8 Things to Consider Before Joining a BRI Advisory Firm
There has never been a better time to be a Christian advisor focusing on faith-based, or biblically responsible investing (BRI). When Beacon Wealth Consultants began implementing BRI in 1997, the number of firms specializing in it could be counted on one hand and there was only one fund company trying to offer BRI funds. Fast forward to 2022 and there are hundreds of advisors offering faith-based investing to their clients, dozens of BRI fund choices from several different providers, and several BRI portfolio managers. Praise God!
Even with this increased growth, advisors practicing faith-based investing are still a minority, even among Christian advisors. If you are a Christian advisor who would like to bring faith-based investing to your clients, the easiest way to start is to join a firm that already specializes in this way of investing. With several great firms to choose from, you must think carefully about what you are looking for and understand the unique aspects of each firm to find the best fit.
The things you might consider broadly fall into two categories: function and fit. “Function” considerations are those things that will enable you to provide excellent service to your clients. “Fit” considerations are those things that help you find a firm that aligns with your philosophy and the kind of team you want to join. Here are 8 things to consider when looking for a BRI advisory firm to join.
When looking at advisory firms to join you will want to consider the compensation model of each firm. Will you be paid commission on products sold or will you be charging fees for advisory services? What is your payout? Many advisors are already considering making the switch from commission to fee-only advisory services so choosing a fee-only BRI advisory firm can be an effective way to accomplish both objectives simultaneously.
Another important “function” consideration is what services will the firm provide for you. Will they help with compliance, operations, portfolio management, and marketing? What technology platforms do they offer for you to serve your clients? Do they offer training and coaching to their advisors? You want to ensure that the firm can offer the right mix of technology and services to allow you to focus on serving your clients and growing your business.
There are an endless number of financial planning situations that can arise as your serve your clients. No single advisor can be an expert in everything. Another helpful consideration when evaluating advisory firms is the level of expertise at the firm that can be leveraged to help your clients. Are there CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ to help with comprehensive financial planning? Are there CFA®s and CIMA®s focusing on managing the portfolios and investments of the firm’s advisors? If you’d like to work with retirement plans, does the advisory firm have teammates with the AIF or CPFA designation? Having access to a CPA can be beneficial for tax questions. Finding an advisory firm with a deep bench of expertise can benefit you and your clients.
We are now in more subjective territory as you consider which firm is the best “fit” for you. There is no single, shared definition of biblically responsible investing and how it should be implemented. This movement has grown, and different firms and fund providers have different philosophies on how to best implement BRI. As an advisor looking to join a faith-based investing firm, you need to understand your own convictions about this way of investing and the philosophies of the firms you are considering. For example, is faith-based investing the only way the firm invests or is it an option in addition to secular investing strategies or other ESG/SRI strategies? Do you feel so strongly about faith-based investing that you would only want to offer this option?
Beyond investing, how does the firm integrate faith into the entire financial planning process? Does the firm help educate clients on stewardship, giving, and other faith-based financial topics?
Firms also differ in how outspoken they are in advocating for faith-based investing in the public square. This impacts how potential clients, and the general public, may perceive the firm. You may want to reflect on what best fits your own philosophy about advocating for faith-based investing and how you want to be perceived as a member of the firm.
Part of a firm’s philosophy is how they screen their investments. Most faith-based investing firms are using screens to remove certain companies or industries. Does the advisory firm screen based only on the products and services provided by a company, or do they also screen out companies using corporate funds to advance unbiblical practices? For example, do they only screen out the companies involved in the abortion industry, or do they also screen out companies donating to Planned Parenthood and advocating for abortion rights? What industries does the firm screen out? Do they allow some industries or activities that other firms do not? What are your own convictions in this regard?
The flip-side of negative screening would be seeking companies that are making a positive impact through their products, services, and business models. Are the firms you are considering just focused on negative screening or do they also seek out God-honoring companies to invest in?
As mentioned, there is some honest disagreement within the BRI movement about the best way forward, but you should know your own priorities and find a firm that aligns with them.
A related consideration is how the advisory firm implements its faith-based investment strategy. Does the firm construct and manage its own portfolios for you to use or will you need to manage the portfolios yourself? Does the firm mainly employ proprietary funds in their portfolios or are they independent and free to choose from all available options? How do they balance implementing faith-based investing with their fiduciary duty?
What types of clients do you want to serve and are the firms you are considering serving those people? Whether you want to focus on high-net-worth families, middle class families, retirement plan sponsors, or a more defined niche group, you will want to find a firm that can help you find and serve your ideal client.
Companies have cultures that drive how they build their team, interact internally, and create a sense of belonging. As you look at potential firms to join, you want to try to gauge the company culture since you want to find a culture that supports and fits you best. Some firms are more hands-off, with advisors operating more-or-less independently. Other firms are more intimate and try to create a more collegial, team-based feel. And then there is everything in between! You can ask the firms what activities they offer to help build the team. Do advisors interact with each other, pray for each other? Do advisors have access to company leadership or not? What is the long-term vision of the company? Knowing what type of culture you want from an advisory firm and finding a firm that fits you is important.
As you consider joining a faith-based advisory firm, know that we are praying for more advisors just like you to join the movement! Most Christian advisors practicing faith-based investing did not start out that way. If you need encouragement as you begin this journey, please reach out to us to chat or pick up Cassie Laymon’s book where she talks about her own journey. The Lord has blessed us along the way and we have never looked back. What a joy it will be for our clients and for us to get to heaven one day and be told “Well-done, good and faithful steward!”
If you’re interested in finding out more about joining Beacon Wealth Consultants and asking us your own “function” and “fit” questions, you can find more details in our Advisor Brochure or contact us to start a conversation. God bless you on your journey!