Q&A: Ephie Coumanakos
You often collaborate with clients’ other financial and business advisors to address a client’s financial needs holistically. Can you touch upon the benefits of this model and maybe share a success story?
In my experience, collaboration is the key to success. We start by helping clients prepare their legal affairs and finances in a holistic way, which means working with their accountants and lawyers in unison. Secondly, we help clients and their heirs when life-changing events happen. We engage in conversations with loan officers, realtors, caregivers, whether institutional or private. Often we find that we have to step outside of our assigned “territory” in order to ensure that the interests and needs of our clients are served during challenging times. We aim to provide continuity in our client’s financial affairs when life presents with stressful changes.
Recently, a client needed to relocate due to health issues. I was able to recommend a realtor that they ended up hiring. Once they were in the home sale process, they were unable to sell their home as quickly as they needed, which meant coming together with the client and their realtor and figuring out a plan B– how can we still make this move work for the client? That also meant coming together with their building contractor and assessing what they were and were not committed to financially. In the end, the client was able to make this important move and it is the caring, compassion and collaborative ‘big picture’ thinking that helped get them there.
With their typically longer life expectancies, what steps can women take to secure their financial futures while remaining dynamic enough to handle unexpected financial challenges?
When I begin working with a female investor, I emphasize the importance of financial education, introspection and control. Education is empowering our female clients to understand and control their financial destiny. Involvement by taking charge, breeds confidence and leads to a solid foundation. Fear of the unknown can be debilitating, stepping up is the solution. Make the unknown known. We spend a great deal of time crafting paths forward that engage and endow our female clients to their future.
A core tenet of your practice is holding in-person quarterly meetings with your clients. In an industry that some say is being challenged by robo advisors, why do you think the personal touch still has the advantage?
We are more than just a transaction or performance statistic. There are so many benefits to meeting in person, from reading body language to understanding the client’s anxieties and pressure points. We are not just spitting out a formula against plugged-in numbers. Talking to your clients, knowing what’s bothering them or helping them to figure it out even when they do not know what it is, is something a robo advisor could not accomplish. The feedback that is shared in personal communication is irreplaceable.
The basic premise of a robo advisor is that the investor will be able to provide precise and accurate input to the tool, and that the robo’s algorithm will in turn provide the most “efficient” recommendation based on the provided data. Our experience with investors and observation of markets paint a different picture. Neither markets, nor investors are “efficient” in the way they behave. Robo advisors remove the human element, but they don’t change behavior.
Do you have any advice for the rising generation starting their own investment journey?
Be thankful for the benefit of time, specifically, a long investment horizon. Be systematic in the way you save and invest. You need to inflict a bit of pain to have a meaningful outcome. Debt management early on is critical, minimize and then eliminate. Stick to the plan even when it’s tough, max out your 401k and other savings plans. It’s still your money, it’s just in a different pocket.
What about for women starting out in this field or starting their own practice?
First, we need to get accustomed to using our own voice– it is powerful. Secondly, hard work. ALWAYS be prepared. I have been doing seminars for 15 years. I still prepare ahead of each one. Stay true to your core values, put the client’s interest ahead of your own. Success stories don’t come overnight and there is no magic formula. Discipline is key, don’t be impatient, be systematic and consistent.
Ephie Coumanakos is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Concord Financial Group. She is a graduate of The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1986. In 2001, Ephie returned to The University of Pennsylvania and earned a Master of Science degree in Engineering in the Management of Technology from The Wharton School and Penn Engineering. She began her career in the financial services in 1993.
As a Financial Advisor, Ephie focuses on retirement and pre-retirement planning, asset preservation, wealth management and estate planning. Working closely with clients and their legal and tax advisors, she is able to design customized financial solutions tailored to the client’s specific requirements. Specifically, she works with local attorneys and accountants to help implement tax saving strategies and design estate continuation plans.
In her practice, Ephie uses extensive analysis to profile the investment objectives of her clients, evaluate various investment scenarios, identify expenses within each strategy and quantify portfolio risk to the client. Ephie frequently appears as a speaker at financial workshops that educate the public in retirement and estate planning, long term care options, preservations strategies for tax-qualified and non-tax qualified accounts.
Ephie Coumanakos is a Registered Representative with National Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC and an Investment Advisory Representative with National Asset Management, an SEC registered investment advisor. She uses Concord Financial Group for marketing and/or tax purposes, but offers securities and advisory services through the broker dealer and registered investment advisor mentioned directly above.
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