As a child, Brent Spicuzza remembers wanting to buy stock in Coca-Cola and being told that the number of shares he was planning to purchase was too few to make the investment worthwhile. Later, as a college student, he remembers the frustrations of working with an advisor who did not seem to take him seriously because of his young age. Rather than being defeated by a few disappointments, however, Spicuzza learned some critical life lessons.
After graduating from the University of Missouri eight years ago, Spicuzza, CFP, went into financial planning, determined to treat his clients differently. Along with Mark Caticchio, Spicuzza founded The Planning Associates, LLC, in St. Louis, Mo.
Since its beginning, the company has operated as a partnership that is devoted to cultivating lifelong relationships with clients at whatever point of their life cycle. The group now has six producers: John Cassin, Peter Donovan, Debbie Edwards and Arnold Copeland. Each has brought a distinct expertise to the firm. “Clients today tend to be looking for a team-based approach,” Spicuzza says.
The focus is not on sales or pushing investments, he explains. Before making any recommendations, the team spends considerable time with clients to gain an understanding of their current assets, what they want to accomplish and how they feel about risk. This information drives the qualitative model through asset allocation.
“CLIENTS TODAY TEND TO BE LOOKING FOR A TEAM-BASED APPROACH.”
Formula for flourishing
“We’ve grown from zero dollars in annual revenues eight years ago to north of $1 million today,” says Spicuzza, a staff member of AXA Advisors. His ultimate goal is nothing short of becoming “the most successful wealth-management group in the Midwest.” The key is a highly synergistic style—based upon collaboration and drawing on one another’s strengths to make everyone better. And it is an approach that clearly resonates with clients. The company has gotten to where it is today through referrals and building relationships with existing clients. Recognizing that lead-generation initiatives can be costly and time consuming, he says that he “finds the money is better spent taking care of and retaining current clients.” He notes that it’s not uncommon for a client to refer five or six other people.
The concept of “Love Affair Marketing,” coined by financial-services industry author Ron Carson, serves as a guiding principle at The Planning Associates. It describes an ongoing passion and enthusiasm that creates a bond with clients.
On the fast track
An accomplished triathlete, Spicuzza seems to embody fitness—physical, financial, professional and personal. Rarely missing an opportunity to support a worthy cause, he manages to leverage his rigorous exercise regime into community-service opportunities through participation in local races such as “Heart of America and “Race for Sight.” He also takes part in internship and mentoring programs for new agents.
A member of MDRT and NAIFA-St. Louis, he was recently asked to join AXA Advisors’ Sterling Group, a select group distinguished for exceeding the highest standards of experience, knowledge and service in the industry.
While there has been no shortage of successes over the past several years, Spicuzza hasn’t forgotten about the little investment he was discouraged from making nearly two decades ago. Had he done so, it would have skyrocketed in value. Not surprisingly, he’s viewed the experience as yet another valuable life lesson. He plans to begin teaching his daughters Sophia and Gabrielle at a very early age about how money works and help them achieve the skills they need to be self-sufficient.
They’ll learn that it’s OK to start small, that it’s important to take risks and that there’s a lot to be learned in the losses and the gains every step along the way.