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When I came to Johnson Financial Group (JFG) two years ago, the vision was clear – adopt an RIA model for our Wealth business – while the path to get there was not. How would I help this successful Wealth business, built on the Bank&Trust model, transform? The answer was simple – from within!
But let’s rewind. The Wealth business at JFG had already undergone a transformation of sorts. In addition to their already successful Bank&Trust, Retirement Plan Services and Investment Services business, in 2017, JFG completed their third RIA acquisition in ten years, resulting in a 25 percent increase in AUM. However, that rapid growth came with some concessions. Specifically, the acquired firms predominately continued using the custodians and software they used prior to the acquisitions, resulting in the addition of over five custodians, a new performance reporting, trading and billing engine and an additional CRM to the business. At the same time, they were undergoing a move to a new brokerdealer due to the acquisition of their current BD. In the end, they were left with disparate technology and operational processes, as well as a feeling of separate businesses within a single business unit. What to do? The answer seemed obvious to Brian Andrew, President and Chief Investment Officer of Johnson Wealth, and my new boss. He said go where the clients and advisors in the Wealth industry are going - adopt an RIA business model.
With this history lesson behind me, I understood the vision and began to contemplate the path forward. The first step was to begin the process of identifying a custodian who could support our Bank&Trust and RIA business on a unified platform, enable us to work with the technology providers that were best suited to support our business, and allow our brand and the values that have led this family-owned business for over 50 years to ground us. In late 2018, we sent an RFP to six custodians, narrowed the list to two finalists and spent the majority of 2019 focusing on due diligence. At the same time, we began to draft a plan that would result in a more consistent experience for our Wealth associates and clients alike. That consistent experience needed to consider things like technology, client service, product offering, reporting and branding. Enter the One Wealth project.
"In the end, we envision a Wealth ecosystem that puts CRM at the center of the associate experience, supported by integration and data consistency across our primary custodians, portfolio accounting and reporting system, financial planning softw"
By definition, One Wealth would result in transforming our Wealth business and meaningfully impact our associates and clients. As a result, a thoughtful and collaborative approach had to be at the heart of our plan, and we knew we needed to hear and learn from those on the frontlines each day. With that in mind, we solicited volunteers from across Johnson Wealth who were excited about shaping the future to form an advisory panel for the project. Our goal was to bring a diverse group of associates together with the expectation of collectively challenging each other to think differently, keeping the client at the center of decision making and becoming champions of change throughout our journey – and the response was overwhelming!
Beginning in November of 2020, we gathered 25 associates on a video call and began to share our One Wealth vision. As part of the call, we outlined three key opportunities we needed their help with. After breaking the group into three diversified teams, each team was assigned the task of reimagining the future. And reimagine they did! Over the course of the next two months, the teams met without participation (or influence) by Wealth Leadership team members, to create their wish list for the future. For many, this experience was the first time they were asked to work together, across lines of business in Wealth, and it brought with it a realization of common experiences, often rooted in inconsistent technology and approach. Each team learned from their teammates, respectfully challenged each other, documented and prioritized their reimagined future state and shared their ideas with the group at large. In the spirit of iterative change, we worked to incorporate many of the high priority recommendations into our initial phase of project deliverables and have captured the remaining items in a backlog to ensure they will be considered in future releases. Looking to the future, we expect to bring new and different questions to the advisory panel because we were so inspired by the creative approach and thoughtful ideas they have already brought to the table. We want our associates to know they will continue to have a voice in our ongoing transformation.
As of today, our journey toward adopting an RIA business model and fully realizing One Wealth is progressing. We’re finalizing contractual details with a new custodian and plan to begin transitioning assets in early 2022. We’re also busy defining and implementing many of the technical changes required to support the transformation. In the end, we envision a Wealth ecosystem that puts CRM at the center of the associate experience, supported by integration and data consistency across our primary custodians, portfolio accounting and reporting system, financial planning software and billing engine. We’re also pursuing improved workflow capabilities that will help us realize transparency and efficiency in our operational processes. For clients, a consolidated view of their relationship with Johnson Financial Group, inclusive of our three business lines, Banking, Wealth and Insurance, will be complimented with sought after self-service capabilities on our soon to be released new client portal. Additionally, a renewed focus on brand consistency in our marketing and reporting will continue to reinforce the value JFG brings to our current and future clients. And while we know full realization will take place over the course of several years, we’re filled with excitement and optimism that the change and decision-making is a collaborative effort, with the best interests of our associates and clients in mind. Change may be happening, but it’s happening with them versus to them.