Today we’d like to introduce you to Rick Kent.
With over 18 years in the financial services industry, Rick served as an entrepreneur and business owner prior to founding the Merit organization in 2007. He has extensive experience in advisor recruiting, advisor Mergers & Acquisitions, succession planning, practice management and financial wellness. Additionally, he also has considerable expertise in delivering comprehensive financial planning, estate planning and retirement planning to mass affluent and high net worth retail investors across the country. Currently, Rick is the Founder and President of Merit Financial Group, an Alpharetta, Georgia-based independent registered investment advisory (RIA) firm supporting approximately $900 million in client assets, as well as Merit Financial Advisors, a leading independent Super-OSJ firm affiliated with LPL Financial supporting over 26 independent financial advisors across the country.
As a core part of its organic growth strategy, Merit Financial has established itself as a visionary leader in a powerful emerging segment of the retirement plan services market that will shape the direction of that industry over the next two years and beyond: financial wellness services. Merit Financial Group has a particular focus on supporting the company retirement plan space, and offers the Worksite Financial Wellness platform, a comprehensive offering that provides customized, turnkey financial wellness education, coaching and training resources to retirement plan participants.
The Worksite Financial Wellness division, comprised of 7 fully dedicated professionals, stemmed from the belief that our country is in a retirement crisis. Rick believes that company retirement plans represent the last great hope for the majority of American workers to pursue their life goals, and this is where Worksite Financial Wellness can add enormous value to everybody with a role in the retirement plan process, especially the plan participants. It takes a behavioral science approach to driving better results for retirement plan participants by helping employees and sponsors alike understand why people make the choices they make, and why they often fail to engage on key financial matters. The firm has established aggressive but highly attainable growth targets based on its leadership in financial wellness, and expects to realize strong growth in this aspect of its business both in 2017 and in the years ahead.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Merit’s Worksite Financial Wellness organization has faced challenges just like any other innovative company who is striving to pave the way. However, through passion and an undeniable effort, our team has been able to overcome them.
As industry leaders, we feel responsible for making an impact in the lives of American workers, but it can be difficult to reach them and influence this necessary change. Our school systems do not usually have the bandwidth to educate students about positive financial habits. Not to mention, it can be a complex subject to understand so we often find that many adults are privately struggling. For this reason, we view the worksite as the last great hope for rectifying the retirement crisis through changing financial behavior. However, financial wellness is a relatively new and broad concept that some are struggling to acknowledge. Although, our team believes financial wellness does not require achievement of status or income, we have still witnessed hesitation. We’ve learned, through this challenge, to reinforce partnerships with other believers in the industry like retirement plan advisors, record-keepers, and plan sponsors that help to identify the resulting impacts this has on companies. And for the employees, we aim to emphasize personal relationships with licensed professionals and private experiences tailored to their needs. To further break down barriers, we encourage employers to offer it as an employee-sponsored benefit so that there is no cost to participate and the focus can be placed on becoming well.
Additionally, the Department of Labor (DOL) is scrutinizing the potential conflict of interest between representing the plan and participants. In our industry, there is always a concern around the DOL fiduciary rule. If you have 90% of participants who need advice, but the fiduciary says you can’t give advice, how are you to overcome this hurdle to help? Well, our team made a decision to alleviate this issue altogether, and strictly provide education only. With this decision, we have also been able to address any apprehensions about competition or unsavory motivations. Defining these boundaries has allowed us to bolster our relationships and truly make an impact.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Merit Financial Advisors: Worksite Financial Wellness story. Tell us more about the business.
Merit Financial is a retirement planning and wealth management company that seeks to establish, educate, and satisfy the financial goals of individuals in and approaching retirement. With 5 office locations in southeastern states, we have the capacity to serve a vast number of individuals and their families to procure a state of financial wellness.
We focus on providing reliable and unbiased financial education by establishing a genuine and long-lasting relationship with our clients. We administer an array of financial services, which focuses on our client’s personal growth along with their financial goals. Merit’s initial success was serving the employees of a large telecommunications company. As a core part of its organic growth strategy, we saw benefit in expanding to serve other companies through a more formalized approach. We place a particular focus on supporting the company retirement plan space, and positioning the Worksite Financial Wellness platform, a comprehensive offering that provides customized, turnkey financial wellness education, coaching and training resources to retirement plan participants.
For some, it’s stability. For others, it’s the absence of stress. For many, it’s a distant destination. But in reality, it’s a state of mind. We believe financial wellness embodies a meaningful approach to our understanding and the handling of our money. As financial educators, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the financial health of American workers. The Worksite Financial Wellness division stemmed from the belief that our country is in a retirement crisis, and our worksites are the last great hope for financial education. The majority of the working population is living in a state of financial stress. They’re spending more, saving less and jeopardizing their financial health in the process. This extends directly into their work, and employers are seeing this negative impact. By acknowledging a crisis exists, our financial wellness team is about to enhance financial literacy, increase retirement preparedness and address financial stress, which simultaneously improves the company bottom line. It takes a behavioral science approach to driving better results for retirement plan participants by helping employees and sponsors alike understand why people make the choices they make, and why they often fail to engage on key financial matters.
We specialize in plan leadership and solutions to wealth management advisors, retirement plan advisors, plan sponsors, plan participants, benefit companies, record keepers, and third party administrators to implement successful wellness programs, and address individuals’ needs to invest confidently. Our methodology focuses on program customization, reporting & measuring capabilities, engagement experience, and implementation. Merit’s Worksite Financial Wellness platform begins an engagement by administering a financial wellness exam to employees to help them gauge their financial health, retirement readiness and long-term priorities. This data is then used to develop a comprehensive, two-pronged strategic plan, both at the plan sponsor level and for each participant.
At the sponsor level, the data enables employers to understand how to help employees in ways they may never have previously envisioned. Depending on the results, this may include giving participants the tools, resources and direction to: Pay down debt; Improve preparedness for retirement; Better navigate features or options of their current retirement plans; and Understand key financial concepts in more depth, among others. At the participant level, the data enables the Worksite Financial Wellness platform to provide personalized reports to each participant to help them better understand their financial needs and present them with an educational plan to help them pursue their goals. The reports also guide participants through the resources that are available through the Worksite Financial Wellness web portal, including: Detailed budgeting options; Seminars and webinars on a broad range of topics; A wide array of how-to videos and articles; Information on how to contact and work with a financial advisor, and much more.
The Worksite Financial Wellness team also coaches plan participants on an ongoing basis to help them make measurable progress toward their goals each year. This coaching function follows a four-phase progression: Phase 1 focuses on introducing the program and administering the wellness assessment; Phases 2 and 3 are centered on ongoing consultations and coaching; Phase 4 provides year-end consultation and reporting.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck is an interesting thing. By definition, it is the “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” At Merit, we consider ourselves lucky to experience good fortune and the ability to learn from our mistakes.
But, we do not define our success or failure by it. Here, we are “doers,” tracking along together through collaboration and a shared vision for the future. Our credo states that we are a group of people committed to mutually defined and extraordinary success of the group as a unit and hold themselves and each other accountable for achievement of that success, as well as, the methods by which that success is achieved. Our mentality is to be invaluable. Always do the right thing and know that success and rewards will follow. When we are all functioning in this manner, we are far more powerful than luck.
- Address: Merit Financial Advisors: Worksite Financial Wellness
2400 Lakeview Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30009
- Website: www.meritfa.com
- Phone: (678) 867 – 7050
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Other: https://worksitefw.com
Stronger Together Photo Cred: Dear World