Personalized Financial Planning for Physicians with Bill Martin
Physicians are some of the nation’s highest earners, but they are not without their own unique financial challenges. By the time physicians earn their MDs, several factors work against them: the time value of money, delayed earnings, and substantial debt. Compared to their corporate peers who have been working for 10+ years, there is a compressed number of years to accumulate wealth. Most financial advisors do not consider all of the specific needs or unique risks of this group, which complicates financial planning.
Bill Martin seeks to alleviate the burden of financial planning for this group as Chief Wealth Officer of Forme Financial, a tech-led wealth management practice tailor-made for residents, fellows, and practicing physicians. Bill discusses how he ended up at Forme Financial, the powerful tech partnerships that enhance the platform, and how Forme Financial helps aspiring medical professionals build wealth. Furthermore, Bill highlights the importance of data-driven decision-making, the democratization of advice, and decumulation in the tech-led wealth management space.
In this episode, Bill talks with Jack about the power of personalization in financial planning, the unique financial challenges faced by physicians, and the factors that are driving the future of tech and wealth management.
What Bill has to say
“Data-driven decision making allows us to have more personalized and better advice.”
Read the full transcript
Jack Sharry: Everyone, thanks for joining us on this week’s edition of well tech on deck there’s an industry buzzword making the rounds. You see it everywhere. It’s called personalization. And for those prone to hyperbole which I see too much of To be honest, a favorite way to speak of this trend is hyper personalization. I have my own thoughts about what that is and how real it is. It’s rare. Our guests will cover that in just a moment in terms of some personalized ways of dealing with a particular segment of the market. So for today’s show, we’re going to look at personalized advice in the new age. Our guest is Bill Martin Bill is the chief wealth officer. At Forme financial as Bill will describe forum financial as a first of its kind, Tech Lead wealth management practice. tailor made for residents, fellows and practicing physicians. Bill Welcome to WealthTech on Deck.
Bill Martin: Thanks, Jack, pleasure to be here today.
Jack Sharry: So Bill, before we talk about your background and career, what you do at forum and where you see the world going. Let’s start by filling our audience in unformed financial, it’s a great demonstration of personalization and focus. Who was formed financial, what do you guys do, how the business gets started Fill us in.
Bill Martin: For financial is a VC backed tech led registered investment advisory firm, we’ve taken a verticalized approach to wealth management. And as you’ve referenced, beginning with physicians, so from early stages when they’re in residency all the way through, as they’re beginning to make transitions out of practicing medicine. It’s been the focus that we’ve taken, and really working on the specialization and the personalization related to that particular segment of the market. As far as how the business got launched, and have to go back, we officially launched business in 2022, beginning of the year, which we were able to take client assets. But there was a number of years of work in front of that. And that was led initially by the VC backed firm that’s invested in us in the very early stages of our company. And they ended up taking over two years of doing research on various kind of segments and parts of the market within wealth management. And really ended up narrowing in on that focus with the physician experience and what they found through numerous user interviews, conversations with physicians, that there was the willingness in many cases to outsource the wealth management to providers. But yet some of the highest dissatisfaction levels and those experiences because of the uniqueness of their career journey. And from that ended up digging a bit deeper and ultimately resulted in their model is to do what’s called this concept development of finding a CEO that’s very seasoned and experienced, that can then build a founding leadership team around that. So the founding CEO that they did a very exhaustive search was John Clendening. And John was formerly the CEO of Charles Schwab bank. And before joining form financial as CEO and co-founder, his role in that was working as the CEO of a publicly traded company called Blucora. John is an incredible visionary, a great leader. And from that perspective, was really one of the pieces that attracted me to joining this firm.
Jack Sharry: Great, fascinating, I knew much of them, not all it’s good to hear all that. So talk a little bit more about your background, how you found your way to form so kind of fill us in on your backstory, because I get to know a good bit about that. But the story starts to gel as we find out what you’ve done. And also, if you go even further back, how do you get started the business? What’s your career journey, like maybe just a little bit of how you wound up sitting here today? What sort of led to all that.
Bill Martin: One thing I really do enjoy is meeting with university students that are studying to potentially enter this profession. And that’s often a question that I get asked if tell me the early kind of stages of this career, and how did this get mapped up out? And how did you land where you’re at today. And first thing I would often tell them is that what I had intended, and where I am at today is very different. And I am actually much more pleased with how life has kind of taken its course than what I could have ever imagined. But just be prepared. I mean, part of that is you know, doing the hard work, investing in that education, learning from really great mentors, and continuing to try to find add value to the clients that you’re serving. And I think the rest kind of falls into place. And that’s certainly been my case. I’ll probably start in the spot. I had a chance to join a Regional Base bank in the wealth management division and my career kind of entry point was into investment management, and was hired as an analyst to help out and just as good fortune would have two years later, the head of our wealth management department and a couple other colleagues executive leaders were true visionaries and saw another opportunity beyond just delivering Wealth Management in our local market. So they ended up partnering with a large multinational financial technology firm, and doing one of the first startups within that particular firm. And so that was Sunguard. And Sunguard ended up enabling us to launch a business called Sunguard, Wealth Management Services. And there were a couple different things, we were establishing the platform, we were providing outsourced wealth management capabilities. And I had an opportunity to join that lift out. So we became the client, the bank that I was a part of became the first client. And then we were introduced in with a sales team to begin offering services to the network of financial institutions. And a couple other good points of good fortune that came my way. One was an incredible boss, who became the president of the group that we were doing, that just had a very different way of thinking about wealth management wasn’t about selling products, it wasn’t about generating performance that beat the market. It was around really delivering client outcomes that were using technology as a way to do that pairing and partnering with the advisor. And some of the early things that we were doing was what’s now being referred to as direct indexing or tax optimization. So 20 years ago, I got exposure to this kind of work and was consulting with some of the leading wealth management firms beginning to try to introduce those concepts into these different practices, phenomenal sets of experiences that were part of that Sunguard, at the time was a publicly traded company, they ended up going private and through that process began divesting certain non-core businesses or those that had regulatory components to it, such as ours, which we were a registered investment advisor. And through that process, ended up launching a new company. We spent out some the contracts found some other partners found a private equity group to help sponsor us. And we launched this business in 2008. It was called folio dynamics. And in 2008, you know, it doesn’t take much to have to go back and pull that date from our memories. The great financial crisis was in full steam that point in time and trying to be able to deliver financial services and sell into financial service providers at that time was clearly a tough go. But we weathered through that business, and 2014 ultimately sold it to invest in it. And the investors ended up you know, really doing well through the hard work that we did. So it gave me a really interesting set of experiences of consulting with some of the largest wealth management practices, getting exposure to technology, getting exposure to very large multinational kinds of financial technology practices, and then a startup VC backed. All that time during that 10-year time horizon. The original bank that I was working with prior to kind of commencing on this was a client and had stayed in touch with me and offered me an opportunity to join back as part now as a part of the senior leadership team. So served as the Chief Investment Officer and helped with wealth management strategy. And we started our business grow pretty substantially during the 10 years that was there. And we were putting into motion some things like the tax optimization, direct indexing, we were using components like Financial Planning partner with money guide, pro and with others, and really changed the experience from an investment management-oriented wealth management practice to an advice centric, that really focused on the things I did. And so for me, those sets of experiences were, I think, informative, in where I sit today. And so I was not as silly, just share the story earlier today was not necessarily looking. But when John Clendening came knocking on the door shared the vision and the opportunity, and the team that was coming together, for example, our chief product officer is helped launch and was one of the lead product teammates and senior leaders part of Apple Pay. So somebody like that, to be able to have the experiences and with John and with other teammates, and then the focus of really this personalization that you started this podcast with mentioning and the opportunity to to really focus in on exact population and really drive the type of outcomes that we wanted. I think all that made me say I gotta give this a try. I’m going to regret it probably the rest of my career. And so that was a decision that was made in late 2021, was part of the original founding team helped stood up the business. And it’s been a whirlwind of activity and a lot of fun, but a lot of hard work.
Jack Sharry: Gotcha. That’s great, too many pieces of that, but not the whole story, and really leads into what you’re doing today. So, for our audience form financial is a client of LifeYield. I’ll let you explain how we work together. Also working closely. We recently made a joint announcement with Orion and Forme and LifeYield. You also as you mentioned a moment ago investment money guide, that’s also part of the platform and the offering that you put together so tell our audience about the platform your services because goes beyond just investment guidance. It’s much more than that. So maybe you’d fill in the blanks on all that you’re putting together, it’s pretty fascinating.
Bill Martin: Yeah, we knew and standing up to this business in a de novo fashion that we needed some key partners, industry leading partners to be a part of this mix. So we did some searches and ended up landing in as you referenced Orion, and there’s some capabilities that we’ve been able to really leverage and use with the physicians that we serve. Other partners, like you said, from a planning base perspective, we’re using money guide Pro, and then from an asset location. And we’ll talk probably about this a bit more, but you know, looked at a couple of different options and really landed with LifeYield. There are other partners that if helpful, could kind of go in through but there was a couple of key principles and the selection of that. So at the beginning, you were asking me about foreign financial, and I just shared a notes, a tech lead, all right, mentioned Jack Chung, and kind of the role that he’s playing chief product officer, and we have engineers and designers and others. So it looks very different than most RIAS. So it’s really important that you go back to this personalization, what we didn’t want to do is just be beholden to everyone else’s tech that we knew we couldn’t build everything. So finding ways to partner together. And those spaces where there’s best of breed, third party technology providers, made a lot of sense. Now, in evaluation of that kind of some of the principles, there was really good providers, but the way in which they went to market was a very closed architecture, like us their user interface as the mechanism to provide whatever financial technology or service that was a part of it. But to providers that I’ve mentioned, and others that we’ve selected beyond that, including, like I said, LifeYield, one of the things that became really attractive was not only the quality of the technology, but the openness in which that technology could be delivered. So for us to own that end user experience designed exclusively for physicians, we needed to have tech partners on the back end that enabled us to grab API’s and to do other things so that we could own that user experience that leverage the best of their capabilities. I think that was a really important decision. That’s a part of that. I’ll stop there, maybe there’s some questions or thoughts that you would ask that that those are some of the partners that we’ve established in putting together this platform.
Jack Sharry: Yes, on the investment side, which often what we talked about, I also want to get to call it the softer side of that softer side. But other parts of the trajectory or the career journey of a physician, we’ll talk about that in just a moment. But essentially, what you’ve done is you have money guide as your front-end planning tool that’s tied into LifeYield, asset location, and as things transpired, income and all that down the road. And then, of course, Orion, kind of a back-office provider of great renown. And I’m sure there’s many more. So that kind of stuff is I think, such a great example of you kind of stood it up quickly as you understood it, you’ve got the background, as was explained earlier, you understand what needs to be involved. And now you have this full household level management system, and that will get improved. But I’m also curious what you do beyond that, particularly for physicians, because they have a different set of issues in terms of their poor as hell got while going to school, typically. And then they make a bunch of money. And then they’ve got liability and insurance and student loans. And there’s all sorts of debt issues, they have a particular set of issues. And then as they make money, then they got to worry about taxes and so on. So maybe take us through a client’s journey in terms of they’re in school, and then and beyond, because you guys have done some interesting work on that just they have very particular issues. So it’s not just about saying you got the latest and greatest asset management platform, which I believe you do. But also you’re much more than that, you go well beyond that. It’s all about what the client keeps, as opposed to whether they make or whatever. So maybe fill this fill us in on all that.
Bill Martin: The way that I’ll answer this jack and kind of walk through this is let’s just take a hypothetical physician, I’ll call her Dr. Susan Jones. So think of her even before she could use MD behind her name. So she graduates maybe with a biology or chemistry degree from a university applies to med school takes the MCAT gets accepted. And there’s four years of medical training that’s a part of that. during that timeframe. Just think of how demanding the study and all that you just can’t hardly work. So unless that individual in this case, you know, Dr. Susan Jones ends up having substantial means or family wealth going into it, she’s likely going to have to take on quite a bit of debt. Now, if Dr. Jones is like most physicians, when she graduates four years later and could have that white coat ceremony and the MD behind her, she now also has probably 250,000 or so in student debt, not an insignificant amount. And then for the next three, four, and often longer as they go through residency and to fellowships for specialization, earning very nominal wages, but maybe enough to kind of cover rent, put food on the table and begin possibly paying down that student debt. That’s the dynamic now you contrast Dr. Jones with say she has a brother, couple years maybe older than her and, and he graduated from college started his working profession, he now has 10 plus years of earnings, and you think of like the time value money and all that. So there’s a unique set of challenges, not only is there compressed and delivered delayed earnings timeframe, but they have substantial debt that further compounds that that’s a unique financial circumstance, that’s really important for the wealth manager to understand. So there’s a compressed number of years in which they can kind of accumulate wealth compared to most other professionals. There’s unique risk factors. So certainly malpractice, it’s a part of that. But you think about even like disability, having the ability for Dr. Jones, if she let’s say she’s a surgeon and ends up in an unfortunate accident, and can no longer use her hands in the way before having a specialized disability policy that covers, you know, certain her occupation, and then even her specialty is really an important considerations. That again, most financial advisors not spending as much time studying the needs of these, this distinct group would have a hard time, maybe coming up with that level of personalization, you fast forward and now enter into this environment that’s dramatically changing for physicians, you have, you know, higher regulatory environment payer challenges, you went through COVID, and you have burnout, and you can’t keep your staff in place. Those are all really that translate that career entity distinct challenges for that physician. And so being able to walk with them to make a decision, should I sell my practice, it’s just as too much I can’t balance all these demands, having a financial partner that understands that and can come alongside and help them evaluate those career decisions, the impact, what that means are all the sorts of things that we would take into consideration and working with somebody like Dr. Jones. And at the end, one of the things that we think is really important by taking a look at not only just managing the assets through an investment management approach, taxes become really important. You mentioned that Jack like these are high income earners now. And so finding ways to minimize that tax liability in a coordinated fashion, looking at things like career and insurance, and there’s other elements that we do in an integrated way. And so you bring this back to the technology and the advisors working with this, when we say comprehensive, that’s a word that’s often floated by other wealth management firms. I think we’re taking that you know, a layer deeper than most would in the sense of truly looking across all areas of financial life that are impacted by physicians, being an advocate and an ally to help support them and expert to where they can turn to when these life and career events take place.
Jack Sharry: It’s pretty cool. So you’re not just looking about just trying to beat the market, it seems like such an anachronism. But in any event, you’re really looking for what you could do in terms of managing their debt, managing taxes as that those change over time managing other liabilities or, or risks that they have to encounter. Absolutely. As part of your platform. As I understand you do all of these things, you address all of these things. It’s really, truly comprehensive, personalized, kind of approach for each physician, because each physician is different, correct? That’s right. That’s great. That’s great. So you’ve built up the firm you’re bringing on folks talk a little bit about where you see going, and I if you would share with our audience, as I’ve heard, you want to get things up and running and going strong with physicians, but I think there are other markets down the road they might want to take a look at. So maybe when you talk a little bit about where you see form, and the industry going in this level of personalization makes you unique and distinctive.
Bill Martin: Yeah, a couple things is, you know, you look, there’s so many different directions, I would say the speed of innovation, having been in this industry for some time, it’s just fascinating for me to watch, like, I feel like in many ways, it’s just exploding. Now, there’s some great opportunity in that in that there’s also a lot of challenges, I think for advisory firms knowing how to pull all this together in a cohesive way. But a couple things that I would highlight and thinking about where the industry is headed, and perhaps ways that we’re trying to play into these themes as well. But data is such an important component. I saw an article by The Economist, it’s been a few years back of like data is now like the new oil of this generation, just how it’s fueling decisions and other things. And firms that can you know, take advantage of that are going to be able to be in a better spot with data insights. And so I think of this is like data driven nudges. And the reason that becomes important, what are things that we can do with these data insights, to help our clients end up having better outcomes, and it’s really around not that the advice is maybe poor advice. Often it’s just really hard to take that advice. And so adherence to it and nudges and continue to help busy professionals such as doctors stay on track. Data can be used in a way not only the insights itself, but in how you present that to them, I think is an area that we’re going to see continued evolution Another area that I think is going to be important for our industry and where it’s headed. I liken it to and I’ve shared this serve on a CFP, one of the leading CFP educational institutions college, and they create PhD students and others, but they’ve done a lot of research and my having served on that advisory council, the thing that comes to mind is what I’d say a professionalization of our profession. And I’m really excited about that having a chance to interact with a number of students and see where they’re going in these programs. You think of like an accountant or CPA, somebody that also is a lawyer, there’s a very distinct track to begin, you know, to that point to where to practice that profession. That’s not been the case in wealth management. I believe we’re seeing those early signs that that’s the direction. And so for us making sure that our advisors have that Certified Financial Planner CFP designation is an important consideration, again, around the professionalization of advice. There’s a distinct body of knowledge, and we want them to be able to handle that. A couple other quick things, hyper focus on client centricity. So you’ve heard, you know, terms like fiduciary, I think that’s just the baseline. But how can we then take the knowledge that we have of customers and have clients that we’re serving, understand their unique distinct needs, and then be able to deliver far superior outcomes because we’re such were designed in a tailored based way, I think the industry is going to continue to move in that direction. So there was segmentation that took place based on let’s call it asset size, and many wealth management firms have done that. So you have different tiers of clients that you’re serving, I think ultimately, the end goal is going to be segmentation of one, like you ultimately have to be in a position to know distinctly the needs of each individual client you’re serving. And finally, I would just say an outcome orientation. What I mean by that I think of early on very, very early on industry knows sales focused, shifted to an environment, maybe more investment management fee based under that and growing wealth. But as we think about this next evolution and where advice fits into it, it’s really around achieving those outcomes that are important to the clients that we’re serving. And then as wealth managers, holding ourselves accountable to delivering those outcomes and the things that we can control. So those are four things that come to mind, Jack, there’s many more, like I said, exciting time for the industry. But things that I would identify are important considerations, I think, for all of us to factor into our practices.
Jack Sharry: So there’s been a great conversation. Two last questions. The first of those two is that we look to wrap up what are three key takeaways you’d like to share with our audience based on what you’ve been seeing and doing and learning as you’ve been helping to grow foreign financial. So fill us in.
Bill Martin: Yeah, three things that come to mind Jack, first, is data driven decision making fit on that. But why this is important. It allows us to have more personalization, and better advice. The second one, which I haven’t really hit too much on, but I think it’s important for this audience to consider is democratization of advice. And why I say that it comes from actually a spirit of altruism, I see the needs across, you know, our nation, regardless of stage or financial wherewithal are in industry has served, you know, the ultra-wealthy or the high net worth, in order to be able to meet the social needs of our entire kind of country here, we need to find ways to deliver that advice to those just starting out early in their career all the way to those that do have substantial wealth, technology and data, I think are going to be important considerations. And for us, I think an example of that is, you know, being able to not only serve that late stage physician where they’ve already made their money, but also to come alongside, let’s say the case of that physician that’s in training and residency, be able to give them really important insights as they move throughout their career. And the third point is deep accumulation. Good. Another thing that I haven’t really touched on, but I see the industry having spent so much time focusing on how to grow and manage wealth. But you think of the demographics and the need for what I call it portfolio longevity, the ability for a portfolio to last for extended lifetimes, people are living longer, it’s likely going to be in a higher tax regime. So finding ways to optimize in a decumulation environment when somebody no longer has a paycheck. And they need to convert their wealth now into an income stream over a very extended long period of time perhaps. And I see that as an important thing for this audience to consider. It’s something that we are certainly considering our partnership with LifeYield. But those are the three things that come to mind, Jack.
Jack Sharry: That’s great. Well, to underscore the number two that you shared, that I found myself in this conversation a lot recently, just the past couple of weeks around the democratization of advice. The way I look at your firm is a good example. There are many More like it that are, frankly in serving the high net worth, because that’s what funds the kind of investment that needs to be made, just how it works. But the kind of program you’re putting together can be applied to different markets, including people that don’t have a lot of money. But it will be funded, if you will, or the investment will be made through the high net worth who will benefit greatly. But it’s also makes it far more democratically available small d to the rest of the market by so good on you. I’m happy to share that fact. Just read a LinkedIn blog on the very same topic. And another person I spoke to on this topic is Ken Dychtwald from Age Wave, we haven’t published that, that episode just yet. But that’s coming soon. So stay tuned for that. So Bill, one last question. As we do each of our podcasts my favorite question, What is something you do outside of work you’re excited or passionate about. And people might find interesting or surprising?
Bill Martin: Well, I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and have been fitness oriented. So in the past, what that led to got into doing triathlons, ended up ultimately doing a couple of very long distance ones Iron Man’s, my time no longer allows me to do that kind of level of commitment, both family and professionally. And so my wife and I were talking about it, my job requires me to do some traveling, it’s often virtual based. So all that creates some headwinds from getting outside and being active, we decided to purchase an app that is called conquer the challenge. And there’s different virtual challenges, so to speak, that are part of it. And the one we selected is my wife, and I’m starting this past January 1, was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, it’s nearly 2500 miles, something that I aspire to do. At some point, I just don’t know if in my life, I’m going to ever be able to do it. But what’s really cool about this experience is it counts things like walking, it counts things, you know, running, cycling, etc, that count toward that distance. It syncs in with my Apple Watch and Apple Health. So movement throughout the day, it gives me these smart nudges to get up and be active. And there’s a really cool app that social base, so I can see others traveling and traversing this trail as well, besides my wife, and so it’s been a great motivator for us to get outside. It fits kind of where we’re at in our stage of life. It’s really cool tech as well. So those are maybe something that the audience would find surprising.
Jack Sharry: Yeah, get a question on that. Does it counting your steps toward what the Pacific trail is? Or is that are you actually hiking the trail?
Bill Martin: No good clarification, it’s counting that this my steps as if I were on the trail, so there’s GPS finding things that can pull out and show you virtually where you would happen to be based on the number of steps or miles that you’ve logged or also things that you’ve done maybe cycling or swimming, just pretty cool thing. It’s, yeah, interesting little motivator. And for me, it’s been a fun start to the year.
Jack Sharry: Okay, good for you. That’s wonderful. So thank you, Bill. It’s been a great conversation. I enjoyed it very much. I’ve known you for a while but fun to get the backstory and some of the details. So thanks for that. For audience if you’ve enjoyed our podcast, please rate review, subscribe, or share and or share and what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you, Bill. It’s been a real pleasure. Look forward to the next conversation.
Bill Martin: Likewise. Thanks so much, Jack.