2019 was the busiest year ever for Birch Investments and we have big plans for 2020! Our 8th year in business saw a lot of growth. Alongside that growth we are continually reinvesting into the future of Birch Investments.
Birch now serves 50 client households spread across 4 states.
We moved into a larger and more accomodating space in the spring. Clients have been big fans of the more comfy digs!
We launched a brand new website in 2019 with a cleaner look. Birch has started a blog and will be ramping that up in the coming year with more valuable and free content for our clients and prospective clients.
Our firm has partnered with a leading technology company to offer an online client portal and mobile app. This was a huge investment for our firm and we are very proud of this offering. Clients now have access to all of their investment accounts using one convenient login. This also allows our clients to access all of their custodial statements and tax reporting in one place.
Our calendar is now out on the web. Many of our clients and prospective clients now schedule their appointments online using our calendar app. No more back and forth emails to see what time works for everyone. Clients can click through and schedule an appointment at their convenience.
In a regulated industry like financial services, compliance is always at the forefront of our minds. As such texting has been a difficult offering in the past. This year we found a compliant texting solution enabling our clients to text us at their convenience.
Commission Free Trading
One of the highlights this year was the decision by TD Ameritrade to waive commissions on all stock trading for our clients. The industry is continually driving down costs for the end-user and not paying transaction fees on trades is a huge step forward!
We have ambitious plans for the year ahead. We are continually refining our service offering so we can provide personalized advice with scale to our clients. Here's a peek at a few of the changes on the horizon.
Springtime always gets bogged down with preparing taxes. This year we are rolling out improvements in how we communicate what tax documents clients can expect and shortening the delivery time of vital tax documents to our clients.
Strength in Numbers
We have just signed the dotted line and joined an organization of financial advisors called the XY Planning Network. This fast growing network is dedicated to serving independent, fee-only financial planners such as Birch Investments. This organization will provide us with expanded resources and thought leadership on advanced planning topics for our clients. I am proud to join an organization that fiercely stands for advisors who place their clients best interest first.
TD Ameritrade & Schwab
At the end of 2019 Charles Schwab announced an intent to acquire our custodian TD Ameritrade. While this could potentially be 18 months away before any change happens to client accounts, we will be monitoring the situation closely and exploring the best custodial relationships for our client assets.
We will continue to broaden the scope of our advice. More clients are asking for help looking at their whole financial picture - not just investments. In 2020 we will have a brand new financial planning application and tax planning software that will provide greater insight into the holistic picture of our clients finances. These resources will allow us to further refine and target our advice to clients.
Retirement Law Changes
As 2019 draws to a close a vote is close on the SECURE Act - the most significant changes to retirement plan laws in over a decade. As this plays out we will be communicating with our clients how it affects their retirement accounts and estate planning.
Many clients have asked about using 529 plans to save for college. In 2020 we will have the capability to help our clients plan for college using these plans.
I have been fortunate to build a business that excites me and allows me to work with great people. Looking forward to a new year building on this base!
Brian Berkenhoff, CFA
Brian Berkenhoff, CFA is a fee-only financial advisor in Brookings, SD. Serving clients locally in Brookings, Watertown, and Sioux Falls and across the country virtually. Birch Investments specializes in wealth management solutions, including financial planning and investment management.