Managing more than $250 million in assets, The Fieldstone Financial Management Group, LLC’s president and founder, Kristofor Behn, holds the financial fates of many in his hands. Yet, instead of selling quick fixes or products, he offers his million-dollar clients sound advice. Behn recently sat down with Profile to discuss how he, despite the doubts of many, made his firm one of the most successful in the country.
Before opening Fieldstone Financial in 1998, I was doing a bit of consulting in the health-care industry, helping practitioners improve their practices as a whole. It didn’t take me long to realize that the vast majority of physicians did a poor job in managing their own personal finances. My quest was to provide those individuals with advice and get them going down the right financial path.
Instead of going the more traditional route, which is providing a commission-based insurance or investment product, I made the decision to go the other direction and offer a “fee-for-service” approach. I swam upstream a bit because it was not the traditional way of doing things, and frankly, I spent a lot of time explaining why it made sense. Most of the people in this industry are busy selling products, rather than providing the advice people really need. This is an industry-wide problem that stems from compensation. Most investors would rather bury their compensation structure under layers of commission-based products and wrap programs. I felt that it was important to offer another style of business [where] people pay you for advice and you give it to them. It seemed pretty straightforward to me. Whether clients take the sound advice and implement it is a different story.
One of the main reasons I stepped outside of the health-care environment as a whole was because those individuals I was counseling at the time did not take advantage of the advice. They were looking for the quick fix and we all know there is no such thing. If you want to be wealthy today, you need to do the disciplined work to open yourself to opportunities that others won’t have.
When I founded Fieldstone Financial in 1998, there were very few people doing what I was doing at the time and I soon realized that it was going to be much more difficult than I thought it would be. And, through the years, things have changed so much. One of the things I have embraced from the very beginning is the fact that I have surrounded myself with people who know a lot more than me. I also have embraced technology as a platform to build my firm. I seek out talent around the country rather than just in my backyard. As far as I am concerned, it’s more about where the talent exists rather than where the firm’s offices exist.
I was in business for three years before I made my first acquisition. And from the very beginning, I was thrust into a large number of client situations where I was forced to learn a great deal in a short amount of time. Between 1998 until the end of 2001, I viewed myself as getting a lifetime worth of experience. I had gained a level of experience that sometimes takes a career to establish, and I really had a clear understanding of what I was doing and how I was going to move forward. I wanted to be prepared for the opportunities as they came around, no matter what.
It takes a certain type of personality to succeed in this business. You must have the ability to listen. Each day, I see all walks of life come through my office, but the vast majority is people of first-generation wealth. I too understand that since I am in the same position as my clients. I understand what it takes to build something from the ground up.