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How Can Advisors Get Referrals from CPAs?

It’s all about who you know!

Some things just work well together, like cheese curds and french fries or CPAs and Financial Advisors. In this episode of Ask Us Marketing, Kalli and CA/US wealth and tax specialist Gerry Scott talk about how to get referrals from CPAs. As they say, it’s all about who you know!

How do you get referrals from industry-adjacent professionals? Make an opportunity that benefits them just as much as it benefits you.

Read the DISCUSSION

Kalli

Welcome to AUM. We are live and I'm your host, Kalli Fedusenko of Kalli Collective, a digital marketing agency designed to build relationships between financial advisors and their target audience through data-driven, custom content and advertising. Have you struggled to create referral-generating relationships with CPAs and other centers of influence? Do you refer people out but don't get any referrals in return?

Or maybe you don't even know how to start a referral relationship with CPAs? Today we're talking with the founder of Snowbirds US Day Tracker and Portfolio Manager of Snowbirds Wealth, Gerry Scott. Gerry built his businesses through the referrals of CPAs and is going to share with us today how he built those relationships. Make sure to ask your questions in the comments as we go along.

We'll see them on our end and answer them as they come in. Welcome, Gerry. So excited to have you with us today.

Gerry 

Well, I'm not sure if I'm the first Canadian to be on your AUM podcast.

Kalli

You are!

Gerry

Oh, well, there we are. I'm very excited about this!

Kalli

So, Gerry, I've worked with a lot of advisors over the years and something I have heard frequently is “I refer my clients to CPAs, but they don't refer back”. But you've had a different experience. You were able to build your practice over the last 26 years, primarily from CPA referrals. So tell us how you did it.

Gerry

Well, thanks for having me on your show and hello, everybody. Hello from Vancouver, Canada. If anybody knows where that is, it's British Columbia and it's just above Seattle. Yeah, you know, this business is tough. It really is. And we know that these accountants and these we call them accountants up here in Canada and we call them the lawyers.

I know you guys use the term attorneys. These guys are being bombarded by advisors all the time. They're calling up and they're wanting to take them for lunch. And really what these accountants are getting from advisors is a free lunch. So, you know, as mentioned, I've been in the business for 30 years and we had to create something that was very, very unique for these these accounting firms.

And we wanted to create a platform which was allowing us to really, you know, back it up.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

This, this thing is really about we are a cross-border advisory team, meaning we're licensed by FINRA in the States and IIROC in Canada. So as Americans move up to Canada here, these Americans are restricted on who's going to manage their IRAs. So first of all, we were able to find a very, very niche market. And then what we did is I'm doing something that's really close to my heart, is that I travel back and forth to Maui.

And there's a lot of snowbirds that are going down south and one day it really did hit me that there's a lot of rules that these snowbirds have to follow. And I don't know if your audience is aware, but if a Canadian person is going down to the states, there's a three year rule with the IRS and it's basically proving you've got closer ties to Canadians ties than U.S. ties.

So what we did, I use the word we - these firms are not big, it's myself, I created this app called the Snowbirds US Day Tracker. And basically the rules for a Canadian going down south is you have to track the current year and the two previous years. So it goes like this: in 2021 you track all those days that you spend the states.

You times it by one sixth. Every day you spend in 2022, you times that by one third. And the current year, which is 2023, you take a full day. So if that exceeds 183 days, Canadians are required to file this form to the IRS called an 8840. So a lot of people were confusing immigration, which is six months when you enter the states on a visa.

And they were confusing it with tax and they take these things together. And there's a lot of snowbirds. I mean, if you your listeners are aware that they hang out in Florida, they hang out in California, they hang out Maui, the Carolinas. So that was the the big thing for us is that we wanted to create this app so that Canadians like myself; snowbirds, were not going to be confused.

Now, you fast forward this eight years we've created this incredible audience of these high net worth Canadians that have homes in Canada and United States.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

So once we were able to create the audience and we were able to then create this podcast and it's called the Snowbirds Expat Radio podcast, and we were then able to build a platform where we could actually have all these 10,000 plus people that have downloaded our app. Now, keep in mind 10,000 in the app world does not seem like a lot of downloads.

Kalli

Sure.

Gerry

But when it's targeted and it's a very affluent crowd, what we did was we used that audience to build the podcast. And then we get these accountants and lawyers, maybe immigration or US accountants performing tax returns up here in Canada for the US people and even just dealing with Canadians and all these tax concerns. We were able to create this platform that was to put these accountants and lawyers in front of these 10,000 listeners.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

And the old saying is, at least that way, that in my generation, I'm born in 1962, so I'm not going to come across as as an old, old, old wise person here. But we were always told to come to the table with more than just your appetite. So if you think about it, we've now invited all these accountants and we've put them in front of this audience, and they showcase their talent.

Kalli

Right.

Gerry

And we write blogs on our Snowbirds Wealth Management website. It's really tricky when America moves up to Canada, here. You got to file tax returns for the rest of your life and a Canadian return. And there's foreign tax credits going back and forth. So really became a very, very niche market for us. And just having those accountants and lawyers on our podcast has been probably doing more than any other advisor in Canada is doing for these these accountants and lawyers.

So I can’t encourage everybody to come up with an app and build an app, build an audience and then have a podcast. But yeah, if you can feel free to reach out, to us and, we'll share anything that we've had success with and we can share that with your audience.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

But yeah, it really was kind of a way for us to, you and I, before we came online, we were sharing the fact we both have colds. You were in Scottsdale. I was on a cruise up to Alaska. But we were also sharing the fact that advisors are always attending these great conferences that have great guest speakers.

And they always say, differentiate yourself, come up with a niche. They’re saying the same things.

Kalli

 Riches in the niches.

Gerry

Yeah, exactly. And you know, and we were sharing acronyms and you know that I had to make a comment, you know, what we're doing is basically a big fish in a small pond right? Rather than the average advisor model, which is a little fish in a big pond. This is a tough business. You really do have to work pretty darn hard to to build your businesses and constantly educate yourself.

Kalli

So it sounds like you're going into these relationships with an offer of “Hey, I can get you in front of 10,000 people”. How do you then translate that into referrals back to you?

Gerry

You know, it's really simple. The fact is, is that when we set up this Snowbirds US Day Tracker and we also set up another app called the Canada Physical Presence Tracker. Americans move up to Canada, they have to keep track of their... they get a PR card. And then after 1095 days of being physically present over five years, they can apply for citizenship.

What we found. We set this up as an OBA - outside business activity, so we don't directly market those people. We put our accountants and lawyers in front of them. So we really promote those partners and they get opportunities from our audience. We get opportunities from their clients that they already have. So it really was one of those things that we created more of an opportunity than most people have, and they're excited to be on our podcast.

Kalli

Yeah. So how do you find these CPAs and how are you starting the conversation with them? Are you reaching out first?

Gerry

Well, what we do is that we provide a program for these accounting firms right across Canada. We have what we call a lunch and learn. We have one of our guys in our office and one of our main people who's a big foodie. We actually, through Zoom, we do these lunch and learns they have the most amazing lunch that is delivered to them, and we provide CE credits, continuing education credits, which I'm sure are very big in the United States as they are in Canada.

So we're offering this to them. At the same time, we're educating them on all these regulatory issues. They understand tax, they don't understand the regulatory issues of why a U.S. person who lives in Canada can no longer work with their existing advisor. So we provide all the education on Roth IRAs, when they have to file their certificate, to the inherited IRAs.

Canadians are receiving these - parents are American, they live up in Canada. So we just educate them on all the issues of cross-border and then what we do and this is a lot of hard work, but we also send out coffee. So we use kind of old time marketing where people use to send out keychains and coffee mugs.

And then on that coffee mug, you'll see a QR code and it goes right to our blogs.

Kalli

Okay.

Gerry

So you have your coffee mug, you scan it, you've got your coffee cup in your phone in front of you, and you're reading our blogs and there's going to be a new blog every other week.

Kalli

Mm hmm.

Gerry

So all I can tell people is that this business is a lot of hard work.

Kalli

Yeah, Yeah.

Gerry

And we haven't created any holy grails out there - “just do this and you'll be successful”. There's about, I'm going to say there's probably about five or six things that we have to constantly be doing with these partnerships. And they love our approach and they do send a very special niche market to us, which is cross-border clients.

Kalli

Is the QR code that you mentioned - is the blog for CPAs or is that more for the audience...like your clients?

Gerry

Well, it's actually both. I mean, those QR codes, I mean, we are sending coffee mugs to our clients as well. I was seeing if I actually had a coffee cup. I'm not a coffee drinker, so but yeah, we sent them to the accounting firms and that's just a little appreciation. Yes, they got a wonderful lunch and on top of it, they get the mug.

And the QR codes are so easy to create nowadays, and there's lots of service providers that will provide you with these coffee mugs. Be careful how you wrap them when you send them to accounting firms. These are ceramic and they do break. With the care that couriers are taking these days to deliver things so.

Kalli

Or non care.

Gerry

Yeah. That's my... I was being sarcastic there but it really does allow you to and it's like you say, it's a lot of work. It's follow up phone calls, it's emails, it's zoom calls, it's checking in. And it's amazing because you usually get one or two referrals every time you do a lunch and learn with these accounting firms.

Kalli

Yeah. Keeps you top of mind, I would imagine. How often are you doing the lunch and learns? Is it a monthly thing?

Gerry

Well, I know some of the advisors that play golf at our golf club probably played about 30 rounds in the months of July and August. We had 30 lunch and learns in the months of July and August.

Kalli

Holy moly.

Gerry

So you're getting all this activity in the summer...

...that just continues to kind of move you along. So I am an avid golfer, but we've just gotten so busy with what we're doing.

Kalli

I mean, that’s a lunch and learn like every day.

Gerry

And this is the nice thing about living in Vancouver is because you can do one at 9:00 in the morning. In Toronto, that's what, it would be, 12:00 Toronto time. And then you could do it at 12:00 in Vancouver and you can do another lunch and learn. So there were days there that we were doing two lunch and learns a day.

Yeah, it's a lot of work.

Kalli

And you don't drink coffee.

Gerry

Well, I don't drink coffee. Occasionally I'm a little reckless and I'll have a hot chocolate, but that's as far as it goes.

Kalli

“A little reckless.” I love that.

Gerry

Yeah.

Kalli

Do you have any sort of partnership agreement with the CPAs? I mean, it sounds like it's just you’re providing them with CE and staying top of mind, but is there any kind of formal agreement between you?

Gerry

No there isn't. I know that there are some firms out there that want to have these referral arrangements, so there's shared compensation. We don't do that. I think a lot of the partners that we do work with, they see it as more of - there's a conflict of interest...

...if they're referring someone to you, or they’re going to take the compensation.

Kalli

Yeah.

I think there are some regulations around it.

Gerry

Yeah. And it's all done through the back office. And so if they, I know that some advisors in Canada do have these referral arrangements and compensation is not being paid by the advisor, it's paid by the dealer too. So it's all done from a compliance point of view and, and full disclosure to both the clients and to the accounting firms.

We just found that I think good advisors want to do the best for their clients and they want to make sure that they line them up with the right accounting firm. And same with the accountants. They want to do what's best for the clients. And at the same time you only get one shot of referring somebody and, and you're always going to be an extension of that CPA firm.

They're going to advise you. So you really do have to be well liked and you have to present yourself very professionally with these accounting firms. And because you don't want to hurt their reputation in any way whatsoever.

Kalli

Yeah. And that's actually kind of leads me to another question. When you have so many CPA partners, how do you decide who you're going to refer to when you have a client?

Gerry

You know, that's a great question because it almost becomes a dating service or a matchmaker service because some families that are very affluent, they'll pay the prices of the PWCs or the KPMGs, and then you've got these other moms and pops that have moved from the United States back to Canada. They've surrendered their green card and they don't have that kind of wealth that they can afford these high end fees.

So what we really do, and personalities come into play I mean there's a lot of, even in our hometown here, about 10 minutes away, there's - Jim and Pat have this accounting firm that does both Canadian and U.S. returns... you know, they have one full time support person and they're just a mom and pop down to earth great, wonderful people.

And we refer people to them. They've been on the podcast. So it really is a match... I don't want to use the word dating service... but it kind of is.

Kalli

Kind of is.

Gerry

We don't want to see this relationship go sideways, so.

Kalli

Right.

Gerry

Yeah, there's a lot, there's a lot to it.

Kalli

Yeah. How often are you looking for new CPAs and what does that reach out process look like?

Gerry

Well, you know, it goes to the size of our wealth management business. We believe that we can, for what we do with another two more support people we're going to be able to manage, we believe that we can scale up our business. We are with Raymond James - Snowbirds Wealth Management is part of Raymond James on the independent financial services model.

We believe we're going to be able to scale out to about $1,000,000,000 under management.

Kalli

Congratulations.

Gerry

Well, we're a long ways away from this, we're a long ways away. But, so when it comes to these firms right across Canada, you just have to make sure that you're referring business to these people and so the question is, how many partners can we work with? Um, I believe that we can work with, I think we've probably got about 15 partners now.

You'd be surprised how many people in this space that want to really grow their business. So not only are we reaching out to them, but they're reaching out to us and saying, “Hey, listen, we'd love to be on your podcast. We've heard about your Snowbirds US Day Tracker”, and that's a great segway to, you know, we've had incredible growth on the downloaders.

Based on our relationship with Kalli, I mean the services that you guys provide allowed us to take this, you know, all the stuff that we were trying to do off the side of our desk. And trying to think that I’m this big marketer and I can argue that if I just did this 100%, I would have a lot of fun with it and I could figure everything out.

But Kalli has come along through another one of our friends, Laura from Idea Decanter.

And we were able to use Kalli to really build this thing out and make it look a lot more professional and and make it look like we're running an organization of 10 million people behind the Snowbirds Day Tracker.

Kalli

Yeah. Let me see if I can put a link up to your website. You can keep talking.

Gerry

Yeah, so as long as, you ask how many partners because these partners are also on the U.S. side, we're dealing with firms out of Scottsdale that are dealing with a lot of snowbirds. We're dealing with firms out of Maui that are dealing with a lot of snowbirds because remember, a snowbird that goes down and spends time in Arizona, they need a power of attorney if something was to happen to them.

And the power of attorney that they write in British Columbia or Ontario will not work when they're in the States. So we're able to establish these relationships with all these snowbirds and provide business to realtors, property management people, accountants, you name it, mortgage brokers, all these people in all these nesting areas. So all these people are coming back to us saying, “Hey, listen, we'd love to be on your podcast.”

So the partnerships will continue to grow. Snowbirds is a separate entity as an outside business activity as mentioned. But yeah, we can create a lot of partnerships and provide value to come to the table with more than just your appetite.

Kalli

Right.

Gerry

It's not about us. How can we help you grow your business.

Kalli

Right. Um, so here's a good question. What do you think you're doing that other advisors are not?

Gerry

Well, I hope the last 20 minutes of it kind of answer that question. I think what we did was I know there's a lot of marketing programs out there for advisors, and I believe that we were able to - we, I, us - were able to create this opportunity because it's something that I truly loved. And what I really, truly loved was Vancouver is a beautiful city...

...five months of the year, six months of the year. Hawaii, Maui, Ka'anapali and Wailuku and sadly, Lahaina These are all beautiful places. Another six months of the year. So as a Canadian snowbird, I just fell into something that I really love to do. And I got to be myself and go into an area that I wanted to be.

I'm not going to chase after dentists and doctors. Yes, we do have those clients, but I'm not going to chase after these people and be something else.

Kalli

Right.

Gerry

I can't sit down with a doctor and they can talk about they just saw ten people and they talked about oncology and all this stuff. And I can't pretend I understand what they're going through. I can understand the wealth management side and I can understand the tax side incorporating. I can understand all these things. But when I'm talking to a snowbird, I'm talking to someone who loves Maui, someone who loves Scottsdale, someone who loves the Carolinas, Florida.

I'm one of them. I have a residence in in in Wailuku, right. I've been going there since 1981. So they get to know me there. I can tell you everything about the restaurants there. I can tell you about the golf courses and all the people and all the rock stars that we've met over in Maui. So I'm one of them.

I'm actually a very interesting person. I may not appear to be but when I'm talking to these people, I'm one of them. And I get to be myself. So I think that's the biggest takeaway today is other than using Kalli’s services, I think you really want to make sure that you can be yourself and find a niche that you're going to be excited about.

And you can be yourself in that niche.

Kalli

From snowshoeing to surfing, Gerry does it all.

Gerry

You know, it's funny that everybody that believes when they talk about Vancouver in Canada, they all believe that we live in igloos and it snows all months of the year. And it's not - it kind of is true. It rains more than it snows up here in Vancouver.

Kalli

Okay. Well, I guess that makes sense because you're over in Seattle area.

Gerry

We're very similar to Seattle. In fact, I am a Seahawks fan, so Seattle's kind of - I treat as my home team. But yeah so that's very important in this business because advisors - like I say 30 years in the business - it is a hard, hard business.

Kalli

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerry

And I know people have slow months but I always tell people if we're working our tail off in July and August, all these accounting firms have had so much time for us.

Kalli

That was gonna be actually my question, is you mentioned doing the CE luncheons during summer. Is that because it's slower generally for you in summer and it's like, Hey, I'm going to drum up business for later down the year?

Gerry

You know, I think it's slow for advisors because they just like to take time off. They've got family, golf, they’ve got all these things.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

So I think, I think that's more of an industry thing on our part.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

These Canadian accounting firms still have deadlines. June the 15th, April the 15th, October the 15th. The U.S. firms we're dealing with, they are busy. But I think what happens with entrepreneurial people when they slow down, they kind of get a little bit... I think there's a little bit of stress that comes into their life.

So they know that if, they want to work, they want to create opportunity. So if I'm hitting them, hitting their doors on July and in August and September to do all these things, they're excited because they're thinking about growth and growth and growth, right? So I think yeah. So I think advisors can really dictate their schedules.

Kalli

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Um, any last words before we close out - anything advisors watching should hear from you?

Gerry

Well, I think there's a couple things I wanted to, you know, when I was asked to do this show, I wanted to make sure we did a couple of things. I wanted to make sure I was able to entertain you because there's a lot of people come on here that advisors can kind of have the same message.

I think we do have the same message. I think the biggest thing that I've always done from the day that I started in the business in 1993, I was always asking questions with the senior advisors and the senior advisors in that era were very good at sharing ideas. So I think if I was here to entertain you, that's great.

If I'm here to share ideas, anybody can reach out and feel free to find out more about what we're doing because you're going to have snowbirds in your area and they should be aware of this. And if I can help you with anything whatsoever, we're always looking to share ideas with other advisors. And I think the biggest thing and I know we joke about this, but really engage Kalli and their services, and their team of what they're providing.

Now we haven't used them on the wealth management side. I wanted to use them on the Snowbirds US Day Tracker side.

And it really has been fun and maybe advisors are insecure and all of a sudden they start seeing their logo that they created this... this Snowbirds app was created from nothing. And now we see that we're getting as much as a thousand... I think the big, big month we had was two months ago we had about 666 downloads.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

So you get excited. Yeah, you get excited and you're sharing stats with us that people are hitting. And Hayley, who's our contact that we work very closely with, she's able to share numbers that we're getting that she says are very, very strong.

Kalli

Yes, I did see those numbers and the first quarter of working with us... they were really great numbers.

Gerry

Yeah. So I get excited and I think we're at the stage in our career that we are getting... and when we talk about numbers. You know, I think we're on target next year where we with the existing book, you know, if we can get 3 or 4 million a month of new assets, which it seems to be coming in and those are usually around four clients, these are very, very rich clients that are inherent in these IRAs.

The IRAs are big sizes. And then I think if we can acquire some books of businesses out there with senior advisors, there's an opportunity right now we're dealing with, so with what we're managing the acquisitions to our marketing program and just managing what we have because remember I'm a portfolio manager just like yourselves, CFP on the Canadian side, CRPC are on the U.S. side.

So if anybody can understand how hard this is, it's us. It is a very, very difficult business, very emotional business. And the last thing...

I think there's a... we can sum it up this way. And before we came online and I was, I heard this great acronym and I'm just going to add to it.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

When I think advisors have to look at themselves and I use this term called AMC, and basically what AMC is, I call it AMC 24 and I'll tell you where that 24 comes from. But the first thing with advisors, you got to really have a great attitude, you know, this attitude that you can do anything and you’re a problem solver.

 So attitude is the biggest thing that advisors, you know, that personality, that great attitude out there. I'm always apologizing to clients when I'm on the phone or on Zoom calls because I'm sorry for being so optimistic about life, because I'm not the pessimist. So attitude is everything.

Kalli

Yeah.

Gerry

Motivated, entrepreneurial people, which advisors are. You have to be highly motivated. You know, the alarm clock doesn't go off at 6:30, you wake up 5:00 in the morning, you're very highly motivated and the A, M and C stands for committed, making sure that every designation that you can do, make sure you're doing it, you're not taking any shortcuts.

We are as I mentioned, CFP on the Canadian side, compliance branch manager on this side. Just everything that comes along - portfolio manager in Canada, portfolio manager in the United States. Every course that we can do along the way, make sure we're doing it, because that shows commitment. Now, the 24, if you look at AMC 24, I say that the 24 you have to be an eight with attitude, a minimum of eight on being motivated and a minimum of eight being committed.

So I call that acronym and it wasn't mine. I'm not smart enough to come up with that acronym, but it's called AMC 24. And when you're looking to hire advisors or whatever the case is, that's how you want to kind of put them up against something: attitude, motivation and commitment. So I will have... I will have a drink of water and breathe for the first time in 30 minutes.

Kalli

Yeah, awesome. Thank you so much, Gerry, for everything that you shared and your very kind words about us. For everybody watching, please join us next month to talk about incorporating charitable causes in your marketing with David Adams of Adams Wealth Partners. Thanks for joining. And if you're not already, sign up below and get savvy at the following. Thanks for joining us. 

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