Choosing a company name is harder and more critical than naming a child. If you end up not liking the child’s name, you can come up with a nickname down the road. Naming a company, however, requires permanence and a connection to what your company represents to the marketplace.
There were many options when we were tasked with creating a firm name and logo for our fee-only financial planning firm. We wanted to create a brand that described what and how we served our clients. Many financial advisory or wealth management firms start with the name of the founder or the name of some geographic body to represent the firm. Some name their firm after an English town that is meant to depict trust and security and a two-hundred-year legacy. Others choose a firm name that is a synonym for money or for capital.
We did none of the above. Our firm is not about the founders. Nor is it about maximizing material wealth or relying on a meaningless two-hundred-year legacy.
Consumers Face a Whirlwind in Their Financial Lives
We wanted the focus to be on the client. We started with several questions. What is our end goal in serving clients? How do we want our clients to feel as a result of our engagement? What has been so wrong with the industry, and how will we be different? Ultimately, we came up with “Oasis Wealth Planning Advisors”.
The term “oasis” is at the heart of what we are trying to deliver. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “oasis” is defined as “a fertile…area in an arid region” or “something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast”. Macmillan Dictionary defines “oasis” as a “place or situation that is much more pleasant or peaceful than the places or situations around it”. According to Your Dictionary, “oasis” can be described as “a place of calm in the midst of chaos.” Some synonyms include sanctuary, refuge, or spring.
Let’s unpack this a bit as the reasons for choosing “oasis” involves much of the above. First, we chose “oasis” because we want our advice to be a sanctuary or refuge from the chaos in our clients’ financial lives. We all experience chaos in our financial lives for a variety of reasons. Finances continue to become more complex in and of itself, and we, as consumers in the 21st Century, contribute to the complexity by owning more things than our ancestors ever dreamed of. Moreover, the whirlwind we all experience in our daily lives – the increase of technology and information, the demand on our time, and the pressure from society to achieve “success” – often leads to disorganization among our finances as well as financial and non-financial stress. As one finds the oasis, one finds peace. That is our goal for our clients.
We also chose “oasis” based on the similar, but slightly different, meaning: a place that is more peaceful than places around it. The financial industry’s history – and, unfortunately, its present day – is filled with salespeople with conflicts amuck whose primary goal is to sell product, earn a commission, and move on to the next transaction from the unsuspecting consumer. That indeed is an arid or dry place. In present day, individuals are thirsty for getting advice from someone they can trust – someone that truly acts as a fiduciary that provides competent counsel in the client’s best interest.
We are fee-only financial advisors that adhere to the fiduciary standard. Not only do we have a legal obligation to always act in a fiduciary manner, but such approach also ties to our ethics and our worldview. We want to be the firm that clients and our clients’ referrals can approach with confidence in knowing that they will receive unbiased advice without the conflicts that are rampant in the financial industry. It has been said that only 2% of financial advisors are truly fee-only.
Similarly, clients not only want someone they can trust from an ethical standpoint, but they expect – and deserve – competent counsel that is authentically interested in the client and their future goals and possibilities. The vast majority of advisors are merely focused on the markets and trying to outguess the markets to seek higher returns – or, rather, trying to convince prospective clients that they can do so. Our approach is not to convince our clients that our stock-picking abilities are superior. Rather, we focus on the evidence and academics in our approach to investing. More important, we focus on the client’s life, including their goals and their possibilities for themselves. We further combine detailed tax-focused, integrated planning that is critical to help our clients navigate the life they want and to truly manage one’s overall wealth. Our multi-disciplined team combines backgrounds in tax, portfolio management, retirement planning, law, and mergers and acquisitions to provide that competent counsel.
In contrast to an oasis, a mirage is something illusory and without substance or reality. This is how the vast majority of financial firms operate, especially the larger, well-capitalized firms. They promote peace, but it’s false peace. Their advertisements create this feeling of peace or freedom, while their sales managers oversee sales reports, reward the high sales professionals with elaborate trips, and punish the low performers with pink slips. There is little to no discussion about technical ability or whether a certain solution is ideal for the consumer.
We want to be the financial planning firm that can provide clients with peace in their lives and with the confidence of knowing that our firm is built on fiduciary principles that includes a passion for delivering sound integrated advice with proper research and analysis.
Is Your Financial Advisor Holistic in Approach?
While “oasis” captures our primary branding, the other words in our firm name are also important. We chose “wealth” – rather than merely “financial” – to signify that we focus on much more than solely investments. To us, wealth is more than just about money or one’s finances. While wealth can have a materialistic meaning, to us wealth means an abundance. Through our counsel, we hope to provide an abundance of living that is “rich” – or, deep and pleasant. Our wealth planning is not merely about tax savings, investment performance, and effective financial strategies; rather, we want our clients to live well-intentioned lives – lives they always dreamed of – and use their finances in a manner that helps reach that destination rather than in a manner that drags them down undesired paths.
The “planning” in Oasis Wealth Planning Advisors has a well-understood meaning, but is often not implemented the way it should be and is just a marketing slogan for many financial advisory firms. For us, implicit in the word “planning” is the idea that it all starts with the client’s goals and possibilities – from short-term to long-term. Once the goals are established and possibilities envisioned, then steps must be taken to help the client reach that destination. True planning involves obtaining a deep understanding of the client’s overall situation -- both financial and non-financial. The concept of planning also implies there is a heavy future component to it. While some short-term goals may require less analysis, the long-term goals require looking well beyond what we can see in front of us. Planning necessitates that we analyze the opportunities that will help our clients reach their end goals while recognizing the gaps and threats that need to be overcome.
Many financial advisory firms use the term “wealth management”. While there is no magic in the use of such term and different ‘wealth management” firms have different ways of serving clients, to us the use of “wealth management” typically depicts the primary focus on managing a client’s money. That is the traditional and still dominant approach among financial advisory firms and private banks. As discussed, our approach is focused on serving clients in a life-focused manner and providing holistic advice in an integrated manner. As we often tell prospective clients who call us looking for advice on “what changes to make with my portfolio”, it is very difficult to provide investment advice in a vacuum. Hence, proper planning and a discussion of life’s possibilities are critical in providing the value that consumers need in today’s complex environment.
Should You Seek a Fiduciary When Receiving Financial Advice?
Finally, the “advisors” word in “Oasis Wealth Planning Advisors” plays a role in shaping our brand. While the focus should not be on us as individuals and rather should be on our clients, the term “advisors” is meant to depict our active approach in actually providing consultative advice. This is the term that is so often misrepresented in the industry. Professionals can call themselves “financial advisors” or “wealth advisors” or whatever, and yet they can put an asterisk or place disclaimers in their brochures and legal documents to clarify that they are not advisors and cannot actually provide fiduciary advice. While we will not go down that rabbit hole of whether the authoritative bodies should adopt sweeping changes in this regard, suffice it to say that at Oasis Wealth we believe the advice that we give is critical to providing value. We don’t sell product, but we deliver tailored advice based on the client’s desired utility of their money and a variety of interrelated issues.
Our Firm’s Logo: We Work with Clients on Their Journey
While our firm name was written purposefully, I am happy that our logo reinforces what Oasis Wealth Planning Advisors represents. My brother, a Kansas oral surgeon with serious artistic and creative skills, created the logo after hearing me describe our objective in working with clients. The center blue in the “O” is meant to symbolize the peace that consumers are looking for – both peace in their chaotic financial lives as well as the refuge from the financial salespeople that are seeking the next sale. I find the sky blue such a peaceful color, and the fact that it is in the center of the “O” – obviously the first letter in “Oasis” – symbolizes that peace is central to us serving our clients and central to what clients want and deserve.
The two wavy lines that are part of the logo have meaning as well. First, there are two lines in the logo to represent the idea that our advisors work alongside our clients in their journey. We guide, encourage, and counsel along the way. As mentioned, planning is indeed a journey. The two lines are wavy because there are numerous changes or transitions in a client’s life – some good, some disadvantageous --- but the key is to anticipate and plan in a manner that makes appropriate adjustments along the way.
Regardless whether the name or logo of Oasis Wealth Planning Advisors ever becomes a recognizable brand, we will forever strive to hold firm to our mission of serving clients in a manner that provides the peace and clarity our clients are searching for in their lives. If you know of near retirees, retirees, or widows that may not be getting advice that we describe and who could benefit from our life-focused approach, we would graciously welcome an introduction.