How I’m Solving My Practice’s Capacity Issue

I was looking to create a clone of myself and my daughter was looking for a new career. Now we’ve teamed up, carefully.

By Bridget Venus Grimes
Bridget Grimes
Bridget Grimes

I run what is essentially a solo fee-only financial planning and investment management firm. Launched in September 2016 without a single client, my firm now has $90 million of assets under management and serves 65 client households. I consider the firm successful because I have achieved the service goals I’ve set for my clients goals and the personal compensation goals I’ve set for myself. However, I have been at capacity for some time and this has made it difficult to continue to provide the deep level of client service I pride myself on.

When I launched the firm, my goals were to serve who I wanted, the way I wanted, and to pay myself what I was worth. I didn’t have a specific size firm in mind and I had no interest in building an ensemble firm. I just wanted to serve my client base well and provide a good living for myself and my family. I have been fortunate that my efforts have been successful.

I largely attribute this success to how I’ve focused on the financial-planning piece and outsourced the other functions I need to run my firm. This has given me time to focus on clients and growth. I delegate operations, compliance, portfolio management, trading, bookkeeping, financial planning and fintech software though the Equita community/platform I co-founded.

However, I have never wanted to delegate the financial planning that I provide my clients.

My Growth Solution

Financial planning is the part of my business that gives me greatest joy. I love the deep, personal client relationships I have developed over years. I get great satisfaction watching my clients achieve their goals and live life on their terms. But as I told [advisor and industry educator] Michael Kitces in September, having delegated nearly all aspects of my firm, I now needed support with my financial planning.

Marnie Bonner and Bridget Grimes
Marnie Bonner and Bridget Grimes

So, when I looked for a solution to helping my capacity issue, I looked at basically creating a clone of myself. I’d need to trust this person, believe they were empathetic, have all the qualities of a terrific financial planner, and a great work ethic. And then, my 26-year-old daughter, Marnie Bonner, entered the picture.

On January 1, 2024, she started as an associate financial planner at my firm, WealthChoice.

Marnie was not already in our industry. In fact, she was in a financial role at a tech company. She graduated from college several years ago with a business degree and interned at financial services firms while still in school. She had a rough idea of what my firm does, but a very high- level understanding of financial planning.

Testing the Waters

Over the past few years, my daughter and I had talked casually about her joining my firm. During this period, she was motivated to use her free time and her own money to take the full coursework for the CFP designation. Our conversations became more detailed and she began interning for my firm, sitting in on client meetings. I could see that she was truly interested in the planning work I did and felt that she is a perfect fit for our client base.

To make our working relationship official and professional, my daughter signed a letter of intent in mid 2023 and began working full time for us two months ago.

Marnie Bonner and Bridget Grimes
Marnie Bonner and Bridget Grimes

When I speak about my team, I am referring to the 1099 relationships I have with terrific industry partners. These folks are all experts in their space and I didn’t have to train them about the industry in order to incorporate them into my firm.

Hiring my daughter was a different story.

I don’t consider myself a good manager of people. I have high expectations of myself and my team. And I have no experience training anyone who lacks industry experience. So, before I brought my daughter on, I wanted to make sure I had an onboarding plan. Bringing her onboard was going to be a large expense for my firm and I wanted to make sure she was successful and up to speed as quickly as possible.

It Takes a Village

One of the things I love about our industry is the willingness of our peers to share with one another. To get help with onboarding I reached out to a colleague who runs an ensemble firm. He had brought his son on two years ago, for very similar reasons. My colleague shared everything — from his onboarding plan, to how days and weeks are structured. He also shared what he wished he had done, and what has worked or not worked.

I also reached out to Dimensional Funds, which has an outstanding practice management team. These folks spent hours with me discussing onboarding and providing me with resources to help with onboarding, compensation and the path to full advisor status.

Other industry contacts directed me to CFP Board resources, which are also invaluable.

Using all these resources, I created a detailed onboard plan and path for my daughter.

‘Second Chair’

Bridget Grimes and Marnie Bonner
Bridget Grimes and Marnie Bonner

My daughter will essentially be playing the role of second chair. For now, she is focused on learning as much as possible about financial planning and all the resources we use in planning. We created four areas for her to focus on: shadowing in client meetings, administrative work, basic and technical proficiencies, and completing her CFP.

Our goal is that within six months of working together, she should aim to take on roles in our client meetings. At 12 months, we expect her to lead client annual reviews. Also at 12 months, we would like to transition five clients to her to manage on her own. Ultimately, I hope she can lead the firm.

All in a day’s work

Shadowing involves sitting in every client meeting, listening and taking notes. Our client base is virtual so our meetings are conducted over Zoom. My daughter creates the follow-up email to all clients. In most cases, she is also helping with meeting prep.

We’ve had really wonderful client feedback when we’ve introduced my daughter in our meetings. Our clients are genuinely happy to know there is a continuity plan, even though I don’t plan to retire anytime soon.

We have an operations team so I do not plan for my daughter to spend time on paperwork. However, I do see value in her understanding how paperwork is completed. This has helped her better understand our client onboarding process, our review process, and how we interact with our collaborators.

We use Advyzon for workflows, portfolio performance management and CRM. Marnie has been instrumental in creating new workflows for our client processes. She is also helping us improve our basic and technical proficiencies.

For example, we use software to help us with financial planning and I have not fully utilized all its functions. One of the goals for my daughter is to master this software to help us with improve efficiencies.

Career Development

We have also hired a business coach to help my daughter with goals setting, client behavioral coaching and other priorities.

The fourth area my daughter is focusing on is earning her CFP® designation. Early on in our conversations about working together, I shared that I would require her to earn the designation. As I mentioned earlier, she took it upon herself over the past two years to go through the CFP test coursework. She sits for the exam next month.

My goal had been for her to earn the credential within two to five years of starting with us, but she is focused on attaining it sooner. We consider study time as part of her job, so she carves out time for test prep courses and study time during the week.

The next generation

As a female CFP running my own firm, my goal for my daughter is not just to ultimately be my business partner, but to succeed as a woman in our industry.

Financial planning still struggles with attracting and retaining women. Owning your own firm is one way women can succeed in the industry. In my daughter’s case, I feel she is fortunate to be able to have a custom position in a firm that was truly my personal solution for managing the challenges women in our industry have.

Have I had concerns bringing my daughter on? Yes.

I never want our relationship to be affected in any way by what happens in our business. Family comes first in my family. My daughter and I have discussed many times that work time is for work, and family time is for family. We try to create barriers that we both respect.

That said, I have no doubt that she will be successful.

I could not be prouder of introducing my daughter to our clients and sharing the future of our firm with them. We will continue to grow WealthChoice, together, and to provide great financial planning to our clients, together. And hopefully over time she will prove to be a model for other women financial planners in our industry.

Bridget Grimes, CFP, is the president of WealthChoice, a boutique financial life planning firm for women executives, and co-founder of Equita Financial Network, a collaboration of women-led financial planning firms. She is also author of the bestseller “Corner Office Choices: The Executive Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom.” She believes in empowering women through education, collaboration and support so that they have the confidence to take action for a better life. Bridget can be reached at bridget.grimes@wealthchoice.com.

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