How one LPL advisor served his clients while taking the trip of a lifetime
LPL Advisor Council member Christopher Rand, MSFS, CFP®, AIF®, CLU®, of FIDES Wealth Strategies Group, and The Wealth Consulting Group in San Diego, CA, had a goal: take his family on an epic RV road trip across the country. And with LPL’s and his team’s support, the right technology, and careful planning, Chris made it happen. Even better, his lessons from working on the road set him up for success to work remotely throughout the pandemic.
Preparing for the journey
Chris and his wife, Karen, started planning their cross-country journey eight years ago and began putting in place the necessary pieces to make it happen. “I wanted to build my practice to the point where I could be remote,” he says, “so I put together an action plan with several steps that I wanted to accomplish before the trip.”
First, Chris made the decision to affiliate with the Wealth Consulting Group — one of LPL’s largest RIAs — to ensure he had backup support while out of the office.
“The group has full-time trading and financial planning departments, so I knew there would always be someone who could field client calls and handle trades if needed,” Chris says.
Chris also hired a junior advisor a year before his trip so his clients would have access to someone they were already familiar with in his absence.
“We met together with every single client over the year, so my clients were already comfortable with her by the time I was ready to start my trip,” he says. “I also had two admins, along with my business partner, who were able to respond to clients if needed, so I knew any client concerns would be ably addressed.”
Working across America
With his support infrastructure in place, Chris and his family left San Diego on April 28, 2019, RV packed and ready to go, with a Jeep in tow.
“We hit 44 states and seven Canadian provinces,” says Chris, “and were on the road for 98 nights. We stayed in campgrounds, both in national parks and near major cities so we could hit all the significant American sites. Altogether, we drove 12,300 miles and another 3,500 in the Jeep where we couldn’t take the RV.”
Chris did his due diligence ahead of the trip to ensure he had the technology tools necessary to continue to work on the road, but in case there were times when he wasn’t easily accessible, Chris planned to always be in a location where he could work every Wednesday.
“That way, my team knew they could set client calls or video conferences for Wednesdays without having to check with me or work around our travel schedule,” he says. “It turned out that we needed very few actual meetings, but it was a great framework to have in place.”
Chris also ensured he could return calls or emails within the business day and would even conduct virtual meetings from his RV “office.”
“Obviously, all my clients knew I was on the road with my family, but I made sure to provide a professional client experience nonetheless,” he says. “My office phone would automatically forward to my cell phone, and if I called clients from my cell, it would show my office phone number. As far as the client was concerned, if I wasn’t on video, they wouldn’t necessarily have known I wasn’t sitting in my office, which is exactly what I wanted.”
Chris’ mobile office worked quite effectively with almost no issues whatsoever. “I was surprised at just how smooth it went,” he says. “Prior to our long trip, I’d done a three-week one on the West Coast as a test case, so I knew it was possible, but I still figured there would be some fires I’d need to put out. But I didn’t have a single major issue the entire three months.”
Going remote, for a different reason
Because of his experience on the road, Chris was ready for a flexible work environment when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I knew just how easy it was to work remotely, so the transition to working from home and using the automated phone system was seamless,” he says. “In fact, my kids did some Zoom calls for school from the road, so we were also already familiar with that setup—and trying to have multiple people on video calls at the same time. I got used to meeting with clients using video conferences and having a professional setting, regardless of my location.”
The only concern Chris had was doing video conference meetings indefinitely, as some of his older clients were somewhat resistant to it when he introduced it to them during his road trip.
“But the pandemic has changed all that, since they’re all using it to keep in touch with their grandkids,” he says. “Now, they’re very open to it, which allows me to connect with all of my clients face to face, even if we’re not meeting in person.”
Ultimately, Chris’ experience made him realize just how flexible his job can be. “I still have more than 10 years until I hit retirement age, but now, after this trip, the thought of working beyond retirement age has become more attractive,” he says. “Obviously, you want to be in person with clients when they have major life changes to discuss or significant planning issues and strategies to plan for, but a lot of what we do can be effectively done from almost any location.”
Chris hopes to continue to travel in the years to come, taking his business on the road with him, and encourages his colleagues to explore their interests as well. “Taking an RV across the country may not be what you want to do, but maybe there are sites you want to see that you just haven’t gotten to because you’re concerned about work,” he says.
“Rather than taking one week off and completely being offline, take a two, three, or even four-week break and check in more regularly and make yourself available to clients if needed. Explore what’s possible, I already have three non-RV trips planned for summer 2021 to check off the remaining two states we have not visited as a family, Hawaii and Alaska.”
Growth as a traveling RIA advisor — with LPL’s support
In addition to ensuring he has the flexibility to continue traveling with his family, Chris, an Advisor Council member at LPL, has other significant goals for his practice after 25 years in the business, chief among them a transition to RIA-only.
With LPL’s help, he recently made the switch. “LPL’s endorsement of the channel made it happen for me,” he says. “I really like LPL — I think it’s an incredible firm — so I was excited that I didn’t have to leave LPL to be an RIA-only advisor. I think it’s great that LPL is so supportive of advisors and multiple business models, so we can choose the model that works the best for us and drives toward our growth goals.”
In the future, Chris plans to continue growing his RIA-based practice by working with pre-retirees and retirees with $2 to $5 million in assets under management. At the same time, this trip won’t be his last.
“Our career is unique and gives you the ability to do unique things like going places maybe the rest of the world isn’t,” he says. “I feel fortunate that I can both serve my clients well and spend time exploring the world with my family.”
To hear more about Chris’s experience — including his favorite spots and fun stats from his trip — feel free to reach out to him via email.