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The Flexible Approach to Training With Brett Danko

You know the pandemic was disruptive—it altered every one of our lives. But when you saw (or read) about kids and their classroom struggles, you probably didn’t put much thought to how financial planning training and education was also being affected.

On this episode of Elementality, Reese welcomes financial trainer extraordinaire, Brett Danko, to discuss strategies now being used to teach today’s advisors. For financial planners, education needs to be constant as you continually add the new skills needed to improve peoples’ financial lives. But training is not as easy as it used to be. Discover why just-in-time learning—gaining new financial skills only when you need them, rather than in case you need them—is now being used to meet the demands for our changing times.

Show Notes
www.brettdanko.com

 


Podcast Transcript

Brett Danko:
At one time, it was 9:30 to 4 o’clock, you were in the office no matter what, Eastern Time. And so it’s a different world. And so what would happen is, people just walking around, you would just hear things or hear different situations. And I think that’s the way we best learn. So one of the things that we try and do in our education is take ideas. And for me and for my other instructors, it’s “How do we actually create a client example?” Because reading it on the page or reading it on Google, you can just search it and you could read about, “Oh, this is the verbiage about it, or this is the rule.” But how do you take that and create a scenario?

Abby Morton:
Welcome to Elementality. I’m Abby Morton CFP and producer of our podcast here at Elements. I love being a financial planner. But I know it’s a challenging profession as well. That’s why the number one goal of our show is to help you prosper as an advisor as you better connect with your clients. We know your time is very valuable. Plan on a good return when you spend it here with us.

Reese Harper:
Welcome to Elementality, everybody. I’m your host, Reese Harper. Excited here, spring is in the air. The mountain snow is melting just a little bit. And excited to chat, not just about the mountains, but about financial planning with a friend, Brett Danko. Brett, welcome to the show.

Brett Danko:
Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m excited. Yeah, we were talking about the mountains right before we hit record here, and I love Salt Lake, that whole area. ‘Cause you look outside, you’re driving around anywhere and boom, there’s just mountains…

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Brett Danko:
Everywhere. And he’s used to it, but he has ’em outside of his house and it’s pretty darn cool. So…

Reese Harper:
Well, Brett I’m gonna kind of talk a little bit today about different ways that advisors are trying to learn. But before we jump into that and ask you some questions that I put together, give everybody a little bit of background about how you got into the place you’re at, and what led you to…

Brett Danko:
Okay.

Reese Harper:
Being able to train advisors all around the country?

Brett Danko:
Yeah, I grew up in Pittsburgh, went to college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, worked for different small investment firms. And then I realized, one of the things I really wanted to do was to train people to be certified financial planners, although I didn’t even understand that ’cause I wasn’t a certified financial planner yet. But I wanted to just help people in general, and so it was sort of teaching, but then helping people, once I got to understand things pretty well. And it was… I just became a certified financial planner. I started teaching, and then I started working with clients, not managing assets, we’re just working with clients in general doing planning. And then also, speaking at colleges and other groups within the community, just trying to educate, especially kids and young adults.

Brett Danko:
And then that sort of… The education side took a life of its own. And then in 2008 and ’09 right as things were getting bad, I just said, “Do you know what, I’d really love to actually manage assets, work with other advisors.” So now we have 25, 26 advisors around the country that work under our registered investment advisor up Main Street Financial Solutions. So that has sort of exploded in its own way. And then doing continuing education, so that’s one of the things for ethics and then for… I do continue education of things that are real, it’s not like some hypothetical stuff. It’s getting into working with clients and best practices and things like that. So those are sort of the two areas where I spend a lot of my time on the professional side.

Reese Harper:
And so what’s the business model at Main Street when you have a new advisor come on, are they a contractor? And do they source their own business? Or do some of your work like help feed the firms too? Talk to me a little bit about that.

Brett Danko:
Yeah. So for the most part, people are bringing over their own business, you don’t have to be… A person doesn’t have to be huge, but if somebody says, “Well, I just wanna come over and try and get business,” probably not ideal because we’re not… It’s sort of not a training program. I’m kinda the… If you ever watched the Godfather like Consigliere or Consiere. So I’m the person who people are calling saying, “I have this situation.” In fact I talked to two of our advisors today that said, “Here’s my situation, here’s what I’m thinking about. What else do I need to think about? Or am I thinking about it correctly?” So I’m helping them on that way. So when folks come over, usually I have some sort of book, we absolutely… When assets come in, I don’t manage assets. So what I do is financial planning, anywhere between 10 to… I’ll say seven to 12 clients a year that I’ll work with them, in addition to any volunteer work I do. But this will be people that actually have assets. And then if they wanna continue to work with us, then I’ll give them to one of our advisors out there.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Brett Danko:
One where we think… Who I think would makes sense. And then if they come over, they’re a W2 employee, we pay for all their expenses, their rent, their assistant. They have healthcare, they have… ‘Cause they’re an employee. They have a retirement plan, and then we pay at a minimum for folks coming over 60%, and then once they get bigger, 70% and then 80%. So…

Reese Harper:
Okay.

Brett Danko:
The more business they bring in, the better if we are. We only want certified financial planners, and I only wanna work with grown-ups. Like, I’m never gonna call somebody and say, “Hey, what’d you do today?” That isn’t… I care about the macro side, being a fiduciary, making sure that if any question comes to me, they know how I’m gonna answer it. And in our firm, it’s what’s best for the client.

Reese Harper:
Alright.

Brett Danko:
That’s it. Not what’s best for the firm or whatever, ’cause I think if you do what’s best for the client, you know this from developing a business, if you just do it that what’s best for the client, everything works out in the end. Short term it might not financially be the best or whatever, but if you just do it that way, you’re better off in the end. And sort of that’s what we’ve built this on, being a fiduciary certified financial planner, and then people who do drink the Kool-Aid of, “You gotta have a plan.” I love it when people… Clients will come, and they’re like, “Yeah, I’ve been working with this advisor for X amount of years,” and they’ve got $3 million. And I’ll say, “Okay, so you don’t even have a balance sheet. You don’t even know what assets they own.” And it’s… And it always amazes me about as a financial advisor you need to know…

Brett Danko:
They need to have on one sheet of paper, even if you’re not managing it, where other assets are. That that… They put money into a private placement for 50 grand. Well, at least have it on there. They bought into this, or they lent money to somebody else that they’re gonna get paid back, and it’s a 100 grand, at least have that all together on one piece of paper. So I think our crew kinda gets that from the certified financial planning side of, “Hey, it’s about the total client, not just what we’re managing in terms of, ‘Let’s get assets under management,’ it’s, ‘Let’s talk to them about their insurances,'” meaning they’re homeowners and auto, or get them to somebody who actually can help them. Or their CPA, get them to a good CPA, or to an estate attorney, ’cause all these things kind of mold together. So that… Those are the folks that come in to work with us, and they sort of drink the Kool-Aid on that. And yeah, we have a great, great group, and I’m really honored to be working with everyone of them.

Reese Harper:
So how much time in your day or week would you say is spent on the training of the CFP modules at brettdanko.com versus Main Street Financial?

Brett Danko:
It just depends. During the three times of the year that the CFP exam is given, I will do… I’m usually 16 days in a row that I will teach. Sometimes 20, this last quarter was 20 days in a row. So obviously there I am doing things with advisor, but I’m just doing them at night. So I tend to… It goes in stretches where three times a year I’ll be doing a lot for the education side, Brett Danko LLC, and then the other times it’s just a mix, just every day is different.

Reese Harper:
This is why I wanted to interview you, ’cause one of the things that we’re experimenting with… There’s a concept that you’re probably familiar with, but listeners are not… Might not be familiar with this. So I’ll just… I’ll give them the summary. But one of the big changes in education that’s happening in a lot of industries is we’re shifting from what is generically called just-in-case learning or structured learning to just-in-time learning. So a good example of that would be like software engineers are now going to boot camps, right? They’ll… Instead of going to get an undergrad in CS, you’re gonna go get a eight-week boot camp in iOS mobile engineering or something. It’s because you are about to get a job at an employer, or an employer’s saying, “I want you to learn this.” And that tends to be really… Happens a lot in vocational training, but this concept of just-in-time learning is also happening in client success departments and customer service departments. And we’re teaching people the thing they need to learn right at the moment that they’re trying to learn it. I just wanna pause on that description and then just get your reaction to that general concept and if you have any experience on whether that is affecting the financial advisor community at all right now.

Brett Danko:
Well, I’m gonna just go back, because that definitely is a concept out there, and it’s kinda new-ish to our industry. However, the concept is… Has been applied to the global supply chain over the past really 30, 40 years. So one of the reasons why there’s inflation out there, one of the reasons is… There’s many, but is supply chains have been interrupted. Because what car companies used to do is they’d have lots of extra tires and steering wheels and whatever else they needed. And then they realize, they’re like, “Wait a minute, we don’t need to have all that inventory, we’ll just get the tires when we need them. So we’ll have a week’s worth of tires, or two days worth of tires.” Well, the issue is, is what we’ve found with COVID is that…

Brett Danko:
And now with different world events going on, is that that actually doesn’t work if the supply chains get interfered with. You have this continuation into education or into vocational type things, it’s like, “Oh, just know this.” But unfortunately, folks don’t necessarily have the underpinnings of actually understanding the industry and how things are actually working, so they don’t have the inventory. The inventory is the knowledge instead of being tires or steering wheels. And I think you can get away with that a little bit. And our industry worries me a little, because you have people who are talking about things, and they don’t understand how they all interact with one another and how one thing they may say or one thing that may be done can actually make a difference, and it could be bad or good, but could affect things in the future.

Reese Harper:
So what I’m hearing is some… What I’m hearing is some caution around I guess what I would traditionally call a… In education, there’s a traditional liberal arts education, where you’re going to get a really wide background in a lot of different areas, good foundation, and then choose to specialize later. Right?

Brett Danko:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
I’m hearing from you like, hey, there’s a lack of general competency across the board, and sometimes advisors might be hyper-specialized in this just-in-time learning kind of thing, where they’re learning one skill or one strategy, one product to sell, rather than having applicability across the spectrum. Tell me more.

Brett Danko:
Yeah, you put people in silos, so it’s like you’re just gonna do investments, you’re just gonna do planning, you’re just gonna do the marketing side, you’re just gonna do this aspect of it. And there is nothing wrong with that. The issue when I get them to help them with the CFP to get them to pass is they’re like, I’m really good on this. I can’t even spell insurance, right? It’s a joke, of course, they can spell insurance, but they’re like, I don’t know anything about it, because in my job… And I’m like, but you’ve been in the industry 10, 12 years. Yeah, but I didn’t need to get insurance license and I just do investments, I’m just in my silo, and sometimes it’s helpful, and that’s what I like about the CFP curriculum, and there’s many curriculums out there that do this, where they actually are bringing together the various components so that I may not understand everything about income tax, but I do understand that there are things that are impacting it.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. I might place a little different frame on that ’cause I think at least one of the… I think that’s definitely a… What we’re talking about is definitely a dimension of this just-in-time approach to take that insurance example… I think the most recent research would show that what… If someone doesn’t know something about insurance, you can take two approaches with them; we can teach them a course broadly about insurance, which would be more of a lecture, video-based kind of format class, which has its place, but research shows it has a low retention from that kind of thing, which I’m sure you’ve seen. You teach a whole course and then ask somebody a question. You’re like, were you even here, right? Did you pay attention to anything I said?

Brett Danko:
And it is an insurance. So that’s fair.

Reese Harper:
[chuckle] Yeah. I think that that’s fair.

Brett Danko:
That’s fair that they’re saying what are you talking about? But go ahead.

Reese Harper:
But if I say, hey… If I say… Cindy is the financial advisor, Cindy, put your client data here, get an actual client, put your actual client circumstances up on the board. I’m gonna teach you a principle and then I want you to write down a piece of advice for this client right now. You have to give it to them because you have a meeting at 4 o’clock today, and they’re actually… They wanna know what you think about their insurance. Like that moment of getting Cindy to the place where she’s actually gonna have to write down the advice to that client with the context of that client’s data for an actual interaction is when the highest amount of learning will finally kick in.

Brett Danko:
That’s it.

Reese Harper:
That’s what I’m hearing from this just-in-time stuff, but it’s challenging to get those kind of at-bats because most of the learning opportunities come… In that way, come very slowly, in that way, that’s why Malcom Gladwell has like 10,000 hours that he talks about. I mean, it definitely takes 10,000 freaking hours, if it’s… If it’s all a lecture or if it’s all reading, but we don’t get a lot of at-bats with delivering advice to clients in context, like I just want you to kind of share your reaction to that.

Brett Danko:
Yeah, and that’s… The rub is, hey, take a whole bunch of insurance classes and understand it all, and then the retention really isn’t there, if they’re not dealing with it all the time, they’re not gonna retain it. One of the things that used to happen in the industry is there was true mentorship or it was you were all in an office. Remember at one time it was 9:30 to 4 o’clock, like you were in the office, no matter what, Eastern Time. And so it was a different world. And so what would happen is people were just walking around, you would just hear things or hear different situations, and I think that’s the way we best learn. So one of the things that we try and do in our education is take ideas. And for me and for my other instructors, it’s, how do we actually create a client example, because reading it on the page or reading it on Google, you can just search it and you could read about, oh, this is the verbiage about it, or this is the rule, but how do you take that and create a scenario, but then you need the person to create the scenario who’s actually gone through those scenarios.

Reese Harper:
[laughter] Yeah.

Brett Danko:
No, seriously, so you can’t have somebody who has never been through those scenarios, then say, “Well, I’m gonna make up some scenarios” ’cause I’m gonna sit there and say, “Yeah, that’s not a real scenario.” So that’s one of the issues. So I would argue what you’re talking about is exactly better learning, because you’re learning through real client experiences, and that person who you say at 4 o’clock has to talk to the client, they will have truly learned it, then they explained it to the client. So they had to understand it enough to be able to explain it to the client. The client had some questions. They followed up that scenario, boom, now it’s in their mind. It isn’t something they just read that’s abstract, it was a real example that they made a difference in that client’s life. So that’s what’s hard. So what we try and do is create stories, so people will say to me, Brett, I don’t remember that concept, I just remembered that story, and I applied that story, which of course was applying the concept.

Reese Harper:
We’re just at the forefront right now trying to explore how to integrate just-in-time learning into the product. So for example, if we create a trigger for an advisor that says, “Life insurance data’s blank,” or, “Life insurance data that’s entered appears to be 10% of a general heuristic.” Like someone has $200,000 of life insurance coverage and even a conservative estimate might be $2 million. If we surface that insight to the advisor and say… I mean, our product, what we try to do is get… It allows the advisor to communicate with the client about heuristics, about KPIs, about different ratios and scores. And what I’m trying to do is get to where we can anonymize that response, meaning the advisor submits the information to the client. The insider surface, the advisor gives the advice, sends it to the client, the system captures that, anonymizes the client data, and then crowd-sources that response to a community where people go…

Reese Harper:
Other advisors will say… There’s 10, 15, 20 advisors say, “This is what I would have said. ” Or, “No, I think that’s a great thought, but given the underlying base facts that have been anonymized here, this is probably what I would say.” We haven’t implemented that into our platform, we’re going through designs and testing right now, but the ambition that I’m… What I’m trying to experiment with is in the same vein of what you’re doing, which is if you create examples, that’s one thing, if it’s the advisor’s actual client case, that’s when their brain is lit up. And I learned this the hard way, just watching me training advisors at Dentist Advisors, trying to get them to light up and learn. But when it’s their own either personal data, like their own personal financial situation, giving themselves advice or hearing advice about their own data, or if it’s their client data, and they have to be responsible for the advice they’re about to deliver, I feel like it lights up more.

Reese Harper:
I haven’t been able to get a theoretical example to light up to quite the degree as a real client case, but there’s a lot of logistics about how do we even do that? How do we anonymize the data properly? Is that even an effective approach? Is that even legal? Is this even compliant? We feel like the industry right now could really use a dose of real client cases that we are actually learning from, as opposed to just CFP case studies. But I’m, one, curious to your response to that kind of intention, two, if you’ve ever done anything in that vein or try to experiment in that way with advisors’ learning?

Brett Danko:
Well, first of all, one of the things that are our RIA, but also through the educational process, is I always say, “Be your first client.”

Reese Harper:
Mmm. That’s good advice.

Brett Danko:
Meaning, if you’ve never done a balance sheet for a client, don’t start with the client. Do your own balance sheet. Do your own cash flow. Look at your own taxes. If I’m trying to teach tax, and they’re like, “Schedule A, it’s sort of abstract.” I’m like, “How many kids you got?” “I got three.” “You’re married?” “Yeah.” “You got a house?” “Yeah.” “Look at your own Schedule A!” Then, all of a sudden, it’s like, “What! I’m paying that? What… I did that? Where did I… I didn’t give any money to charity last year? Oh, I gave that much money to charity?” Once that happens, if they can do it for themselves or loved ones. So one of the things for folks, especially on the training side, for the education side, if they don’t have experience and they’re sitting there saying, “Hey, I’m having issues. Try to understand things.” I said, “You’re younger, say, you have a simpler life, and that you’re not… You don’t own a house and have kids and all that.” And so for you, everything’s pretty basic. Talk to somebody that you care about. And do a balance sheet for them, talk to them about their retirement, somebody that you care about, you gotta have nieces, nephews, talk to their parents, and say, “Hey, wait a minute… ”

Brett Danko:
They’re your siblings, say… And talk to your siblings, say, “Look, I’m gonna do college planning. You’re not gonna have to pay me, but I’m gonna do college planning for in-state at the most expensive state school where you are, out-of-state state school, and then a private school some place out of state. And I’m actually gonna do these scenarios. They’re 2 years old, 16 years, and work all that out. And then I’m gonna do your retirement. Because you’re… ” And then explain it to them, because then you’re keeping… It may not be about you, ’cause you’re not… You’re 26 years old and not thinking about those things right now. But if you’re doing it for somebody that you care about, then all of a sudden it takes on. You take personal ownership of it. So I think that’s one of the most important things.

Brett Danko:
I always try and get it to, “Alright, what can you do for yourself and other loved ones around you?” And that will really help to solidify it. So I would say that’s one of the things. The other thing we do, for example, at Main Street, we have MSFS advisors. So it’s just the people who are advisors, and somebody says, “Hey, I’m having trouble. This is my situation, I’m having issues.” And it isn’t like it’s a bad thing. It’s like, “What do you think? What’s in a… Anybody have any suggestions?” And then somebody will just say, “I’m out. No experience.” But we’ll get three, four, five, even more, saying, “Hey, this would be great.” We just had somebody, “Hey, what’s a good book I could get for a client?” Something as simple as that. And there were a number of people who chime in, “Hey, what about this? Hey, what about that? Buh-buh-buh-buh-boo. What’s the situation? Hey, what about this?”

Brett Danko:
 And that was really helpful because it was their peers throwing something in. And so that’s the other way that I would look at on the professional side. And then if you’re still learning-side, trying to get it either to apply to yourself or someone that you care about, someone you love.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Abby Morton:
The number one question we get asked as advisors from our clients is, “How am I doing?” The answer to that question is at the heart of what we do. Unfortunately, most of the technology used today for financial advisors doesn’t really speak to the younger generation. How do you tell a 30-something-year-old client they’re doing okay, when all of the tools we have make huge assumptions and project investments 30-plus years into the future? It’s hard to rely on that type of information when you’re in your 30s.

Abby Morton:
You want a system that can actually tell a client where they stand today. You need a piece of technology that resonates with clients no matter their age, and it’s called Elements. Our Elements Financial Planning System provides you with the tools you need to measure, assess, and ultimately improve client financial health, both with an eye on the present and to the future. Contact us today at getelements.com/meet to learn more.

Reese Harper:
What I’m interested in is getting that advisor to at least expose the base facts and that answer to a small community, and then getting that community to say what do they think about what that advisor just did. I think that learning could be super powerful and in this way of learning, but we’re experimenting with that.

Brett Danko:
No, no, so look, I think that’s great. I try and do that in CE sessions.

Reese Harper:
Okay, tell me about that.

Brett Danko:
So I try and do that because people are like, “Well, we’ve kind of chimed in to hear from you Brett.” I’m like, “Hear from me?”

Reese Harper:
You’re the one doing it.

Brett Danko:
Yeah, I’m gonna talk about some stuff, the amount of experience and knowledge that’s out there in the group. I wanna hear from you. Give me some situations. So when I do it live, and COVID kind of messed with that but I’m gonna do it in November, we’re finalizing stuff, but I’m gonna do one in Vegas. Now it might just be me with all my friends, which means by myself, it might just be me by myself and my other…

Reese Harper:
I’d fly down. I’d fly down. Yeah.

Brett Danko:
A few of the others. Well, what I wanna do is, it’s for a day and a half. Yes, there’ll be specific things we’ll talk about, but darn it, I want people in that room to talk about, hey, what are things they’re struggling with. When we get together… So we get together at least once a year. The COVID I guess messed with this, but as it did with a lot of things, but we’re getting together in May. All of our advisors come in from around the country, and we’ll have some specific things we’ll talk about and there’s some client compliance things and all that, but the best thing we do is we spend a large chunk of time during that two days is actually, what works, what’s not working? How do we get better? And people are like, “Yeah, I’m having trouble with this,” or “I’m getting these questions,” and how is somebody else dealing with it?

Brett Danko:
And I gotta tell you that flow is so good, and I’m sort of more of a moderator on that, and you’re looking at it doing, “How do we do this electronically?” So how do you do it in that way? Just remember, it’s just like computers, garbage in, garbage out. So the people you have on there… One of the things I always… I know if I ask a certain person a certain question, it’s gonna have a bent towards this.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, yeah, well it’s inside of us.

Brett Danko:
It doesn’t matter. I know that they’re gonna bend toward this and other people are gonna bend towards that, it doesn’t mean either one of them are wrong.

Reese Harper:
Wrong.

Brett Danko:
But I do think it’s important to hear both sides.

Reese Harper:
That’s how I feel, yeah.

Brett Danko:
But I always say, “Listen, and just take it all in.” And then you say, “You know what? I agree with, 20% of what that person said and 10% of what that person said, but then 70%, here’s kinda how I look at it.” And so I love that.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. It so powerful to like, I just… I worry… This is where my… Not worry, that’s probably a strong word, but my interest in helping the industry, if you think about… If you’re a solo shop and you’re a school of one, and your only feedback is yourself and some videos. And if you can be lucky enough to take Brett’s class, you’re gonna have some case studies, some examples, but if you’re solo, that’s one kind of igloo, one isolated bubble of feedback. There’s not a lot of diversity in a solo shop in terms of questioning the status quo and sort of helping you evolve your thinking. Then you go larger and you say, well, you’ve got an ensemble firm, then you’ve got a Main Street Financial services like Brett. That’s a larger group, but even in larger groups, you still have kind of a cultural bent or you have some kind of like, “We do things this way here.” And guess at Main Street, who probably is the largest cultural influence there? It’s Brett. No one’s gonna be like, “I disagree with Brett, and he’s… ” Well, they will, they’ll say they disagree.

Brett Danko:
Well, no, we’ve had people who were like, “Hey.” Can I just give you one example? Can I give you one example?

Reese Harper:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead.

Brett Danko:
So an example at one of our meetings, ’cause you get some folks who are like, “Anything with a commission is bad.” We have a few of our advisors who keep their insurance license, most of them kinda let them lapse, and if they need insurance done, they value it and they know it’s important, they will firm it out. We have different people at our firm who will just handle it. So it was one of those things where I said, “Look, we were talking about client situations, the client has a million dollars, their risk adverse,” and I know we’re in a low interest rate environment. They’re in their mid-60s, you think about something like maybe like a fixed annuity for 10… We’ll just say 10% of their money to lock in a rate for themselves and their spouse for the rest of their life. At least there’s a cost to it, but at least you’re locking in a certain amount of income that’s gonna come out from it. I was just using it as an example, and somebody just made the comment. They’re like, “Yeah, but that’s a commission,” like somehow…

Brett Danko:
And I said, “Well, that’s not that that’s bad.” And I said to the person who does insurance, I go, “On a million dollars, if you did 100,000, so 10%, what would the commission be?” And they said maybe 4%. And the person said, “See, that’s 4%,” and I go, “Well, remember, it’s about being fiduciary. What’s best for that client, it may make sense to do it. Because you’re charging what, 1% on that?” And they went, “Yeah.” I go, “Okay, well just remember, if you get paid 4% on that, you’d never get paid again, and let’s pretend it was at age 65. By age 85 on that 100,000, you would have been paid 4%. But what if you took 1% for 20 years on that 100 grand? I could actually make the argument that you’d have been better off for the client doing that fixed annuity and only paying 4% versus paying you 20%.”

Brett Danko:
Now, I’m saying… I’m not saying that, but that’s where this discussion gets in. What I love it is just talking about things and sort of… And if somebody says to me, “We don’t do really like titles at our firm, you can be whatever title you want at our firm.” I don’t really care, because I don’t believe in organizational charts. I know once you get to a certain level, you have to do that. But I don’t believe in org charts simply because I want everybody to challenge. ‘Cause you know this from running a firm, it has to be best idea. And if somebody says you can’t be like, “Well, I’m afraid to say something ’cause somebody’s gonna yell at me or somebody’s gonna demean me,” absolutely not. It’s gotta be best idea. So I would say just that actually is a fun thing. I think you can do it. It’s making sure that that group of people that they trust.

Brett Danko:
So if I was in that group of people, I’d be like, “Wow, those are some really good points, and I wanna pay more attention to that.” So I think it absolutely can be done. It’s making sure that that pool is respected amongst each other to do that.

Reese Harper:
And yeah, that they have some standards of engagement knowing like, “Hey, be curious, be open. This isn’t about being critical. There’s not a right or wrong here, just learn. Let’s have a good… Let’s have a diverse group of thought.” My point was like, I think there’s a lot more diversity outside of one firm than there is inside of one firm. One firm tends to be… We’ve kind of groomed our financial advisors in this exclusively, like in an apprenticeship kind of model where they’re highly influenced by one or two other advisors to grow up in the industry. And that can be beautiful in some ways, because if you get the right mentor, what a great experience that can be, but you often don’t know if you have a good mentor, not when you’re a young advisor. You just have the person that’s there that’s teaching you and so if 5% or 10% of the industry happened to be CFPs and decent fiduciaries in the US that actually have some breadth of financial information then 90% of the advisors are not being mentored by someone in that situation ’cause it’s hard to mentor 20 people.

Reese Harper:
It’s tough to… So I think there’s just this opportunity for the type of learning, whether that’s done through a piece of software or whether that’s done through a CE event, where instead of just generalities, can we bring… Can we find a way to anonymize data, but actually have it be a meaningful discussion on an actual client case? I think that can help improve learning a lot.

Brett Danko:
And it also helps the people who are chiming in their advice, because they’re gonna see what other people who are capable of their jobs and they’re gonna be like, “Wow, I’m actually learning, this isn’t even my case.”

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Brett Danko:
“It’s Johnny’s case or whoever’s case. I’m actually learning. You know what? I hadn’t looked at it that way.” For me, that’s my favorite part because I love that when I’m like, “Wow!” There’s a couple of people who were in there, one’s late 20s, one’s early 30s, and they’re like, I’m sort of their mentor, but I’ve gone with them. I was upfront, I said, “Can I be your mentee?” And they’re like, “What do you mean? You want me to be the mentor? But you’re my… ” I go, “No, no, no,” ’cause I’m old, I’m over 50. So in the God Father, he goes, “Pensa Antica”, like old thoughts, old thinking. So for me, I utilize them to talk to them. I’m like, “Alright… ” I’ll give you an example. Two years ago, I don’t get cryptocurrencies, explain it to me and tell me why the younger generation…

Brett Danko:
So these are smart folks, they’re insightful, they don’t have tons of experience, but they’re thoughtful, and so they help me, so I think that you’re talking about continuous learning. And I think the biggest thing is that I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t read something or see something that’s like… I’m not saying it transforms my life, but I’m like, “Wow, that’s kind of interesting.” And how does that apply to the way I wanna look at… Not even on a finance side, but being a parent or being a friend, or being a sibling, or being a spouse. So I think all of that goes in what you’re talking about is continuously learning. Yes, it’s on this one side, but I would argue that’s kind of good to have that network of people out there.

Brett Danko:
I always tell people have that, you can call it a board of directors or have people out there. When I’m trying to make decisions or I’m thinking about things, I go to certain people because I know that they’ll be honest with me, and that’s sort of what you are saying, “Hey, here’s a financial situation.” They have nothing to gain by what they’re saying, so they actually can be totally honest, and it’s wonderful and true learning can happen that way. One last point, over the last few years, especially with COVID, is that people are in their tree houses. So if you go to even a large firm that has 50 people in an office, go there on a Friday afternoon or a Thursday afternoon, even before COVID, nobody’s in there. There’s no flow of ideas. You have to understand, I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m just saying that there’s no flow of ideas.

Brett Danko:
There’s no talk around the water cooler about, “Yeah, I got this client, I don’t know how to deal with it.” I think you used to have more of that, now everybody’s up in their tree houses, and so that’s isolating. So it’s how do we take that in a way and do it… And you’re looking at it electronically, and I think that actually is doable. I’m doing it online through, say, classes that we’re doing or live. I find the Live is always better in terms of dealing with situations, ’cause then you got somebody who can be on and is like, “Wait a minute, wait, wait. Did you think about this, this, and this?” Then you’re like, “Woah,” and so that’s something that is helpful as well. So online, live, just getting a flow of ideas, I think is so important. That’s what you’re solving for.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, well, I appreciate your insights today, Brett. It’s really cool to see how you’ve been able to have a big impact both on mentoring advisors and in real life, practical firm discussion, advisory firm level. And also just really helping people pursue continued education, get their CFP and actually master the material that gives them a foundation to sort of apply all this. I really enjoyed it, I really appreciate it, and look forward to having you back again. I’ll let you leave the last word with the audience today.

Brett Danko:
No, just thank you for being on and I laud you for what you’re trying to do, and I think you’re gonna be successful. You’ve obviously been able to solve a lot of questions along the way in your career, but I think you’re gonna keep doing that and anything I can do with that to be helpful that would be great.

Reese Harper:
Well Brett, it’s been fun chatting, man. Really appreciate it. We’ll catch you again soon.

Brett Danko:
Thank you, take care. Bye.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality…

Reese Harper:
You could carry a lot of debt, you can have a lot of stress, you can run a business and feel all the pressure from that, but it’s totally tolerable if you have a good financial plan with adequate liquidity.

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Planning System at getelements.com/meet and schedule a time to speak with one of our friendly financial planning experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Matt Glazer. Elementality is produced by Abby Mortin and directed by Jordan Haines. Have a good one.

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