A message from First Oak’s owner, Jeffrey J. Graham, CFP:
What it means to be an
Independent Financial Planner
First Oak Financial Inc. is an entirely independent firm, operating with an unquestionable freedom, void of external pressure in any capacity. We are not owned, operated or persuaded by financial institutions or insurance companies in any way. The products we sell and recommendations we make are completely reliant on the best fit for the client.
When it comes to selling insurance and investment products, we are brokers, meaning we have access to a multitude of different company’s products, which has a profound effect for the client. Financial products are not created equal – take term life insurance for example. Company A might be a better for a 40 year old male than Company B, but the situation could be reversed for a 50 year old female. In other words: the more financial products on the shelf, the increased likelihood of finding the best possible solution for the client. When someone walks into their bank to purchase insurance or open an investment account, they are gaining access to solely the bank’s products. Additionally, other financial firms may say their advisors/planners are independent, but are compensated considerably higher if they sell certain company’s products as opposed to others. That can lead to a justification or encouragement to sell the higher-commissioned product and convincing the client it is the best option, even if untrue.
Lastly, I wanted to touch on the differential between a financial advisor and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). The CFP designation is the catalyst for individuals in the financial advice industry, requiring extensive education and practical work experience. Furthermore, a strict code of ethics must be followed and continuing education credits must be acquired each year to remain in good standing. Individuals who do not have the CFP designation are not supposed to refer to themselves as financial planners. The commonly used alternative, financial advisor, is not regulated in any capacity. Anyone can call themselves a financial advisor, regardless of expertise or training, which can become problematic for the consumer because there is no fiduciary duty required from the “advisor.” With that being said, there are financial advisors we work with who are exceptional at their job, and always act in the best interest of the client. When a client is searching for a financial professional, it is important to consider many factors, such as experience, designations (if any), testimonials and personality.
So, in summary: we do not work for the banks or the insurance companies. We do not have “sales targets” that we have to meet. We are not pressured or coerced in any way to sell a certain company’s products over another. We have built our business on impartiality and a fiduciary duty to always place the needs of the client first.