White Oak Financial Management partners (and sisters) Laura McCue and Priestley Ford recognize that seeking out financial advice can be an intimidating experience. Part of what they do as financial advisors, Laura says, is help sort through the confusion with a holistic approach tailored to each client’s individual goals.
Laura begins initial meetings by having clients focus on their dreams, not just financial goals. “For every new client, we do what we refer to as a road map. It looks like a big board game, spread out onto the table. I begin by letting them use that tool to really realize and find out what drives them, what are their values, what is important to them beyond money. Then we talk about their financial goals. Now, I have a goal that’s measurable, and what I am doing is looking at how our clients can achieve those goals so they experience the payoffs of what is really important to them,” Laura says.
“That’s the initial meeting, where we talk about goals, and sometimes that’s all people want. There is no fee for that first meeting. In a second meeting, if they’d like to come back so that I can further advise them or manage their money, that’s when we talk about where they are now and what they must do to get to those goals,” Laura explains.
When asked about how they became business partners, Laura and Priestley each have unique stories. Laura comes from a background in finance with experience in brokerage firms around the Asheville area. Priestley was working as a litigation paralegal in Seattle when Laura called to tell her that she was planning to start a firm of her own. Priestley immediately jumped at the idea and signed on as operations manager. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2003, White Oak officially opened for business.
One of her motivations for founding White Oak, Laura says, was to offer a resource to clients that would synthesize advice they would normally seek from multiple sources. She offers financial management and advice in up to 30 different areas, from life insurance, health insurance, or social security benefits review, to college planning, reverse mortgages, and home equity lines. When asked about her experience at White Oak, Priestley praises Laura’s ability to help clients. “I admire how good she is at what she does, and how she goes beyond money management to really see the whole person,” Priestley says.
Laura credits her use of a unique point and figure charting system for the ability to better notice patterns in the market and therefore give more practical advice to clients. Because the system focuses on the movement of prices, “it cuts through a lot of the media noise” that can make viewers and listeners anxious about the health of their finances, Laura says. “So, if I had five stocks that I’m looking at, I can compare based on price movement and rank them,” she explains. “It allows us to see where we are on the playing field of risk,” she says. “Who’s got the ball? Are we playing offense or defense?” Using this system, she adds, gives clients a lot of confidence in the future of their investments.
“Our phone hardly ever rings during the day with clients asking, ‘I was watching TV and I heard this, what does that mean for me?’ or that kind of thing,” Priestley relates. “They are just confident in what we are able to do for them.”
One of the great rewards of their work, Laura and Priestley explain, is watching clients leave their office with a renewed sense of confidence. “People come out of their meetings with me, especially women, and Priestley tells me they come out with their shoulders back and their heads high, and they just look so much more confident,” Laura says. “Sometimes they will even say, ‘oh my gosh, I feel so much better,’” Priestley adds. “The transformation is just amazing.”
In addition to meetings with clients, Laura and Priestley say they hope to host more roundtables and seminars throughout the year as another resource for the community. On April 27th at 5:30 p.m., they will host a roundtable exclusively for women to give members of the community a chance to ask financial questions in a relaxed environment. In seeking financial advice, Laura and Priestley agree that it can be stressful to find the right resources. When someone comes in for a meeting, Laura says, “I say ‘thank you for picking up the phone.’ It can be frightening to speak with an advisor about your finances.”
Even so, Laura says it is very important that clients be optimistic and willing to take charge of their own plan. “We manage money and we like clients who recognize the value of hiring a professional, who recognize their needs and are willing to tell me what to do to help them reach their goals,” Laura says. She points out that although she brings expertise and advice to the table, it is ultimately up to clients to make their own decisions about their money.
As far as optimism: “I’m just an optimistic person,” Laura says. “I like a can-do attitude because that’s what I have.”
Holly Amann is a freelance writer and working professional living in Asheville. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.