Five Questions with Christine KonvolinkaSubmitted by Signator on April 26th, 2018
Getting paid to do something you love is a good sign that you've chosen the right profession. For Christine Konvolinka doing what she loves is key to her success and running her business in a paperless environment is what's keeping her practice running smoothly. A career that started with Banc One Securities, a transition to registered representative a year later coupled with the desire to help people plan for their financial future landed Christine in a role she truly loves. Her target market is employer-sponsored plans, some of which she's serviced for over 20 years.
Tell us about your philosophy "I don't have a job, I just help people every day."
I sincerely enjoy what I do because when I walk into my office, I never know what will come up that day. Whether I'm helping someone enroll in their 401(k) plan, handling a spousal death claim or an inheritance, talking to a client about purchasing a car for her son, or simply discussing the purchase of a new air conditioner - I don't feel like I have a job, I am simply helping people and providing the highest level of service I can.
Today I might write a large case because a client has asked me to manage all their outside assets through Signator (money outside of a 401(k) plan I manage for them), and tomorrow I might be asked to help someone with their budget. Building my client base and assets under management has afforded me the opportunity to help others and not worry where the next big case is coming from. Being able to help people in a variety of ways is what makes it fun and exciting.
While it may not feel like a "job" you do take client data collection very seriously. How has that made a positive impact on your business?
Making sure I collect every piece of information about my client's assets is protocol. From life insurance, to what they owe on their home, including the interest rate they pay, all their monthly expenses, retirement goals, educational goals for their children, even hobbies that cost them money. I ask about everything leaving nothing on the table.
As fiduciaries, it's important that we gather all relevant information. I often explain to clients that it's okay if they have assets somewhere else, but knowing what those assets are allows me to properly analyze their current financial situation. By collecting all the data up front, and reviewing those assets over time, I'm building mutual trust with my clients - their other assets may move over to me in time if it's in their best interest. Knowing the entire picture protects advisors as well. If a potential client isn't comfortable providing me with a picture of their total investment landscape, it's probably not going to be a good fit or even a good client relationship. In that case we would normally decline taking them on as a client.
Your office has transitioned to a paperless environment. How have you been able to make that happen and what was your biggest challenge in accomplishing that goal?
We started with that goal in April of 2009 and focused on ensuring that all our client files were electronic by 1/1/2010. We successfully accomplished that and now have a system that keeps our files centralized and well-organized which has had such a positive impact on the business. This paperless approach allows us to manage our employer-sponsored plans more systematically and has dramatically reduced mailing costs. When our employer-sponsored plans have IRS or DOL audits we can provide information they need within minutes.
Over ninety percent of my business is conducted over the phone so being able to send forms to participants electronically is a win-win. When we meet with clients individually and forms are signed in person, they are immediately scanned and electronic files created when we're back in the office.
The biggest challenge was transitioning to an electronic calendar. It took a full year from start to finish, but it has allowed us to schedule all our meetings a year in advance for all employer-sponsored plans and individual clients. Beginning in 2009, each time we met with a client, we scheduled their 2010 meeting. By the time December 31 rolled around I shut my paper planner for the last time - it was quite liberating, like a huge weight off my shoulders. Literally, because my paper calendar in the big leather portfolio was really heavy!
Now that we're fully electronic, I can pull up my client's files from wherever I am. I remotely log in and "boom", it's like I'm sitting at my desk. It is a wonderful thing!
You mentioned a "white glove approach" that you take with your clients - could you tell us more about that?
Service, service, service. We provide a high level of service. In regard to our employer-sponsored plan marketplace, we want our clients to understand what they have and exactly what the cost is. We review the tax ramifications, address concerns on loans from 401(k) plans, we calculate future projections, assist with audits, and conduct all our own enrollment and review meetings. Our clients can see us as an extension of their HR departments because we are readily available to assist them with their employer-sponsored plans. We are, and want to continue to be their first contact when they have questions so we strive to keep our clients fully informed, providing lots of details and taking time to answer any questions they have.
On the individual planning side of my business, I think having compassion and empathy for my clients makes them feel at ease and comfortable with referring me to other family members, friends and business colleagues. I always say, "If you do what's right the business will always come". Sometimes wholesalers are surprised that I never ask what the compensation is on the different products. Because to me, it doesn't matter. We should always be doing what's in the client's best interest and not worrying about what we will get paid.
What are your clients' biggest concerns and how are you helping them overcome those challenges?
I think the two biggest challenges for clients today is determining how much money they'll need to put away for retirement and once they get there, how do they take their money out in a structured, tax controlled manner. Most clients don't have those answers - that's where we can help. We want our clients to manage for higher taxes in the future. We want to make sure they don't run out of money. We want to make sure they don't waste it along the way. We want to make sure they are "buying what they need and not always what they want". We have those conversations a lot and that's why I love what I do. I practice what I preach - I am a saver and a planner. I like to help my clients do the same. Our clients are not only our customers, we consider them friends as well.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment or tax advice. You are encouraged to discuss your situation with a qualified financial professional bearing in mind your investment objectives, risk tolerance and time horizon.
Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through Signator Investors, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC, Registered Investment Adviser, 200 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116. www.SignatorInvestors.com