realized gains THE JOURNAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH EXPERIENCE
BALANCING ACT One staff member achieves harmony doing well by doing good—and doing what she loves.
Anything but Common®
ealized Gains . . . isn’t that what spring is all about? More sunlight, a renewed sense of energy, and
opportunities that appear to bloom everywhere
CONTENTS VOLUME FOUR • SPRING 2012
you turn. But to take advantage of those opportunities,
you need a single-minded, deliberate focus. And that’s something we at Commonwealth strive for with our client-forwardTM philosophy. Each and every decision we make is from the perspective, “Are we doing enough? Do our advisors and their clients gain from what we do and how we do it? Can we do more?” In this issue, we learn from two advisors why
4 Finding Home An advisor reflects on the Commonwealth culture and how his first National Conference influenced his decision to transition.
they came to Commonwealth and, equally important, why they stay. We also chat with a marketing director at one of our advisor offices and are reminded of the impact giving back has on everyone—family, colleagues, and the community included. And last, but certainly
8 Trading Places CFO Rich Hunter discovers what it’s like working the Commissions desk.
not least, we examine the day Rich Hunter, our chief financial officer, traded places with
Jeff Ramsayer, a Commonwealth commissions officer. How did the switch impact him? Our advisors? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
A Finely Tuned Machine An advisor reflects on how his independence drives his business and motivates his athletic endeavors.
We invite you to discover more about us and our community. As the seasons promise, spring will turn to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter.
And at every turn, Commonwealth is here and willing to help you realize the gains that can
Chemo Caps for Kids
make a difference to you and your practice. If
you’d like to learn more—or just contribute to
A New Level of Understanding
the conversation—we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at 866.462.3638 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Securities and Advisory Services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. This material may not be reproduced or redistributed without prior approval.
CHEMO CAPS FOR KIDS ENTERS ITS SECOND YEAR What began as a way to support a colleague whose son was receiving treatment at Boston’s Dana-Farber Pediatric Cancer Unit has grown into a program that’s helping patients nationwide—from Waltham, Massachusetts, to San Diego, California.
Knitting Hats, Expanding a Community At more than 2,000 hats and counting, we’ve more than doubled our original goal—thanks to our home office staff, our advisors, their staff, and so many friends and families who pitched in to create special hats for some very special children. As news of the program spread, so did participation, prompting Commonwealth’s president, Peter Wheeler, to remark, “This project has gone viral.” How viral? Employees, friends, and families formed knitting parties. One advisor’s office teamed up with a local senior center and made 300 hats. Another office put the word out to friends and family and donated 443 hats. While the mission has always been to help kids feel better about themselves when they experience the hair loss their treatment causes, we’ve been gratified at the extent to which the efforts of so many of us united in a common cause have expanded and strengthened our own community.
“The Commonwealth community has been wonderfully committed to this program, and it keeps expanding with friends and families as more people learn about our mission,” says Paula Caputo, director of professional development at Commonwealth. Sometimes even strangers get inspired, as Carla Lawton, an insurance product consultant at Commonwealth, witnessed firsthand. While visiting with her father in the hospital as he recovered from surgery, Lawton spent time knitting a hat, and a nurse complimented her work: “The nurse commented that she loved my hat,” Lawton explains. “She said that her mom knits and that she wanted to copy my pattern and give it to her. I told her about Chemo Caps for Kids, and 10 minutes later, she returned from copying my pattern with the news that her mom had volunteered to make a hat for us!”
Caring Is in Our DNA “The success of the program has renewed our commitment to continue it into a second year,” says Paula Caputo. Commonwealth now donates hats to 15 hospitals throughout the country, all of which are eagerly awaiting hats for their young patients in the coming year. “We don’t have a goal for a certain number of hats,” Caputo adds. “We just hope as many people as possible will make a hat so that we can help as many youngsters as possible.”
Each hat is an original and often reflects the creator’s passions and personal history. This “Got Fish” hat was made by a Commonwealth employee as she spent time with her father in the hospital. Her effort was noticed by a nurse, who enlisted her mother in the effort, resulting in another hat for another deserving child.
Philanthropy is an important part of the Commonwealth culture, and the success of the Chemo Caps for Kids program is an effort of which our community is particularly proud. If you know of a hospital that could use Chemo Caps for Kids, please let us know by contacting us at email@example.com.
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FINDING HOME Still in his first year with Commonwealth, Scott Cooper remembers how his journey required listening to his internal GPS to guide him to a new home and recalls the experience that confirmed he had truly found it. Scott Cooper had not been to his previous broker/dealer’s annual conferences in eight years. “I used to go every year, but it started to feel like it was the same stuff over and over. I stopped getting much out of it,” he explains. During the last few conferences he attended, he found himself spending much of his free time holed up in his hotel room watching TV. “I simply didn’t want to hang out with the other advisors,” he admits, remembering how this and so many other factors contributed to the realization that it was time to look for a new B/D.
“It Just Felt Right” By contrast, Scott’s first Commonwealth National Conference last year, in Orlando, “was really an eye-opening and rewarding experience.”
platform, and the way it was presented, I just didn’t have the same reaction I would have had at my previous B/D.” What reaction was that? “Well, I signed up for a model management roundtable discussion, and hearing the advisors talk about it was incredible. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, you can do that? That’s really cool! I can see how that could work in our office.’” Of course, the due diligence that had led Scott to Commonwealth in the first place had prepared him for a different sort of B/D experience. “We had already concluded that Commonwealth’s resources would save us money, improve our efficiency, and help us grow our business in ways no one else could offer. But the cultural differences were clear, too. It meshed well with who we are—personally, professionally, and with our clientele.”
Delighting in the Details What was the difference? “It just felt right, deep inside,” says Scott. “The firm provided thought-provoking meetings and sessions that I found incredibly helpful and informative. I also got a personal, one-on-one review of the Client360° technology
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Equally important for Scott was that “Commonwealth bothered with the little things,” citing the personal connections he made at the technology café. “It wasn’t just about selling something. People were simply and refreshingly friendly and helpful. The staff even took time to show me how to do things on my new iPad.”
Another small but important added feature for Scott was the photographer who was on site.
meeting with his staff, he was told over and over how his demeanor had changed.
“As advisors, we don’t have the time and resources to do our own publicity photos,” he explains. “But at National, Commonwealth provided a photographer, and I was able to get copies of the pictures via e-mail for my own press activities and marketing materials. It’s a small thing,” Scott adds, “but it’s really important to me that the firm thought of it.”
“My staff said I was reenergized, like a new person. It was a great feeling because a positive change in me benefits the staff, my practice—and, ultimately, my clients,” he says with a smile. “I hadn’t even realized how much of a funk I had been in.” What advice does Scott offer advisors about finding a new broker/dealer?
People You Actually Want to Hang Out With
“We’re all looking for a place that we can call home, and As for the final night’s event, Scott says, “Wow. It was to get there, you have to listen to yourself about the amazing, on so many levels. It demonstrated to me that the people are serious about what they do but don’t take themselves We’re all looking for a place that we can call home, and to too seriously. And it showed me that while get there, you have to listen to yourself about the direction Commonwealth wants you are going.” to help you grow your business, it also knows direction you are going. Sometimes the journey is long, that there is a flip side to life. What other broker/dealer sometimes it’s short. But the important thing is that you conference invites you to a party where the dress code is get to a place that cares as much about you and your jeans, a T-shirt, and bare feet?” he says with a laugh. clients as you do.” Scott admits that he hadn’t fully realized that he had Scott Cooper, CFP®, CFS®, is vice president of Economic found the perfect broker/dealer for his practice until Concepts in Annandale, New Jersey. arriving back at the office. During and after his debriefing
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BALANCING ACT One staff member connects mind, body, and spirit while having the time of her life
Commonwealth advisors Jim Weiss and Laurence Hale, Weiss & Hale Financial, LLC, have built in their Connecticut-based practice a team of diverse and interesting people who share similar values—a team that mirrors the character of the larger Commonwealth community. Here’s a look at a member of their staff, director of marketing Deirdre Childs, who leads her personal life with the same passion as she applies to her professional one. Plan well. Invest well. Live well. It’s a mantra Deirdre Childs has helped define and promote as director of marketing communications for Weiss & Hale Financial, LLC. And it’s a philosophy she embraces with gusto in her personal life. With the team they’ve built in their Pomfret Center, Connecticut-based practice, Commonwealth advisors Jim Weiss and Laurence Hale have created a community that mirrors the larger Commonwealth one—a diverse group of interesting people who share similar values. Deirdre is a prime example. “I think balance is very important,” comments Deirdre, who says that the underlying principles her firm emphasizes—a holistic approach to wealth planning and investing as keys to achieving life goals—translate to her own concept for living well, too. She explains, “It’s about freeing yourself to go out and enjoy those things that make you comfortable and happy in order to
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become a more energized, positive person.” She’s found a way to achieve this by integrating some of the things she’s most passionate about—sports, nature, education, and volunteerism—into her everyday life.
Trailblazer Mom A mother of two, Deirdre took several years away from her career to devote herself to raising her kids. Her desire to stay involved during that time helped awaken a motivation for giving back. “I realized I needed to look for and create these opportunities.” She recognized one during a routine hike on a trail near her children’s then elementary school. “Looking around, I believed it would be a fantastic place to educate kids to think outside the box and give them a new perspective.” The idea for an outdoor classroom started to take shape in her mind. After garnering some excitement among the school’s teachers and with a Last Green Valley project grant, Deirdre set out with a determination that flows into everything she does to make this happen. With the support of the town’s Conservation and Historic Preservation Committee, she led a group of volunteers in the charge to create an outdoor school equipped with hand-built tree-shaped benches along Connecticut’s Still River. Today, Deirdre still helps maintain the project that allows the elementary school’s art and science staff to hold drawing classes and conduct science experiments along the mile-long trail.
A Family Value Deirdre grew up in a household where there was a strong focus on athletics. Her father was a pole vaulting champion; her brother, a Big East track and field champion at the University of Connecticut; and her sister, a semi-pro
soccer player. For Deirdre, skiing is her sport of choice. “I feel simpatico with the mountains—and I’m connected with myself, with nature, and with my strengths.” Skiing, she points out, is also a great metaphor for life. “It comes down to challenging yourself and riding out the bumps along the way.” Now, working again full time, Deirdre challenges herself by finding ways to combine doing what she loves with doing good for others—and, she says, to encourage this practice in her two children, now a teenager and a preteen. Also an avid biker and runner, she’s made it a point to involve her kids by turning charitable events into family ones. Together, they recently completed a 5K race, raising money to provide mittens and hats to those in need. “Participating in the event was a great way to help my children understand that not everyone has some of the things we often take for granted, and for them to experience how great it feels to do something to help.”
mountain climbing and meditation with a humanitarian visit to the Global Watch Foundation home for orphaned and underprivileged children. “It was deeply rewarding,” she says, “to hold these children’s hands and see the joy they felt from the simplest of gestures.” Always striving to push herself to the next level, Deirdre is just back from Ski to Live, a “mindset” training clinic in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that combines Zen life principles with athletics. Her next adventure? Traveling to Nepal in November on an inspirational trekking expedition with the Peaks Foundation to raise funds for Classrooms in the Clouds, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving educational programs for Nepali children. Deirdre Childs is director of marketing at Weiss & Hale Financial, LLC, in Pomfret Center, Connecticut.
Immersion Learning Last year, Deirdre’s pursuit of personal awareness and life balance through physical endeavors took her to India, where she embarked on a yoga exploration that incorporated
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TRADING PLACES When you call Commonwealth and ask to speak to chief financial officer and managing partner Rich Hunter, you can be sure he’ll answer the phone—sometimes even when you don’t expect it.
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mong the many areas Rich oversees is Commission Accounting, the group responsible for producing advisors’ payout checks from securities and insurance sales activities. Last fall, as football season approached, Rich was excited to be included in the department’s fantasy football league—his first ever. Neither he nor anyone in Commissions could have anticipated that it would conclude as a post-season match-up with the group’s advisor support team.
Building Culture Is a Two-Way Street “Rich enjoys being part of whatever we do,” says commissions officer Jeff Ramsayer of the camaraderie that characterizes the team from the top down and the bottom up. “Everyone in the department feels Rich’s sincerity, even when he says a simple ‘hello.’ And everyone respects him for it—a lot.” Likewise, Rich describes the Commission Accounting group as a fun, energetic one, crediting Jeff for adding a real spark to the team. When the playoffs rolled around in December, Rich’s and Jeff ’s teams were going head to head, and after trading some lighthearted barbs, the two decided on a friendly bet. If Jeff ’s team came out on top
Commonwealth CFO and managing partner Rich Hunter (left) and commissions officer Jeff Ramsayer (right) seem right at home stepping into each other’s shoes for a day.
(which it did!), as reward, Jeff would get to sit in Rich’s office for a day, while Rich would sit in Jeff ’s workstation, answering calls from advisors.
several members of the team, all standing ready to help him handle questions. “He dove right in,” says Jeff. “And I’d say he handled it very well. In fact, better than very well.”
With a chuckle, Jeff says that he wasn’t nervous about his part at all. Then, striking a more serious tone, he reflects on what it felt like to have one of the senior-most people at the company walking in his shoes. “Rich’s attitude going into this was that it was a chance to learn about what goes on day to day. I believe he took away a renewed respect for what we do.”
The whole experience, says Rich, “gave me a real appreciation and admiration for what a front-line person goes through. It’s not easy.” He was pleased that the callers that day shared a similar appreciation for him. “I sent a follow-up note to an advisor a few days later, and he responded by telling me how ‘cool’ he thought the whole scenario was.”
“I actually wanted to lose,” notes Rich, who believed the experience as “Jeff for a day” would be an unforgettable one not only for him, but also for the entire department. He confesses, though, to having some anxiety about it as well. “At Commonwealth, we pride ourselves on providing top-level service.” He says simply, “I wanted to do a good job.”
At the end of business that Friday in December, none of the Commissions crew went straight home. Instead, the team gathered in Rich’s office to rehash the day’s events, rib Rich a bit, and bond over the unique experience they’d shared.
A Team That Has Your Back
“It was a great day,” says Rich, smiling reflectively. “It was a Commonwealth day.”
Rich didn’t have to worry. When the phone rang for the first time, as he answered, “Commissions, Rich Hunter, CFO,” he looked up to find himself surrounded by
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A FINELY TUNED MACHINE Brett Walker is a Commonwealth advisor in New Hampshire with a successful practice focused on qualified retirement plans. He’s also been an avid cyclist for 20 years, but it was a 17-year-old who spurred him to reach for a new level of personal achievement. “I was reading a bicycle magazine and came across a story of this teenager who was competing in the Race Across America,” says Brett. The Race Across America (RAAM)—or, as it’s known in the cycling community, the World’s Toughest Bicycle Race—is not for the average weekend warrior. A 3,000-mile trial that’s one-third longer than the Tour de France, RAAM traverses 12 states and requires riders to cover 350 to 500 miles a day and 170,000 vertical feet. In the process, in each of the past three years alone, RAAM has raised more than $1 million for various charities—causes the organization supports, as well as those supported by individual riders and teams. Brett’s recollection of that day reading his magazine? “I remember thinking, ‘that would be cool to do,’ and then turning the page. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought, ‘how many of us have a list of things in life we think would be cool to do and then just turn the page?’ So I researched how to enter and how to train, and I set my goal on qualifying. I remember thinking that I wanted to do something big.”
The Next Page: “Something Big” Brett achieved his goal in 2007, when, riding solo, he became the first Granite State resident to complete the prestigious race. But, apparently, merely finishing wasn’t enough. As Brett puts it, “I did not have my best race that year. I developed a respiratory infection and ended up going to the hospital in Colorado. I was able to continue the race, but I had lost time and continued to struggle with breathing problems for the next 2,000 miles.” So
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what does a high achiever do after his last high achievement? In Brett’s case, he completed the race as part of a team in 2009, and then competed again in 2011 as a solo rider, when health issues forced him to end the race early. Each year, Brett represents Team Strong Heart® of the Silent Sports Foundation, which raises money for a number of worthy causes. “I’ve ridden in support of Camp Odayin in Minnesota, which provides a great residential experience for children with heart disease, and for the Special Olympics. Through our son, Noah, my wife and I have experienced firsthand the great work of this organization.”
It’s the things you don’t plan for that will be the biggest challenges. All your plans will change as soon as the race starts.”
Keeping All the Wheels Turning How does Brett maintain a successful practice when he’s keeping a 35-hour-per-week training schedule? “I’m pretty focused,” says Brett, with classic understatement. “When I’m there [in the office], I’m not wasting any time. And we’re 90-percent paperless. Technology makes it all possible. A client doesn’t necessarily know I’m e-mailing him from across the country, and there isn’t anything I can’t have access to when I’m sitting in an RV in the middle of the Mojave Desert.” But Brett is the first to point out that even when he’s riding solo, he is supported by an extended and devoted
WEEKEND WARRIORS NEED NOT APPLY RAAM is open to professional and amateur athletes alike. But fair warning: it has more than earned its reputation as the World’s Toughest Bicycle Race. 3,000 miles. 12 states. You must finish in under
team. There’s his crew, following behind in an RV for most of the race. His family and friends. His business partner and staff back at the office. And even his clients, many of whom sponsor him with donations. “They’ll call to wish me luck and say ‘hey, I know you’re getting ready to go, and I don’t want to bother you, but when you get back, can we talk about . . . ?’”
9 days if you’re on a team; you have the “luxury” of 12 days if you’re riding solo. Riders are pushed to the limit of physical and psychological endurance, balancing the need for speed with the need for sleep—and averaging only 2 to 3 hours of rest per night. Says Brett, “It’s a fairly lonely exploit.”
A Lifelong Amazing Race Brett says, “I work for myself, and I set my own destiny. I’ve been able to build my practice the way it works for me. I’m independent,” a philosophy that has served him well in his professional life, as well as in his athletic endeavors. He’s currently considering what his next race will be, but undoubtedly he will continue to be inspired by the Special Olympics oath that is so near to his family’s heart: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Brett Walker is a financial advisor with Financial Strategies Retirement Partners in Salisbury, New Hampshire.
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Commonwealth Financial Network 29 Sawyer Road Waltham, MA 02453-3483 Holliston, MA Permit NO . 20
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A NEW LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING — Carl Bailey In October 2002, the market was in a funk—an all-time
firm had said it was and is—and it proved to be the most
low. Personally, I wasn’t faring much better.
important 45 minutes I have ever had personally and in
Then I, along with one of my biggest clients, went to a
conference held by a broker/dealer that had been in
The speaker that day was Commonwealth’s founder, Joe
contact with me for quite some time. I have to confess
Deitch, a man who set out to create a different kind of
that I attended the conference full of skepticism, certain
broker/dealer and succeeded in ways that are hard to
that the firm was not as personal or unique as it positioned
describe or measure. The relationship the firm provides
itself in marketing materials and in phone calls I received
me—and, ultimately, my clients—goes beyond dollars
from one of the partners. My hunch was that I’d find
and cents. It takes us all to a new level of understanding
enough flaws to keep me and my practice right where
and trust, which we know is a rare find in any industry.
we were—or on the move to find a better fit with one of the two other broker/dealers I was considering.
Today, my relationship with Commonwealth is nine years young, and each and every interaction I have validates
With these doubts in my mind, I sat waiting for the
that my decision to make the move was the right one, at
chairman of the firm to give his speech at the main
the right time, with the right broker/dealer. The firm’s
event. What I heard, I will never forget. He never talked
staff and advisors are unlike any group I have ever known
about the markets or the selloff. He didn’t even talk
in the advisory business, and I am proud to be a part of
this incredible organization.
Instead, he talked about people and emotions, about
There is an ancient saying that goes something like this:
giving and caring. He discussed Eastern philosophy and
“The teacher appears when the student is ready.” And
thinking and the need for basic respect and concern for
that’s pretty much how I feel about finding Commonwealth.
others. In short, he skipped the revenue and business
From the start, it renewed my faith in what I do, how I do
topics and focused on validating the truly human side
it, and, most important, why I do it. And you know what?
of our careers—and, more important, our lives.
You really can’t learn anything more valuable than that.
My client and I left the session stunned by the experience.
Carl Bailey is a financial advisor with Bailey & Beatty
That 45-minute presentation confirmed everything the
Financial Services, LLC, in Danbury, Connecticut.
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