Advisor Education, Tax Efficiency, and Integrated Technology with Amanda Lott
Many investors are looking for more integrated solutions to help them manage their portfolios more efficiently. The goal is to minimize the overall tax burden while maximizing after-tax returns. With tax playing a significant role in investment portfolio performance, what can investors do to minimize taxes and transaction costs to achieve their desired investment results?
In this episode, Jack Sharry talks with Amanda Lott, Head of Wealth Planning Strategy at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. In this high-impact role, Amanda drives the firm’s training, content, and strategic approach to help clients articulate their most meaningful intentions and align their resources to these priorities. She believes that helping individuals with sound decision-making gives them financial peace of mind and the freedom to live their best lives.
Amanda talks with Jack about how she works on the key areas of financial planning, why smart asset location is important, and how she helps advisors embrace complex planning techniques.
What Amanda has to say
“Technology is never going to replace the advisor. But it’s got to complement them, making them more efficient and effective.”
Read the full transcript
Jack Sharry: Welcome friends thanks for joining us on WealthTech on Deck. Each week I speak with wealth and asset management, annuity retirement and fintech leaders about strategies they are working on to move their businesses in the our industry forward. We often talk about innovations disruptions and trends around tools, capabilities and platforms that are being developed to make comprehensive financial advice more readily available. Among the many firms working on these issues is JP Morgan. And clearly they’re one of the leaders. Today I’m very pleased to be speaking with Amanda Lott. Amanda is executive director of wealth planning strategy at JP Morgan private bank. Amanda, welcome to WealthTech on Deck.
Amanda Lott: Thank you, Jack. It’s great to be here.
Jack Sharry: So Amanda, you’ve been in the financial and wealth planning business for a while. You even have an advanced degree I understand and financial planning beyond your CFP. So please fill us in what’s your career been like what you’ve been doing?
Amanda Lott: So I’ll take you back to my undergraduate degree because it’s important. So I went to Texas Tech University. I originally was a math major, but really didn’t want to be an actuary. And I loved numbers, though and loved it, everything had an answer. I switched to psychology, because I loved understanding how people made decisions. And also understanding where they are today, and where they want to go and how we get them building a plan for that. But I quickly realized I was going to be in school until I was in my 30s. And given that I was paying for a good portion of my higher education, I didn’t feel like a very good ROI. So I was literally flipping through our course catalog over winter break. And I stumbled upon the Personal Financial Planning Program at Texas Tech, which lo and behold, it is the oldest Personal Financial Planning program in the country and one of the most well respected. And so I actually have an undergraduate degree in personal financial planning. And it was the perfect match of qualitative and quantitative this blend of numbers and what’s the right answer, but also understanding how people make decisions and getting them on a path from where they are now to where they want to go.
Jack Sharry: That’s great. So fill us in a little bit more in terms of after you got your degree, you know, wound up in the RIA world. You’re at JP Morgan Private Bank. So talk about that journey, if you will.
Amanda Lott: Absolutely. So I graduated in the thick of the financial crisis, so December of 2008, and expanded my job search to countrywide. I doubt it always encouraged me move outside of Texas, Amanda, you can always come back. I’m a Texas native, many of us stay in Texas. And so in January, in the middle of winter, I moved up to New Jersey, knowing no one to work at a local ra there that did Financial Planning and Investment Management for individuals. I started as an entry level analyst there eventually worked my way up to equity partner and also was a co head of the firm’s financial planning committee. During that time, I also got my Master’s in taxation, so glutton for punishment, but really helped me hone my skills on how do we understand the rules? And then how do we apply them. But eventually, my husband and I, we started our own family. And we recognize we wanted to be closer to our extended family. And so we moved back to Texas in 2016. And I joined JP Morgan in early 2017.
Jack Sharry: So you’re working from Texas, I was assumed you were in New York,
Amanda Lott: I get that a lot, especially during COVID, where it’s hard to tell or people are sitting get a glass of wine me though, you’ll hear the twain come out. And I’ve talked for a couple years. So I joined. Let’s see, when I joined JP Morgan, I joined as a wealth strategist, that role at our firm is a credentialed financial planning expert, where we work alongside advisors and clients to help them articulate what are the jobs you need your money to do? And how do we align that to solutions across planning, investing, borrowing banking, and get you where you want to go.
Jack Sharry: Kind of a financial planning expert, working with the advisor and client?
Amanda Lott: Absolutely. And what attracted me to that role, because previously, I was an advisor, but what attracted me to this role with this opportunity to be able to help more people, because if you help 100 advisors who are serving, you know, 30 to 50 clients a piece, you’re the end client that you’re able to impact with so much broader. So that was really attractive. And then fast forward a couple of years, or a few years, rather, and the opportunity to move in more of a strategic role presented itself. So that’s the role that I’m in now the head of wealth planning strategy, and really focusing on four key areas, advisor education, thought leadership, our platform and technology and client engagement and how we weave goals-based advice and all those things.
Jack Sharry: So I know we’re gonna get into that. But one of the things that sort of interesting were left field work Obviously, in the technology business, one of the things that we see is, in order to render the kind of advice I know that you seek to render and that JP Morgan is working very diligently on requires all the things you just described, you have to educate the advisor and the client, ultimately, you got to provide thought leadership about what’s next and how to be ready for it. Do you do a lot of work around platform and technology, I’m sure we’ll talk about that some more. And ultimately, it’s around not only client engagement, because I need to do a whole bunch of that are assisting the advisor, but it’s really around advisor engagement, getting them comfortable with the complexity that they have to deal with. So describe that a little bit more a little more in depth, because I know you do some really exciting work around those four key areas.
Amanda Lott: So you’re absolutely right, it’s almost a three legged stool, you need to have the technology, you need your advisors to be highly educated and confident in these concepts. And then you also need to have the thought leadership that advisors can use and also that you can go external with your clients to know this is how we think about things that JP Morgan private bank. And so when I think about some of the things that I’m working on now that I’m most excited about, they’re related to those areas. So when we think about building our planning program to help educate our advisors, we launched that earlier this year, launching our new strategic planning tool wealth plan. So really enhancing our technology capabilities to deliver that seamless experience. And then finally continue to innovate, particularly around this idea of tax efficiency. Those are the three things that I’m really focused on in my time now.
Jack Sharry: Yeah, so talk a little bit more about that I what I refer to as the confluence of digital and human advice, it’s really human being the sum of lessons, understand what’s going on, and also be able to pivot because things inevitably come up that no one really fully appreciated or understood. You also need technology to be well wired. And I know you’re doing a bunch of good work on that as well. And then just the ongoing training and bringing the advisor up to speed on all the not only the innovations from a tech standpoint, but also just regulatory stuff and all the stuff that goes on, you need to be mindful of because it is complex stuff. So talk a little bit if you would about some of the work that you’re doing now. JP Morgan, I know you have an academy underway. So when he talked a little bit more about how all that comes together.
Amanda Lott: Perfect. Let’s start with the adviser education piece first. So I guess a few years ago, well, taking a step back, JP Morgan, private bank, one of the things that we are well known for is how much we pour into our advisors in terms of our training programs, we believe our people are our best asset. And we want to make sure that not only to attract and retain talent, we’re providing them the best opportunities. There’s this underlying current in our culture around this constant pursuit of excellence. And we see that the people who are here and advisors, they want to continue growing. And so when we asked them a few years ago, what areas do you want to learn more about planning was top of the list advisors were hungry to learn more about planning. And so we said, well, how can we best address that we thought do we ask them all to go get an external credential, the CFP, the CWA, and there are a couple of hurdles with that, right? Those are significant time investments. And number two, and this is probably the bigger the bigger one is, well, those certifications, they’re wonderful. I have my CFP has many friends who have also gotten their CPW, A, so they’re wonderful. What I think they’re missing, at least from the JP Morgan, private bank perspective, is the application to the types of clients and situations that our advisors are dealing with every single day. And so all of our training program, we emphasize the importance of the knowledge and the know how so sharing information, but really practicing the application through roleplays, tough conversations, etc. And so given that framework, we built the planning program. And what the planning program is at JP Morgan private bank is it’s five virtual courses on various planning topics. So behavioral finance, retirement, estate planning, family governance, and philanthropy and also business owners and execs, those are all delivered virtually. And it’s a combination of knowledge sharing, and also small group discussions, role plays. And then if an advisor goes to at least four of those, they earn the ability to come to a two day in person experience in New York. And what’s cool about all of this is that the content was developed by our advice subject matter experts. So we have over 70 deep subject matter experts, people who are attorneys who practice in private practice, other CFPs financial planners like us, and folks who advise private businesses or corporate executives, deep deep subject matter experts. So not only did they create the content, but they actually deliver it. So they’re the ones who are presenting it and serving as table host, which I think is a really unique Here I am for all the advisors who choose to attend.
Jack Sharry: So Amanda, pretty incredible program. One of the challenges with the CFP or any of the big designations, they try to cover the world. And your clients are very specific segment, very well defined segment terms of who you’re pursuing and what they need, and so on and so forth. So talk a little bit about how long it took us. I know it sounds sounds to me, like you’ve put a lot of time and effort. And I also know you had an incredible number of signups. So why don’t you fill us in on what you did and what the results were?
Amanda Lottv: Sure. So we were building for I say, over a year, you know, maybe even two. So the first year was really building out our digital library, because we wanted to make sure that in addition to these virtual and in person experiences, we had on demand resources for advisors to be able to utilize. So that took about a year we did that during the peak of COVID. And then after that, we started building out this planning workshop. So what did the virtual workshops look like? What is the in person experience, that probably took another year or so and I remember I distinctly remember was December, we were launching in January of 22. And I was sitting there, you know, I guess impostor syndrome, flaring its ugly head, oh, my gosh, I’m going to launch this program that I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into over the last 12 to 18 months, and only 40 People are going to sign up. And I’m going to have a lot of CRO to eat. And I remember we launched in January. And within a couple of weeks, we had over 1000 signups Jack, it was just off the charts, we have 19 virtual workshops this year, all of them have waiting lists. So just incredible response from our advisor population. And, you know, just a quick anecdote about we’ve surveyed our advisors and ask what you think, tell us how they can get better. And over 90% of advisors would recommend it to their peers. And more importantly, when we ask them how helpful it was in their day to day job to be able to deliver excellent advice to clients, just tremendous response. So we’re really pleased with how it’s going. And we look forward to making it even better.
Jack Sharry: That’s terrific. So this is the people and the training, and the Ministry of thought leadership fits here elsewhere, but fill us in on some of the things you’re doing. Because I know that in addition to the mechanics of planning, there’s also that technology thing and the reps, the thought leadership thing is part of that. What do you fill me in on how all that comes together?
Amanda Lott: Perfect. I think the biggest example is probably around how we’re thinking about innovating in the tax efficiency space. And so really, I don’t think it’s contrarian to say that the next 10 to 15 years of returns are likely to be much lower than the last 10 to 15 years of returns.
Jack Sharry: You mean, the trees don’t grow to the sky?
Amanda Lott: Take don’t check. And so how do we help our clients squeeze every last drop of juice out of that orange, you know, get their portfolio running as efficiently as possible. And that’s through tax efficiency. And one of the things about tax efficiency is, in my view, it’s much more easily achieved than alpha of, you know, in terms of investment, alpha, I think, ideally, you can do both. And you can amplify the two, but the focus that I have on tax efficiency, the innovation has really been on the asset location side. So getting the right types of investments in the right types of accounts. What’s been so interesting, working with ultra high net worth clients, I think, historically, they’ve underestimated the value that asset location can play in their balance sheet. So I have a $50 million portfolio, I have a $2 million IRA, you know, relatively speaking, the amount of dollars that I have in a tax deferred account is pretty small. So how much can asset location really do for me, but with the evolution of the annuity space and being able to offer a low cost option to be able to get more of your taxable dollars into a tax deferred environment, so you can shield the most tax inefficient things like high yield bonds and real estate and high turnover equity strategies, really presents a tremendous opportunity for advisors to be able to deliver smart asset location advice to ultra clients. Now, one thing if we go back to this advisor, education about leadership and even technology, when you’re thinking about how do we deliver that message to advisors and clients, we can’t go from a product up approach. We can’t say here’s the product we use for tax loss harvesting SMEs, and here’s what we do per asset location. And here’s what we do. That doesn’t work. It needs to be a top down message that’s client centric and also advisor centric meaning. at JPMorgan private bank, we manage portfolios tax efficiently And the way that we do that is through smart asset location, smart withdrawals, tax loss, harvesting, integrated planning techniques like funding, adapt with your highly appreciated securities. And even things like using a line of credit to bridge lumpy cash flows. And so it’s one message around tax efficient portfolio management, and just talking about all the different ways that you do that, and then looking to technology. So rather than advisors having to piece together and build spreadsheets and spend hours upon hours to figure out, where do we move? If we make this trade and Miss account, what’s the impact on this account? And all these different competing factors, that technology can really help not only deliver that more efficiently, but more consistently? And so that’s where we’re thinking about, how do we have the technology to supplement the advisor experience? we’re big believers, I know you are to Jack, that technology, you can’t have one or the other. It’s about both. And so how do we build the technology to supplement the advice that our advisors are giving?
Jack Sharry: So let me ask you about that, as you will know that you’re singing our song, you’re preaching to the choir, how do you how do you get advisors to adopt and embrace school, you got the training underway. And now you have a whole bunch going on with Thought Leadership, you’ve also made acquisitions that are public in terms of working with outside firms that were what not once part of JP Morgan that are now working with you, you’re in conversations with many others, I’m sure. So the point of all that is that you’re looking at different ways to bring this about. But also you gotta get an adviser to talk to a client and when they’re not so comfortable talking about something like asset location, because a lot of what you just described, I’m sure there are many advisors that may know one or two of those elements that they might suggest, but not all of them. So talk a little bit about how you get advisor adoption, you get them to implement to get them to fully embrace all this complexity, because it is rather complex, what you’re describing.
Amanda Lott: It’s very complex. And so I think the technology obviously will play a big part of it. But at the end of the day, at the advisors, incompetent bringing that concept to a client, or they think they’re going to get a question that they can handle, it’s not going to work. And so when we think about, Okay, I’ll take asset location as an example. How do we embed that into all of our training programs, so our new hire training how we’re embedding asset location as part of the investment management week, if we think about, you know, overall planning techniques that are tax efficient, or incorporating that into our philanthropic virtual workshop. So it’s all thinking about all of these places where we can add in the training, so that advisors are hearing it from lots of different places. So I think it’s number one, embedding it into your advisor education. The second piece is making sure the advisors don’t feel like they have to go it alone. And so coming back to our advice organization at JP Morgan, private bank, which I think is one of the thing that makes us truly unique. You have nearly 100 people in that organization, and ready to not only help educate advisors on the backend, but go to client and prospect meetings with them. And so I think there’s no better way to learn something, then, you know, get pushed into pool and learn with someone else who can teach you how to swim. And so I think being able to have really smart people, and also a very collaborative culture, where, you know, the way we’re set up with a private bank, is we’re compensated by salary and bonus. And so the idea that I could work with another advisor to be like, Hey, can you go to this meeting? Or what would you do in this situation, but some of threatening experience, it’s, we’re all here to help each other do better. And I think that’s also a part of it, too. So you’ve got the adviser education and betting it there, the technology, and then the people to support that, that progress along the way.
Jack Sharry: So let me see if I can summarize a little bit about what you’ve been talking about, which is pretty incredible. Because through this podcast, we’ve talked to roughly 70 people so far, people like yourself across the industry, you’ve now you’ve heard a few of them, some of them, are your friends and mentors for that matter. Yes. What’s interesting, what I find interesting about how we’ve evolved, because I grew up to is about 70 podcasts that we recorded so far, is what you just described is such a long way from our initial conversations, which were kind of hopes and maybe someday and we wish we could and we’re trying to and so on. But now what I’m seeing is that you have have it fully embedded in your training program. I’m sure it’s part of your recruiting and, and training and development is a part of those efforts as well. You’re on your way down the road on technology, all sorts of technologies. There’s no one thing is really not only the individual elements or pieces, whether it’s risk or tax or all the different ways that philanthropic efforts and so on. All that not only needs to be assimilated, integrated, it needs to be coordinated. In other words, it needs to be developed in such a way that it can be used that means that you need to develop a user experience, which we haven’t talked much about. But I know that’s underway as well as the user experience is more readily available. So it’s really fascinating to listen to you talk about this, because I would say other than we’ve made a few bold moves as a company, JP Morgan, that is, in terms of some acquisitions is that it has turned some heads, but you’re talking about the nits and grits of pulling stuff together to make it work. So am I capturing it right? What did I miss it? Because it sounds like you’re doing it all. There’s a whole bunch of thought leadership going on to the terms of what you’re exposing to your advisors and clients. So did I capture? Did we miss anything?
Amanda Lott: I think you’ve captured it exactly right, Jack. But I want to be clear that we’re not done. And what’s exciting about this is how we know that we’re going to continue to innovate, you’re we’re playing an infinite game, as Simon Sinek would say. And what’s exciting is JP Morgan, private bank, we’re not the only players who are innovating all across the street and fintech. And I think that’s exciting, because ultimately, who benefits from that? And consumers? And I think we’re all in this pursuit of how do we enhance our platform, our offering technology to improve client outcomes, which to me and to my peers, we all believe that the industry is headed towards, it must be advice driven, client centric. And those will be table stakes. And we’re all you know, racing to see who can get there first. And I think we’re going to help make each other better, which is really exciting. One other element.
Jack Sharry: No, you agree, and that’s tech enabled?
Amanda Lott: Yes. So one of the big projects that we’re working on a JP Morgan as a whole, we announced that at Investor day earlier this year, wealth plan. So building a new strategic planning tool that is interactive, can be client LED or advisor led, we’re using it across lines of business. So in US Wealth Management, which is where our Chase and JP Morgan advisor businesses said, as well as the US Private Bank, so we’re both writing the same chassis, the US Private Bank will have different features, because the clients and advisors that we work with have different needs. But the spirit of the tool is the same is that we want everything that we bring to clients should be anchored in what they need their money to do. And so the first place you need to start in any client relationship is what are you trying to accomplish? Because if you’re trying to accomplish, you know, without knowing where you want to go, I have no idea what tools to tell you, to help you get there. And so anchoring in this, what are client outcomes that they’re trying to achieve. And then we have the one of the best platforms is kind of the best on the street. I know I’m biased, but we can do anything, but really looking at products as a fulfillment vehicle of those client goals and outcomes. And so when we think about technology, the private thing version of wealth plan will be heavily advisor driven at first. But I think the biggest part that we’re most excited about is historically and this was true at my previous firms as well. Anytime you built a plan, it was kind of in a silo didn’t talk to anything else that didn’t talk to your investment proposal didn’t talk to your performance review software. And so, you know, at some level, it feels a bit disingenuous to say we take a gold based client centric approach. But yet that is not woven into every piece of the client experience every touchpoint along that lifecycle. And so when we think about our vision for wealth plan, what we’re building is, it’s not a one and done plan, you build your plan that should drive, what investments you’re selecting to get you where you want to go should be goal aligned. And then when we’re telling you, how are you doing, all of that should be in context of are you on track or not? And then that should set the tone for what do we need to make adjustments. And so I think, embedding it and integrating all of that technology, when I talk to advisors all across the country, that’s what they’re most excited about. I’m excited about some of the bells and whistles of the planning tool. But I think what’s really going to drive adoption and what folks are pumped about is the integration that end to end experience, embedding it everywhere. You would, you know, along the way in the client journey, and making it more efficient. I don’t have to rekey information. I’ve got a pulse anytime I want to look how is the client doing? I use technology to surface to the advisor, hey, you need to look at the Smith family looks like they’re off track or hey, why don’t you look at the Smith family. They have a charitable giving goal. They don’t have a donor advised fund and it looks like they’re retiring this year and have a high income year. So being able to use technology to compliment the advisor, which also ultimately impacts and drives a higher client experience.
Jack Sharry: And one of things I mentioned it earlier, and I know you agree with this, and it may sound like I’m splitting hairs in terms of this definition. But it’s one thing to integrate, it’s another thing to coordinate, because what you just described as a really coordinated ecosystem, where there’s an opportunity at the next best thing to do, given the client’s reality, given their circumstances, given where they are in their journey, just as you describe something close to retirement, big income year, donor advised funds, whatever the suggestion that would only come up with the plan was aware in the way you’re describing. And then in terms of what to do next to take advantage of that. I’m assuming that’s very much part of what you’re putting together.
Amanda Lott: Absolutely. And I think, you know, integrating, planning, investing, borrowing, all of these different things with historically, you know, have been fairly siloed. I’ll give you another perfect example, because it not only comes through technology, but even adviser education and thought leadership. So fast forward to earlier this year, when interest rates are rising. And we’re hearing from our mortgage and lending experts. This is how clients should be thinking about lending in a rising rate environment, we’re hearing from our planning experts, here’s the considerations for estate planning techniques in a rising rate environment. And we’re hearing from our investment colleagues, here’s how you need to think about portfolio in a rising rate environment. And so one option and probably the auction that we would have taken even just a few years ago, was that’s three thought leadership pieces. That’s three segments on a firm, wide morning meeting to talk about each of those in isolation, when in fact, from a client perspective and an advisor standpoint, it’s one issue, it’s one question, it’s what do you need to do in your financial life in a rising rate environment, here’s how you should be thinking about your portfolio, your state planning, and your lending. And so being able to swing from topic to topic based on one overarching theme, that’s the direction that the industry is headed, being able to help advisors have that cohesive conversation based on one theme or client issue is critical, and ultimately drives better client outcomes.
Jack Sharry: Well, Amanda, we’ve only just gotten to know each other, and I’ve heard great things about you. But you exceeded those expectations. I have expected a lot but you’ve exceeded those. So thank you for this has been fascinating conversation. I think JP Morgan is in great hands with the kind of leadership you’ve just shared. So thanks for being on our program. And as as you know, there are three key takeaways that we ask our guests around now. So what are the three key takeaways you’d like to share with our audience before, as we look to wrap up our conversation?
Amanda Lott: Absolutely. And my three takeaways throw around advisor education, tax efficiency, and integrated technology, on advisor education, it’s important to have deep subject matter experts. Yes, that’s great. But what we really need to make sure is that there’s a baseline planning knowledge for all advisors, so that they’re able to deliver a consistent, scalable, and ultimately add value, because that’s the where the industry is headed. On the tax efficiency side, it’s going to be a more challenging investment return environment going forward. And so helping our clients think about that cohesive, tax efficient portfolio management narrative, and how they can do that through asset location, tax loss, harvesting, integrated planning techniques, that’s going to be key. And then finally, having integrated technology to supplement the advisor, it’s never going to replace the advisor, but it’s going to complement them, allowing to be them, allowing them to be more efficient, more effective, getting smart, not just talking to other applications. But to do all of that, you need to make sure that all of your technology is anchored in the client goals. What is the client trying to achieve because you could have clients who have two very similar makeups. But if their goals are different, their desired outcomes are different, they probably should have different advice. So those would be the three advisors education, tax efficiency and integrated technology. Those are going to be table stakes for us to survive in the next decade or so.
Jack Sharry: Sounds like JP Morgan is in a good place, because I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that’s the future. So it’s been a real pleasure, man. This has been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a bunch which I get to talk to some of the smartest people in our industry. And this is right up there in terms of what I’ve learned. So I appreciate that. And as we do on each of our podcasts, my favorite question as we close is, what’s something you do outside of work that you’re excited or passionate about? The people who know you buy from work might find interesting or surprising.
Amanda Lott: So I mentioned we moved back to Texas in 2016 when we started having kids so we have two children, a seven year old son and a four year old daughter and they my family is my world. They are my why? And so I think you know, it’s probably a pretty basic answer, but I really love spending time with my kids. And the things that I love doing with them are we love to go on bike rides and We go to festivals. So we’re going to the Texas State Fair soon where all things fried. Can’t wait to do that are going to the Apple festival in western Missouri in October. So I’m excited to take them there. And we eat a lot of Mexican food. So anything that I’m doing with my kids, that’s where my I find my greatest joy. But pretty simple.
Jack Sharry: Yeah, as it should be. That’s wonderful for our audience. If you have enjoyed the podcast, please rate review subscribe or indoor share what we’re doing here at well, tech on deck, we’re available wherever you get your podcast. Amanda, thank you. This has been a real pleasure. I really enjoyed it. So until next time, thanks so much.
Amanda Lott: Thanks for having me.