An Interview with Ryan Belanger and Jennifer Street at Claro Advisors
Our CEO, David Snider, sat down with Ryan Belanger, Managing Principal & Founder, and Jennifer Street, Chief Operating Officer, at Claro Advisors, to learn more about their business and their advice to clients. Claro Advisors is a Boston based financial advisory firm on the Harness Wealth platform.
Ryan and Jennifer, it’s great to sit down with you. Let’s start by talking about what differentiates Claro from other advisors.
Ryan Belanger (RB): One reason I started Claro was because I believed there was a better way to serve clients. I was classically trained at a major Wirehouse firm and that gave me great insights into best and worst business practices. At our core, we strive to always do the right thing for our clients. Their interests are always our first priority.
Jennifer Street (JS): Two things—our age and our breadth of expertise. First, we’re younger than most advisors with an average age of under forty and with several high achieving primary relationship managers under the age of thirty-five. Also, as a result, we are on the cutting edge of advisor technology, which allow us to provide a more efficient service that enhances the client experience.
Our second differentiator is the backgrounds of our advisors. Our small-group client teams have a well-rounded bench of experience. Our advisors come from big firms, small firms, Wirehouses, accounting and law backgrounds, and even local banks. With an industry that keeps changing, we notice that unique backgrounds make use more able to adapt to changes and keep an open mind in problem solving. Additionally, with lawyers, CPAs, CFPs and CFAs on the team, there is no technical issue outside of expertise.
“[It’s] no different than going to the gym or starting other healthy habits- investing takes time to see the results. We encourage diligence and patience with our clients’ habits.”
What types of clients do you focus on with your offering?
JS: We tend to fit really well with clients that are still working but nearing, or thinking about, retirement. Our retirement planning process is robust, and we feel very well equipped to handle these cases.
Also, we enjoy helping clients earlier in their careers that are having their first windfall—whether that’s a big earning year, equity compensation or liquidity event, we work very well with those types of clients and enjoy helping them set the foundation for their lifelong financial plan.
What were your biggest learnings from 2018 (related to the financial markets)?
RB: 2018 was a reminder year. It reminded us that imbedded in markets is risk and that risk can be painful. We are well into the longest bull market in history and lest people forget that investing in stocks and bonds carries risk to their capital. If your accounts did worse than you thought they should have, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your risk tolerance.
What are your views over the next 12 months?
RB: Candidly, my view is that very few people will have accurate predictions for the stock and bond markets. At Claro, we are focused on making sure our clients risk tolerance matches their asset allocation and then we use long term historical benchmark returns drive the financial plan to inform us if our clients are on track to meet their goals or if there is work to be done on the clients part.
What are you hearing from clients going into 2019?
JS: Everyone senses that we’re at the end of the cycle, or top of the market, or however they want to phrase it. Clients seem tentative about entering the market, and for good reason. Folks are squeamish about investing cash and many with deep bull market gains are wondering how to reposition. We encourage them to have their long-term financial plan and goals inform their investment decisions and not let short term concerns derail their “fundamentals.”
“With an industry that keeps changing, we notice that unique backgrounds [of our advisors] make use more able to adapt to changes and keep an open mind in problem solving.”
What is the biggest financial risk that you believe is being under-reported?
JS: We are primarily concerned about the amount of corporate debt and related share buy-backs that have arguably propped up the US stock market in recent years. Due to low interest rates, companies have borrowed far more than they ever had in the history of the US economy. They took the borrowed funds and paid dividends or bought back shares, which is a way to create a better EPS and appear more valuable. When this ends it could let a lot of air out of the market.
What is the best piece of advice you share with your clients when discussing their financial futures?
RB: Play the long game. No different than going to the gym or starting other healthy habits- investing takes time to see the results. We encourage diligence and patience with our clients’ habits. And don’t forget to set your goals, without which you are unlikely to meet them.
JS: One of our advisors, Bob Dockendorff, recently published an article about how applying a handful of “core stoic principles could provide a sound guide for major wealth management decisions”. I couldn’t agree with him more:
- Delay Gratification
- Control Your Emotions
- Keep Long-Term, Big Picture Perspective
- Take Effective Action
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