Advisor Spotlight: Jeff Bernier Goes the Extra Mile to Help His Clients Grow

Jeff Bernier
Jeff Bernier is the Founder, President and Chief Investment Officer of TandemGrowth Financial Advisors, LLC, a boutique advisory firm located just outside Atlanta, GA. Advisor Spotlight is a series that features select AdvisoryWorld advisor clients and their practices. As told to AdvisoryWorld.
In 2013, as I was approaching 50, and having worked as a financial advisor for 27 years, I reread Bob P. Buford’s book Halftime and my take on our business changed. Suddenly I realized there was a better way to help my clients through their “Halftime” – a time of transition that can be stressful and difficult. My younger self had assumed that at a certain age, life became simply a tying up of loose ends; but, when I reread Buford at 50, his words took on a new meaning because they were suddenly relevant to my life. Just as I was creating a new chapter for myself, I could help create the same for my clients.
I had entered this business to help people achieve their life goals, but after 17 years of working for a large firm, I discovered that I needed to be independent in order to serve my clients holistically. To translate my vision into a reality and rid myself of a sales culture that pushed products before people, I left the firm with two employees, and founded TandemGrowth Financial Advisors in 2003.
I had always known that I wanted to help more people, but the way to do that was unclear to me until I embraced my second half of life. Many of us live the first half of our lives chasing titles, accomplishments and success. At some point, we begin to realize, these things no longer provide the meaning and significance it once did. At this time it is helpful to go to the “locker room” to regroup and access what an ideal “second half” looks like for us. I realized that in order to achieve my goal of helping more people and fulfill my vision of my ideal second half, I needed to create capacity and margin. I also needed technology.
Like others, I thought that more technology meant dehumanizing my client interaction. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The more technology I integrated into my practice, the more time I had to meet with clients. I spent a year vetting technology partners, focusing on training and onboarding the tools to my practice. I ultimately chose a new CRM system, Redtail, Orion Advisor Services for portfolio reporting and administration, MoneyGuide Pro for financial planning and netdocuments for document management.
I wanted to create an outstanding client experience and make our financial and investment plans transparent for the client. I looked into Orion’s integration partners and AdvisoryWorld stood out. 20 years ago, I had used AdvisoryWorld’s first generation technology, The Wilson Power Optimizer. AdvisoryWorld’s SCANalytics is now available to our clients inside the TandemGrowth Client Portal (powered by Orion) and we use the portfolio analytics tools in portfolio design. We are a goal-focused and planning-driven wealth management firm. We employ an evidence based investment management process using factor-based asset class mutual funds and ETFs. Our clients like to see the underlying holdings in these products, and AdvisoryWorld’s technology lets them drill in and see each underlying asset in a format that is not only informative but also easy to read.
Our industry is becoming more commoditized on the investment management side, and a way to combat this is to use technology to our advantage to make our work more human. If you use a holistic approach as we do, you have to be more efficient on the investment management side. Many clients want broader coaching around bigger life issues. I’ve met with consultants who have advised us to segment our business and offer financial planning “light” to a broader audience. We have rejected this as we prefer to go deeper in a niche, and be the best we can for mid-to-late career executives, in order to offer them the holistic planning they need.
The second half of our lives can be challenging: retirement, lay-offs, loss of a spouse or loved ones, even our own health issues. I’ve learned that as human beings we are often reluctant to change. It’s often in those times of challenge that we have no choice but to re-evaluate our lives and determine what matters most. This can be a tremendous opportunity to grow. It is an opportunity to determine how to make the “Second Half” the “Best Half”. Our mission is to help our clients create the capacity – the margin and resources – to pursue their vision of a meaningful life.