies; cash management; legacy planning; charitable giving; and value-added services such as mortgage assessment, college-planning strategies, or consultations with other third-party professionals such as an attorney or CPA.

For each pillar, we follow a three-step process: 1. Discover: We gain a full understanding of the client’s current status in each area, analyzing their balance sheet, financial assets and liabilities, retirement or pension plans, investments, insurance coverages, and so forth. 2. Design: We build suitable strategies that address the client’s overall financial-planning objectives. 3. Deploy: We implement those strategies using a wide variety of providers of financial products and services. After reviewing each pillar, a final and critical step in the Multiplication Method is to make sure that the plan elements work together holistically and efficiently. By the end of this collaborative process, we aim for our clients to fully understand how their money, or assets, are being leveraged to help them pursue the things in their lives that truly matter.

This is a fluid and dynamic proprietary process that can adapt to changes in a client’s life or financial situation. We fully address each area with every client, building a customized plan that reflects both their life and financial objectives. I explain to clients that we call our process the Multiplication Method because it is more than the sum of its parts, and our practice operates at the center of its seven pillars.

Related Article: 10 practice secrets from ‘the best in the business’

How do you approach investment planning for clients?

Investment planning is highly customized, but three points are important for every client we work with. First, the fact that we conduct a rigorous financial-planning process means that investment strategies should be a natural outgrowth of a client’s objectives, risk profile, and time horizons as outlined in the Multiplication Method. Second, as a firm that is independent and follows the fiduciary standard, we have the flexibility to look at investment products and strategies from numerous resources and provide solutions that work solely in the client’s best interests. Third, our business model incorporates the use of managed accounts, and we seek out experienced third-party investment managers who can provide portfolio strategies that we think are appropriate for our clients.

I believe the managers that we work with provide several benefits for our firm and our clients. They can provide sophisticated, rules-based investment strategies based on their models. In building client portfolios, we are looking for strong diversification and risk management. I do not believe that most of our clients, especially those near or in retirement, should be simply invested in passive mutual funds that are fully exposed to market risk.

Managed accounts can take advantage of tactical or active portfolio strategies that can respond to different market conditions, which I think is a huge plus for our clients. Also, it is relatively easy with managed accounts to modify a client’s portfolio allocations if their objectives or their life circumstances change. The managers can provide a variety of portfolio options that are appropriate for clients across many different risk profiles, which is also a benefit in addressing the specific needs of a diverse client base.

Finally, working with third-party managers provides a highly professional investment resource that few advisors could provide to clients on their own. Having this resource allows me to focus on what I do best: in-depth financial planning, dedicated client service, and maintaining strong client relationships.

How would you ideally define a client’s experience with your firm?

Our objective is always to provide an approachable and welcoming environment for clients. I want clients to feel that I really get their personal situation and objectives and am an empathetic person, as well as insightful, professional, and solutions-oriented. I will ask tough questions during the planning process, but those are always handled sensitively and with the objective of helping clients achieve a clarity of purpose. Above all, we want clients to feel excited about moving forward in their financial lives in a positive manner.

​Diana Avery is the founder of Avery Financial Services, located in Atlanta, Georgia, and an investment advisor representative of LPL Financial. Her firm offers a range of financial-planning services to clients, including wealth management, risk management, tax-planning strategies, cash management, legacy planning, and other value-added services. In describing the importance of her firm’s approach, Ms. Avery says, “Our clients greatly appreciate our guidance as they strive to understand what their money means to them and how to best deploy it. They feel more confident about their financial future as we work through a planning process we call the ‘Multiplication Method.’”

Ms. Avery was born in New York City and lived there until her early teens, when her family moved to Roanoke, Virginia. She was a talented basketball player and was on her high school team. Ms. Avery earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a minor in finance from Virginia Union University.

Ms. Avery began her career in the financial-services industry over 20 years ago, working in different roles for several banks and investment companies in New York City. She then moved to the Atlanta area where she serviced the 403(b) market, working in the education and health-care sectors. Ultimately, she opened her own practice. Ms. Avery is a Certified Financial Planner, has received a Certificate for Advanced Financial Planning from Oglethorpe University, and is a member of the Financial Planning Association. She is an ambassador with The Financial Awareness Foundation.

Ms. Avery and her husband are active members of their church, World Changers Church International. She serves as a chaplain on the Atlanta board of the Virginia Union University National Alumni Association and is involved with other alumni activities. She enjoys volunteering to help educate members of the community about being good stewards of their money and better understanding their finances. She says she and her husband “feel fortunate to give back by mentoring teenagers.” She also enjoys reading and cooking and has developed a passion for organic gardening.

Disclosure: Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. Avery Financial Services is a separate entity from LPL Financial.

Content and this material are for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Tactical allocation may involve more frequent buying and selling of assets and will tend to generate higher transaction costs. Investors should consider the tax consequences of moving positions more frequently. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk. Investing in mutual funds involves risk, including possible loss of principal. Fund value will fluctuate with market conditions and it may not achieve its investment objective. ​No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

CFP and Certified Financial Planner are registered trademarks of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board).

Photography by Lynsey Weatherspoon


The benefits of working with third-party investment managers

Diana Avery is the founder of Avery Financial Services, located in Atlanta, Georgia, and is an investment advisor representative of LPL Financial. She says that using managed accounts and the services of third-party investment managers “provides several benefits” for her firm and clients, including the following:

  • Sophisticated, rules-based investment strategies.
  • Strategies and options for portfolio allocations that can emphasize strong diversification and risk management.
  • The ability to take advantage of tactical or active portfolio strategies.
  • The ability to modify a client’s portfolio allocations if objectives or life circumstances change.
  • A variety of portfolio options that are appropriate for clients across many different risk profiles.