The three LPL Financial advisors ranked on Barron's Top 100 Independent Advisors list are all seasoned entrepreneurs who built relationship-based practices committed to delivering quality services at the highest standards. The honorees—an Asian-American male and two women—also represent the growing segment of diverse advisors affiliated with LPL. As LPL celebrates Diversity Awareness Month throughout October, Charles Zhang, Susan Kaplan, and Laila Pence—ranked 6, 26, and 38 respectively on the Barron’s list—share insights on how their unique experiences and backgrounds helped them grow successful independent businesses.
Pence, president and co-founder of Pence Wealth Management in Newport Beach, Calif., has been with LPL for 31 years, growing her practice to include more than 30 employees in three offices. A key to success, she says, is hiring people who can relate to clients and are committed to serving their needs. “Once we take on a client, whether small or large, we have to have a servant’s heart to make them feel comfortable and earn their trust,” Pence said.
One way her firm earns trust with clients is through diversity. Among her team, collectively there are eight languages spoken, making financial advice available to more clients. “Minorities in this country can sometimes be scared off by money, and many believe they can only relate to people of the same nationality,” said Pence.
Zhang, managing partner of Zhang Financial in Portage, Mich., agrees. “It’s a free market. People are looking for an advisor who can provide the best value to them. They want someone they can build a relationship with who is both knowledgeable and has a great work ethic,” he said. Zhang also credits his success to hard work. He worked 80 hours a week to establish his business, and joined LPL in early 2008 in a move to put clients first. Today, his fee-only firm has 35 employees.
Kaplan, president of Kaplan Financial Services in Newton, Mass., has more than 30 years of experience as a financial advisor. She said being a woman is often times preferred by clients for the unique viewpoints and traits she has to offer, creating an opportunity in an industry where women are significantly less represented than men.
All three advisors also attribute growth to creating new client relationships based on shared backgrounds and experiences. Kaplan said her involvement in outside activities, such as serving on boards of directors and being a member of a women’s business network, have connected her to new clients. Zhang and Pence echoed that. They are both also invested in their local communities, often volunteering and supporting schools, churches and animal rescue groups. Those personal connections are key, said Zhang, who is often seen around town with his dog, Sparky, the firm’s official Chief Executive “Pawfficer” whose bio’s listed on Zhang Financial’s website.
But the one thing that is universal to the three is the commitment to their clients and passion for their work.
Barron's Top 100 Advisors Award is based on assets under management, revenue produced for the firm, regulatory record, quality of practice and philanthropic work.
Advisor firms listed, Barron’s and LPL Financial are all separate entities.