Renowned author and columnist Mary Rowland profiles W. Ben Utley and twenty-one other financial advisors who are leading the industry’s best practices today in her book, The Distinctive Practices of Leading Financial Planners”
Ben Utley has been a “techie” since he began writing software at the age of 10. He is part of a new and innovative circle of financial planner who are far more at ease with technology than their predecessors. In fact, Utley has been running a ‘paperless office’ since the year 2000 and has the ability to run his business from anywhere in the world using his laptop.
Utley’s love of science and technology first led him to study Chemistry at Texas A&M University as an undergraduate. It was during graduate school that he became fascinated with investing. “I found myself hopelessly drawn to finances,” says Utley. His attraction to the world of finance and a desire to set some financial goals for his own family led him to do some research and seek financial advice. Mr. Utley wanted to work with someone who fully understood his needs and it proved to be a struggle finding advisors he felt he could completely trust. Not finding the help he needed, Utley decided to seek further training himself.
After a short stint working for a brokerage selling mutual funds, Utley earned the Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP) designation and set up his practice. He soon found that along with picking investments, his true strengths lay in planning, goal-setting, developing strategies and establishing tactics for his clients and their families.
“Where the client really gains value is in the strategic plan” says Utley, “The planning model is what keeps clients on track when investments become volatile.” While he was seeking advice for his own family during graduate school, Utley wondered if anyone had his best interest at heart. That experience led him to believe that a good relationship with his clients is critical to offering them the best service.
With his background in mathematics, an affinity for numbers and training in Science and Latin, Utley found he had a natural ability to relate to science-minded people and soon found his practice filling primarily with physicians. Many of them commented on the serenity they observed in his paperless office.
After polling 700 members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), Mr. Utley found 12 others who worked the way he did. They formed a Virtual study group in 2003 to exchange information and ideas. Mr. Utley designed his own website, stressing his firm’s independence and showcasing media appearances including a December 2002 article in which Medical Economics names him one of the “150 Best Advisors for Doctors”.
A virtual Financial Planner often relies on outsourcing work to others. As his business continues to grow, Mr. Utley admits he is confident hiring other Virtual professionals to contribute their skills to his business. He will continue to focus on what he does best: building relationships with his clients and helping them to meet their financial goals. “I always try to put myself in my client’s shoes”, says Utley, and he tries to use the same brokers, attorneys, credit cards and investments that he recommends to his clients. In his own words Utley affirms, “I walk my talk.”