Imagine a classic pub, it’s the heart of happy hour and the place is packed with personalities of all types. Matt Wolniewicz the President of Fi360 and J.D. Carlson of The Retireholi(k)s are sitting in a corner booth. An Ice cold beer in a proper pint glass will enhance their Q&A conversation. They take their first sip and begin to talk shop….
J.D.: I’m fired up to get this chance to sit down with you and pick your brain about the industry, Fi360 and life in general.
Matt: Happy to do it J.D., where would you like to start?
J.D.: Well….I want you to know that this was first intended to be a written Q & A piece where The Retireholi(k)s interviewed you as a group.. But, let’s be honest,…I am really the face of The Retireholi(k)s and those guys are just back up. You know what I mean? I’m the Justin Timberlake to their *NSYNC. So, I hope it’s okay that it’s just me for today?
Matt: Ummmm…well…I’m not sure I entirely agree with your *NSYNC analogy, but yes I am okay with the interview just being the two of us.
(J.D. takes a sip of his beer, regardless of what Matt said he still thinks of himself as the Justin Timberlake of 401(k)…the frothy foam sticks to the mustache of his beard, it’s clear that his face hasn’t seen a razor in many months, licking away the foam he fires off his first question…)
J.D.: Let’s get started, Fi360 has come out with quite a few new things and improvements in recent times, but tell me what you see for the future of Fi360? What’s next?
Matt: First of all, we’re really excited about the conference this year because it’s Fi360’s 20th anniversary and the 15th anniversary for Conference and we think that’s pretty spectacular. We believe our conference is different from others because it’s the single largest gathering grounded in fiduciary best practices. Professional development and continuing education requirements for the AIF® and AIFA® Designations are at the core of the event, followed by best practices to grow advisory business and finally, the ability to connect and network with other like-minded professionals. Going forward, organizing future conferences will continue to be a priority for us. When I look ahead, our designations in particular the AIF® Designation, will remain central to our overall mission. We want it to stay relevant and grow the overall awareness of the designation both inside and outside the industry. With all the potential legal and regulatory changes, it is also very important that our training programs evolve.
J.D.: Those are great insights. You know what’s cool about legit designations, is that they can really help raise the overall brand of our industry. We need clients to see advisors for who they are, true professionals that hone their craft. Our space is in a constant flux, so education and training are so important, dude.
Okay, take a sip of beer, because this is a serious question and I need your full attention. What’s your favorite YouTube show that combines beer, fun and 401(k) talk?
Matt: (Breaks out into laughter) Well, that’s an easy one. Of course, it’s The Retireholi(k)s!
J.D.: Wow! That’s completely unexpected and quite the honor. Thank you. So, talk to me about the actual users of Fi360’s products. Would it be crazy to say that many of them don’t use the system to its full extent? What I mean is, could they get more out of it?
Matt: I think that is a very fair statement. It has been my experience that many times advisors will buy into a solution to do ‘a’ thing. What I mean is that one specific area needs improvement, so they invest in a solution to fix that one thing. The challenge for us is getting the advisor’s attention and increasing their awareness of all the tools and support we offer. We need to be vigilant in educating them on everything available from Fi360. One of the ways we do that is through our incredible, Pittsburgh-based support team that reaches out to advisors with a one-on-one approach. Fi360 is so much more than just a training and fund scoring company. We want our advisors to take full advantage of the whole program and to become super fiduciaries.
J.D.: Oooo, I like that. Maybe you can give out capes! I believe you have a unique perspective on our industry. You must hear and see things from all kinds of different angles. Tell me how you see the future of our industry?
Matt: Well, I believe the space is going through lots of change. According to Financial Advisor^, 38% percent of plan sponsors are looking for a new advisor. If people think there is no more opportunity in the 401(k) space, they are really going to miss out. Turning a blind eye to all this would be a mistake. The time to capture market share is now.
^ More Retirement Plan Sponsors Unhappy With Advisor, Financial Advisor Retrieved from https://www.fa-mag.com/news/dissatisfaction-with-retirement-plan-sponsors-increases–study-says-34437.html
J.D.: What else?
Matt: Well, you’ve got the retirement readiness push, you’ve got financial wellness, both are very significant. Equally important is a real need for advisors to differentiate themselves and break the old stereotypes that come with this industry. We are seeing a lot of new, exciting personalities and the experienced advisors are getting better at telling their unique story, I believe these trends will continue to evolve and I’m excited for the next generation of advisors. I’ve got a daughter who is a college freshman and I’ve been encouraging her to get into the financial planning side, just because I think there is such a great opportunity. But the idea of distinguishing themselves and doing things differently, I believe that is the main thing and that’s going to be a big key to advisor success going forward.
J.D: Tell me the truth Bro, is it cool to the be the fancy big boss guy?
Matt: (sheepishly responds) Um…no. Because, I’m not really the ‘Big Boss Guy’. I don’t have a personality where I am a top-down guy. I’d rather be a bottom-up kind of guy, I want to understand things from the client level, whether it’s the calls that come into the support line or with our technology team trying to figure things out. It’s those types of core operations that I am trying to always understand and assist with. Usually my job when I am in Pittsburgh is as the guy who picks up the pizza boxes in the conference room when the meeting is done.
J.D.: So, what you are really saying is that Blaine has all the power?
Matt: Hahaha. Yes, I am absolutely saying that.
J.D.: How old are your kids?
Matt: Ummmm…let’s see, 21, 18 and 13.
J.D.: Dude, no way? That’s so cool! Mine are 20, 17 and 14, so we are in the same boat for sure. Tell me, what do your kids think about what you do for a living?
Matt: That’s a funny question. Jeez, if I really think about it, the thing my kids like more than anything is when their dad is quoted in the press or on social media. You know if I get interviewed or something, they think that’s kind of cool. They all follow me on social media and even though they may not really understand exactly what I do, they are still interested and supportive. I love them for that.
J.D.: Since you brought it up, let’s talk a bit about social media from a business perspective. What role does social media play in your life?
Matt: It’s all very interesting to me. I try to spend about a half an hour in the morning and again at night, just catching up on all the industry press and happenings. It’s good for me because I feel like I get a broad perspective on everything that’s going on. In terms of social media output, it’s a great medium for me to share the things that are important to me. My kids make fun of me all the time asking me why I have so few followers. To be honest, I don’t use social media as an obligation, I’m not using it to promote Fi360 or even my personal brand. It’s less of a business commitment for me and more just learning and sharing from a personal perspective.
J.D. Those are great points. I agree and I disagree. I agree that social media is so freaking cool from a news standpoint. Whether you are on Linkedin or Twitter, to be able to just scroll through and stay up to speed on all industry things is insanely efficient and invaluable. However, I’m thinking everybody in the financial services industry needs to better understand the power of social media in terms of marketing, branding and client acquisition. TV, radio, direct mail, steakhouse seminars are rapidly being replaced by a more effective social media approach. You talked about missed opportunities earlier, I believe that this will be the biggest missed opportunity of all. On a positive note, the advisors that take advantage of social will be massively rewarded.
J.D.: The Retireholi(k)s have never been to Nashville and country music really isn’t our thing. Any advice on what to see and do? What not to miss?
Matt: Wow, really? Oh, you guys are going to love it. My best advice would be to just get out and walk around. Don’t stay in the confines of the hotel. The city is super walkable, it’s safe and easy to navigate. Two blocks from the venue is Broadway and it’s full of open-air venues, music and has such a great vibe. Also, you need to know that it’s all kinds of music, not just country. I have heard some awesome rock bands in Nashville. So, my advice is to get out of the hotel and go explore.
J.D: One final and very important question. IPA, Pilsner, Stout or Hefeweizen?
Matt: Oh, that’s easy, my favorite is by far a Hefeweizen.
J.D.: What! Are you serious? I am all about the Hefeweizen. Bro, you garnish that bad boy with an orange slice and you’re in heaven. Thanks for your time Matt, its been a lot of fun getting your insights.
Matt: Anytime J.D., you tell those other Retireholi(k)s that I said Hi. Cheers! (clink of the pint glasses)
*Disclaimer – It should be noted that this interview did not really happen in a cool pub. It was done via boring video conference. J.D. felt the fictional setting made it seem more fun.