Core values and commitment drive strong client relationships
Core values and commitment drive strong client relationships
After I graduated from college with a business degree, I entered the automotive industry. I worked for two major tire companies, Michelin and Continental General, in positions of increasing responsibility in regional sales for the commercial segment. It was beneficial to be part of two highly professional organizations, gaining an understanding of successful business practices and refining my client development skills.
After working in sales for over a dozen years, I was ready for something new. I had met my future wife and we knew we would start a family after getting married. I wanted to be able to spend time at home with them. I talked it over with a few confidants and mentors, knowing my goal was to continue working with people in a consultative fashion. I had studied finance and economics in college and was always very interested in the financial markets. It seemed appealing to pursue a new career in financial services.
I received an offer from a firm that specialized in long-term-care insurance and had a strong training program. I was appreciative of the opportunity and worked hard to learn the business. After some time there, I recognized that long-term-care insurance was just a small portion of the total financial pie for an individual. I decided I wanted to expand my knowledge and capabilities and work in a full advisory capacity with clients.
I met an impressive leader from a firm called Financial Advocates, which is a large OSJ for LPL Financial. His mind-set about the business was in sync with my own—placing clients at the forefront of his business model. He referred me for a position as a financial advisor with a firm he was affiliated with, and, as things worked out, I later joined Financial Advocates. This provided the opportunity to offer clients a full range of financial and investment products and planning services.
One of the things that attracted me was the opportunity to work under the umbrella of LPL’s independent model. They have always looked for people with a strong entrepreneurial drive who want to build their own business. I also saw that Financial Advocates was dedicated to helping their advisors be successful and knew very quickly that I made the right decision.
At our firm, we have the client—and only the client—in mind. We want to deeply understand our clients’ needs, wants, goals, and life dreams. We help them develop, implement, and monitor a strategy that’s designed to address their financial situation for both the short term and long term. Our services range from helping clients manage cash flow, debt, and college funding to holistic financial planning and wealth management.
We are especially well-qualified in the area of retirement planning. Although we work with a wide range of clients, we have a focus on current participants of 401(k) and 403(b) plans and those looking to transition from accumulation to distribution mode. We have been working with 403(b) plan participants for over 16 years and understand how to educate and guide participants who work at universities and colleges, local school districts, hospitals, and other nonprofit organizations.
For many of our clients who are nearing or already in retirement, we want to help them develop a comprehensive financial road map that will address several common areas of concern that they often tell us:
- Will we have enough savings and investments to support our current lifestyle when we retire, and how long will they last?
- How can we better understand the different investment and income options available to us? How should our investments be allocated?
- How can we protect our family’s investments if the market drops again?
- Do we have adequate insurance coverages in place, especially for long-term care?
- Are we maximizing the effectiveness of our benefits planning, including Social Security, Medicare, and retirement-plan rollovers?
- Are we being smart from a tax-efficiency perspective, and how can we effectively leave assets to our beneficiaries?
We are not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom in our approach to investing and preserving wealth. Our goal is to provide clients with guidance that can help them understand and better define and meet their financial objectives. While each situation is different, of course, we employ a repeatable process with each client or client couple and customize it as needed. It consists of four steps:
- Determining goals and objectives: We assess a client’s economic, investment, and lifestyle goals, as well as retirement plans and needs. We work to identify short-, medium-, and long-term investment targets. We explore many areas in doing this comprehensive analysis: time horizon, risk tolerance, income needs, tax considerations, legacy or charitable objectives, and liquidity requirements, to mention a few.
- Developing a customized plan and investment strategy: We analyze the information from the first step and develop a strategy for investment and financial recommendations tailored to the distinct needs of the individual, consistent with their tolerance for investment risk. We identify the most suitable investment strategies by using several considerations: asset-allocation models, correlation between asset classes, diversification, and the risk-reward characteristics of specific strategies and asset classes.
Helping clients manage risk is an extremely important part of our process. I spend a lot of time talking with clients about their past investment experiences, defining realistic expectations, and developing an investment plan that is not only suitable for their needs, but also one they can understand and feel comfortable with. We often recommend the use of professional third-party money managers who can provide actively managed strategies. These managers are experienced and skilled at identifying trends, recognizing changes in the macro environment, and using leading indicators to guide adjustments to their strategies. I believe this is a valuable resource for many clients in helping to mitigate downside risk for their portfolios.
- Implementing the investment strategy: We complete the process of structuring an investment approach, building a portfolio of investment vehicles that seek to address the client’s specific needs, and implementing the strategy. We complete account transfers if necessary, identify beneficiaries, and take care of other executional details. This process includes spending time educating clients about the purpose and value of each element of their investment plan—and how these elements fit with their financial goals. We have clients with varying levels of financial sophistication, so it is important to have an adaptive communication style.
- Managing the portfolio and ongoing review: Our goal is to have an excellent communication process with each client, periodically review progress toward objectives, and make sure there is an opportunity for regular feedback. I enjoy working with clients who have a desire for improvement in all areas of their lives and who welcome being coached and gaining further financial education.
I think it starts with having the professional knowledge and skills to help guide clients who are seeking a better financial future and more personal control over their financial destiny. That is supplemented by having the professional resources of our advisory firm and broker-dealer available to our team and our clients.
Beyond those important functional considerations, it is really all about our belief in core values. My goal is to make sure clients recognize that I am here to meet their unique needs and serve them to the best of my ability. I realize that most of my clients don’t work with financial situations every day. I want to be a strong educator and communicator, show great transparency, and help clients understand how their financial and investment plan works toward their goals.
I also recognize that some people feel they have made financial mistakes in the past, whether that was something they regret doing or by putting off important decisions. If they sincerely desire to improve their situation, I welcome that challenge. I see one of my roles as helping people recover from small mistakes, while avoiding big mistakes in the future. The key to accomplishing that is to work collaboratively and strive to manage risk in all areas of a client’s financial plan.
4 steps to guiding clients toward financial goals
Ken Lubkowski is an independent advisor with LPL Financial. Mr. Lubkowski’s practice, which is located in Seattle, is associated with Financial Advocates, located in Olympia and Tacoma, Washington. Mr. Lubkowski says his goal is to “provide clients with guidance that can help them understand and better define and meet their financial objectives.” He uses a well-defined four-step process with clients:
- Determining goals and objectives: We assess a client’s economic, investment, and lifestyle goals, as well as retirement plans and needs. We work to identify short-, medium-, and long-term investment targets.
- Developing a customized plan and investment strategy: We analyze the information from the first step and develop a strategy for investment and financial recommendations tailored to the distinct needs of the individual, consistent with their tolerance for investment risk.
- Implementing the investment strategy: We complete the process of structuring an investment approach, building a portfolio of investment vehicles that seeks to address the client’s specific needs, and implementing the strategy. This process includes spending time educating clients about the purpose and value of each element of their investment plan—and how these elements fit with their financial goals.
- Managing the portfolio and ongoing review: Our goal is to have an excellent communication process with each client, periodically review progress toward objectives, and make sure there is an opportunity for regular feedback.
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Ken Lubkowski is an independent advisor with LPL Financial. Mr. Lubkowski’s practice, which is located in Seattle, is associated with Financial Advocates, located in Olympia and Tacoma, Washington. He says he “has been helping individuals and businesses with their financial and retirement planning needs since 1998.” His clients include individual 401(k) and 403(b) participants, health care and education professionals, small-business owners, and pre-retirees and retirees.
Mr. Lubkowski was raised in Buffalo, New York, where his father owned a floor-covering business and managed rental properties and his mother was a homemaker. He says his parents taught him and his three siblings “a strong work ethic and important core values.” Mr. Lubkowski worked for his father throughout his school years. He graduated from SUNY–The College at Brockport with a degree in business administration, with a concentration in marketing and a minor in economics.
Mr. Lubkowski’s business career began in the automotive industry, and he spent over a dozen years at Michelin Tire Corporation and Continental General Tire overseeing regional sales operations in the commercial segment. He also worked on a technology task force at Michelin, where he says he “learned some great lessons on teamwork and collaboration.”
Mr. Lubkowski entered the financial-services industry in long-term-care insurance planning. He soon discovered that his sales background, people skills, and education in the financial area made this “a very positive career move.” He wanted to expand his capabilities to addressing clients’ full financial- and investment-planning needs and became an independent financial advisor with LPL Financial in 2000.
Mr. Lubkowski and his wife reside in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood with their two teenage children. He likes many outdoor activities, plays rugby, and enjoys “taking a drive with the family” in their classic Oldsmobile 442 convertible. He is involved with charitable activities through his church, a local children’s hospital, and Ballard Food Bank. He has found working with the Special Olympics to be “an especially rewarding experience.” He is also a member of the Fremont Rotary Club.
Disclosure: Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. Financial Advocates is a separate entity from LPL Financial. All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
Photography by Brad Kevelin