Thoughts on joining Note,

My name is Colten Kitcho.

I grew up in Sanborn, New York, a little farm town not far from Niagara Falls. I graduated from Niagara Wheatfield High School and Canisius College earning an BA in Sports Management. After a short break, I continued at Canisius and received my MBA with a finance concentration.

When I first considered a career, I figured I would either work for a large brokerage firm or represent a large insurance company. After further research of the two fields, I had some concerns. 

The first was the requisite chasing of sales goals, something I did not think I would be comfortable doing. My second concern, more an intimidation factor, was the prospect of the customer/client experience. 

Through jobs in high school and college I had developed strong customer service skills. However, I was not familiar or comfortable with the type of “cold call” solicitation required in these businesses, essentially relying on chance to earn a living.

In talking to family and friends, many of them had the same perception of the financial industry. Then someone told me about one of the partners at Note Advisors, Shawn Glogowski. They said he represented a different aspect of the business—something called holistic financial planning— where I could help clients with their money, rather than try to pry it out of their hands. Immediately I knew this was more the career path I wanted to follow.

In the summer of 2020, I got to spend a day with Shawn to see for myself how he and Note, operated. He showed me the different programs he uses in advising clients. I met Note, team members and sat in on a few client meetings. By the end of the day, my idea of the financial advisory industry had definitely changed. So did my employment status, as shortly thereafter Shawn offered me a job. Since then, I have learned more about the company and the people here, which has strengthened my positive opinion of the team at Note, and the work they do.

At the risk of sounding cliche, the advisors at Note, really do care about people. It’s where our “We see you” promise comes from. Whether it’s helping you think through when to start taking social security, creating a family estate plan, or determining your need for life insurance. Everyone at Note, is focused on what is most important for each client at their particular stage of life with their specific life circumstances. A business owner attempting to sell or transition, for example, has very different elements to balance than someone who is building a pension or retirement account. It’s why we say, “What you give your attention to makes all the difference.” No two individuals are identical, though on the surface they may seem to be.

I enjoy sitting in on these meetings and listening to the life scenarios our clients lay out, and then thinking through different ways we can help them. While I’m not fully there yet on offering advice, I am learning by observing and listening to Shawn, Tom, and Angela, as they guide clients through different scenarios, one of which invariably suits the client and their needs.

I look forward to growing to the point where I am one of the team members relaying helpful information comfortably and confidently to clients. This, I’m discovering, is what a great advisor does—help people . 

If a client needs assistance with their taxes, we help them. If they need guidance on getting more life insurance because they’ve recently been diagnosed with an illness, we help them. Whatever it takes for our clients to achieve peace of mind, not just about money but about their lives, we help them.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be here. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, for our clients and for myself.

What’s your financial advisor paying attention to?

I often hear financial professionals talk about the wealth they manage. They usually talk about how the market has impacted financial capital. Or about what the next exciting stock is going to do in the next quarter. I rarely hear them talk about their clients.

A lot of financial professionals focus on the net worth of their clients. They may not pay enough attention to what their clients are actually going through in their lives. Do they want to purchase a second home? Are they worried about their children taking over the business? Dreaming of a long-overdue vacation? Just received an unexpected medical diagnosis? These things are the important determinants of their financial situation – not the stock market.

Conversations with my clients about what’s happening in their lives go a long way towards creating a direction for their investments. Time spent in these discussions is a far cry from market forecasting, but it is never wasted.

What you give your attention to makes all the difference.

AUM vs. LUM

“What’s your AUM, Tom?”

During financial industry conferences and meetings, this seemingly innocent question surfaces almost without fail.

AUM = “assets under management.”

To me, that question is a veiled and vulgar way of trying to find out the total assets being managed by our firm. When using the term “assets,” the person inquiring doesn’t mean the humans and their lives that we’re helping to navigate. Rather, it’s all about the dollars and cents under our direction. The question they’re really asking is, “How much of other people’s money do you control?” To many in our industry, this is the badge of honor that they believe measures success.

I believe that “assets under management” is a crappy way to categorize clients.

I also believe that if all you have is financial capital, then you don’t really have all that much.

While it’s an important data point for valuing a business, it unfortunately doesn’t indicate the true value of a financial professional or their client base. At Note, we have a different standard of that value for both.

We like to think in terms of “lives under management.” 

When considering the “assets” we manage, our focus turns to people we advise. The human beings we help to successfully navigate their personal and financial challenges. Challenges such as:

  • Investing their limited resources of time and money in starting a business. 
  • Taking on the financial capital risks of borrowing money to begin and/or grow a business. 
  • Sweating-out the personal guarantees needed to secure loans in early-stage businesses, or businesses under stress.
  • Lost sleep and compromised health due to the pressures of financial and business risks. 
  • Business distractions that prevent clients from being “present” with their family, spouse or significant other, and the resultant dissatisfaction over a loved one being mentally somewhere else.

Often when we begin advising clients, they find themselves in uncharted waters as we help them navigate their “lives under management.” Yet because of our years of experience, we know the management plan we are creating for them will deliver results. We’ve seen it. We can smell it. We know it, often before those we are working with actually experience it.

We also know that helping people transition their sweat and tears into something of value, and extracting that value over time in the form of financial capital, can give them valued independence. People can live in ways that allow them increased control over their time. They can enjoy extended vacations. They create the ability to transition their business to family or employees, or sell their businesses and move on to their next venture with a smile on their face.

Most importantly, they become fully aware that they are not simply “assets under management.” They are human beings who we value and whose lives we are helping to build and enjoy.

Are You Really “All Set”?

    “We’re all set”

     This simple three-word phrase is one I’ve heard throughout my career, in instances that often stick in my mind. One of those relates to a couple I worked with for more than 20 years. Early on, I provided the husband with financial advice about an insurance policy, which he then purchased. Sadly, he subsequently contracted an illness that caused him to become disabled for the remainder of his life.  

     As I do with all clients, I attempted to get back together with the couple for an annual review of that policy, and the details of how it worked. More often than not the appointments were scheduled and cancelled as “unnecessary,” with the wife always concluding, “We’re all set.” 

   This year the gentleman passed away. His widow contacted me to ask if I could provide her information on his life insurance beneficiaries. When I shared the information, she was shocked. She indicated that she and her husband had modified their wills to ensure select individuals they had originally noted as beneficiaries on the policy would not receive any proceeds.  

     I advised her that since such a policy is a separate contract with the insurance company, changing their wills did not change the beneficiary designations. I explained that unless an insurance contract is modified, the policy is paid out according to the original terms.

     At that point, the widow became upset, saying her husband would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the amount of money that would be going to certain beneficiaries. She said she understood that she and her husband had cancelled a number of appointments with me and clearly they were not as “set” as they both thought. 

     I advised her that I was sorry but, as difficult as it was to watch it unfold, the proceeds were being paid out exactly as they had been written. In the end, it was an expensive and painful lesson for this woman about the consequences of not being “all set.”  

     Medical professionals require an active relationship with their patients in order to establish and maintain a baseline of their health. Without that baseline there is no reference for how much a patient has changed, how their current health varies from “normal”, or how to ensure their ongoing wellness. 

     The same is true for financial professionals.    

     Without a baseline understanding of a client’s personal and financial situation and a game plan for the future, advising is often nothing more than business transactions that sometimes include opportunistic purposes to sell products to a client without clear objectives. 

     Today, professionals in every field are recognizing the risks of advising “we’re all set” clients; those who don’t proactively participate in the planning process. They are also facing increased liability costs of attempting to advise reactive individuals in today’s litigious society. Many are notifying such clients of non-compliance and pruning them from their client/patient lists. Not a great place to find yourself when you need professional help and realize you are not “all set,” not insurable, not prepared for retirement, not liquid and not protected by any kind of safety net or parachute. 

     The next time you’re inclined to dismiss a professional who is trying to serve you and maintain an active relationship, think twice. Agree to meet with them and keep that appointment. Maintain your baseline. Let your professional lead you through their established processes and provide you with proven solutions. Make sure that ultimately, when you say those three little words, you really are, “all set.”