Wealth Architects Learning & Development: An Interview With Our Chief of Staff
Clegg, when did you join Wealth Architects and what is your background?
I was a consultant for Wealth Architects in 2022 and officially joined as Chief of Staff in February 2023. I’ve been involved in the formation of several startups over the years with the majority of them in the health and nutritional wellness industries. These experiences really helped me advance my leadership and management skills, particularly how to foster successful team-wide collaboration.
Why did Wealth Architects decide to bring on a Chief of Staff now?
Our CEO, Mark T. Johnsen, wanted to advance and align the company’s vision and its execution of our strategic priorities. The Learning & Development initiative is a top priority to cultivate an industry-leading program to better develop our team and serve our clients for greater impact. We’re not building a new program. We’re systematically training our team on the Wealth Architects Way and our proprietary Design for a Wealthier Life Process™, a paradigm for understanding clients’ core life values and constructing financial-life plans that support those beliefs and enhance their overall well-being.
Why is L&D so important to Wealth Architects?
There are two main reasons this is a priority for us.
First, Wealth Architects has done a phenomenal job over the years developing its ideology. Wealth Architects is deeply rooted in values and we want to ensure these values permeate our culture and everything we do. As we grow, it is vital that we communicate the importance of our values to all of our associates. L&D is a huge part of that mission. When we live these values internally at the firm, they extend externally and are felt in our interactions with our clients, partners and community.
Second, we want to build a legacy firm. Our L&D program prepares our associates to perpetuate the firm and to do so authentically. Wealth Architects has been in business for almost two decades and we want to be around for many more. Creating a legacy firm involves thoughtful training, so that our values and quality of service and care endure over time as we continue to operate, expand and bring on new team members. We see Wealth Architects as an institution and we want to put the proper structure in place so that it lasts for generations to come.
What, specifically, is the L&D program teaching WA team members?
L&D’s most critical goal is to ensure that our culture and values are properly passed along to associates in a clear and meaningful way. We teach our team members Wealth Architects’ six core values and how to apply them in their work. I’ll briefly touch on these core values and how our program reinforces them.
1. Building trusted relationships – Trust-building is a significant component of our L&D curriculum and at the heart of how we do business. We’ve recorded each team describing how they have gone about forming authentic, trusted relationships with their clients. This will be an invaluable resource for future trainings and giving each associate a voice in this process.
2. Simplifying the complex – We want to make clients’ lives simpler and that often means dealing with more complexity on our end. For example, we aim to use best-in-class technology systems to centralize client information and simplify the complexity of comprehensive client reviews. We teach our team members how to get the most out of our CRM and other tools to create smooth, efficient workflows and avoid redundancies.
3. Independent, client-centered thinking – Our training includes exercises to instill greater confidence in our advisors and the conviction to challenge, when appropriate, if they feel something is not serving a client well. We empower our advisors to ask deep questions. Plans change – and sometimes for the better – but our job is to ensure our clients’ financial lives are always in harmony with their core values and goals.
4. Serving with care and compassion – We strive for service excellence at all times. We hold a deep belief that strong personal connections with clients promote better understanding of their needs and lead to more effective working relationships. How to always serve with care and compassion is at the forefront of our L&D program.
5. Enhancing well-being – Wealth Architects was founded on a belief that a wealthy life is defined more holistically than how much money we have. Financial resources are important because they give the freedom and control to do what matters most in life and when a person’s money helps to support and enhance their overall well-being, they have a truly wealthy life. We help our clients build what we call a “financial-life plan” and we try to assist them with any needs regarding their finances or general well-being, even if it’s not within the purview of a traditional financial advisor. We want to give our team training on this holistic advice model.
6. Becoming the best we can be – We are committed to never being complacent. We actively seek feedback for improvement, as individuals and as a company serving our clients and community.
What is your approach to teaching?
We have a team-oriented structure based on the “teaching hospital” method. First, we educate our new associates on the technical tools they need to excel in their role. From there, our established associates work alongside them, ready to help with mentorship, resource sharing and, most importantly, hands-on opportunities for development. This philosophy aligns with a favorite adage of mine: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”
New associates are not just observing the meetings, they are participating in them, filtering relevant data, taking notes and helping with follow-up action items. We’ve found this structure builds confidence early on among new associates. The setup is also beneficial to clients, who get a high-touch care environment with quicker service and multiple, knowledgeable team members handling their relationship.
What are the next steps for Wealth Architects?
I’m so excited to continue to work with the team to lay the groundwork for our firm’s growth and longevity. Wealth Architects’ purpose is to be a source of inspiration and enable opportunities that help our clients find greater fulfillment in their lives by aligning their financial resources with their core life values. We’re growing so that we can positively impact more clients and, in doing so, create a cascading effect throughout the greater community. That is the long-term legacy we are working toward.
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