Cliff Demarest, Managing Principal, Consilium Wealth AdvisoryCliff Demarest, Managing Principal
“Invest in America.”

Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, recently provided this take on where to invest. It was apt advice for investors of all types, including the employers of all those American companies in which Mr. Buffett invests. Today, American companies are realizing more than ever that their employee’s success ensures their own corporate success. Its employee’s ideas, hard work, dedication and overall wellness that allow them drive corporate results, and increasingly companies are supporting their valued employees with contemporary employee benefits like financial wellness. Companies are realizing that employee’s financial stability and confidence in a secure future can only be tackled with education, collaboration with expert guidance, and tangible action. “Warren Buffet advises investing in America–and it’s those American firms that we are advising invest in their own employees,” remarks Cliff Demarest, head of his firm’s Finance Matters financial wellness business. “You attract, develop, and retain key employees with a full-suite of contemporary employee benefits–and financial wellness is one of the most in-demand benefits for top performing employees in today’s marketplace,” according to Demarest.

Spearheading this idea, Demarest founded Consilium Wealth Advisory in 2013 along with several experienced investment/family office professionals to deliver objective-based, experienced advice to a select few clients who sought concierge wealth advisory management. At the outset, Consilium Wealth Advisory’s financial wellness program began with wealthy family-oriented businesses–even public companies–having key employees that they wished to provide a boutique employee benefit. Infusing its experience as institutional money managers and family office advisors, the company began offering concierge financial planning, personal wealth management, and innovative family wealth stewardship advice–customized for each client. Today, Consilium Wealth Advisory is successful registered investment advisor with clients across the globe–with a growing list of financial wellness corporate clients.

With a niche in family-owned businesses, the company currently offers its Finance Matters employee financial wellness program to enhance the wealth experience of clients and their key employees. In an exclusive interview with Manage HR, Demarest, founder and managing principal of Consilium Wealth Advisory, shared his insights on the company’s state-of-the-art services and reward systems and demystified the myths in the financial wellness paradigm, and created the financial confidence to succeed.

Given the considerable number of years Consilium Wealth Advisory has been in this space, what are the significant trends that you see in the financial planning landscape?

One of the biggest industry changes has been the move–that began some decades ago–from defined contribution to defined benefit plans. Employees used to have professionally managed auto-pilot pension plans, wherein all the aspects of financial investment management were done for them, if they simply worked at a company. But then companies started migrating to the 401 (k) system that required employees to completely manage their own assets and future. And what we have seen over the last few decades is woeful savings rates, poor 401K participation rates, over borrowing from saved funds, and basically mass jeopardizing of employees’ eventual retirement future. The average well-educated employee is simply not trained in the nuances of personal finances and investing, which continue to advance in complexity. Fortunately, what we have seen in the last few years, is a move by investors and therefore companies in emphasizing environmental, social and governance issues. And one of the outgrowths has been more attention on valuing and helping employees with tangible actions. Companies are being measured on their ESG implementation by their investors, and have found financial wellness as that tangible area they can demonstrate they care. Our Finance Matters financial wellness program fills that need to provide tangible help in an area that is highly needed by both employee and employer.

According to you, what was the drastic change that occurred in the last year, especially with COVID-19 in hindsight?

With everybody working from home, companies have been very concerned about valuing and retaining their key employees. Under this new normal, the connections and culture that were fostered within the office from in-person camaraderie, lunch breaks, and meetings were hampered. While technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams apps have managed to bridge the gap as much as possible, people are still ‘alone’ in their homes. They are bound to lose some connections with the company. Companies are looking for ways to continue to say “we value you,” more than ever. They are looking to deliver boutique employee benefits. On the one hand, it like how Apple and Google have always offered their employees fancy perks, free lunches, massages, and dry cleaning. Nice to be sure, but they have been equally focused on more essential aspects like financial wellness programs, which is important to show that employees are valued while also responding to investment environments. Our program delivers on that employer support for visionary companies across the country.

With all these transitions happening, how does your company exactly fit in to the financial wellness space? Also, was there any change/addition of programs that Consilium Wealth Advisory adopted to sail through the COVID-19 storm?

We fit in the high-end of the marketplace, by offering–a boutique, financial wellness program that is delivered via both technology and an assigned, experienced, personal Certified Financial Planner (CFP). That extra client service touch of having each participant assigned to a person who readily helps you with each of the 10 areas financial planning makes us a distinguished partner for our clients. We have found that assigning a person who becomes your encouragement, your collaborator, and your advisor–gives people that financial confidence to actually succeed.

We are usually hired by companies to help them retain and assist their key employees, business unit leaders, the C-suite, or even their future leaders.
We work with law firms, CPA firms, technology firms, consultancy firms, advertising firms; but in each case we are usually there to help a handful, to just a few dozen key employees. We can serve any company that wants to provide a contemporary, boutique employee benefit.

Our uniqueness stems from assigning a dedicated financial advisor who understands the intricacies and nuances of financial planning. While we cover all the areas of financial planning, we curate our work to focus on the issues most important to each of our Finance Matters participants. It’s real planning – meets real life

Last year, we transitioned online to Zoom like everyone else. Typically however, we deliver our personalized approach with dedicated Certified Financial Planners, who conduct group meetings at the company with all participants several times a year, followed by individual in-person meetings to complement our quarterly personalized conference calls. To make things interesting and fun, we have tried to include some inducements like a reward system, where we track people’s achievements on a variety of financial planning aspects. Once we see participants attain a certain number of positive results in their financial planning objectives, we offer them gift cards. Our reward plans are, in a way, encouraging people to handle their finances better. This helps us to always maintain a warm connection with our customers and bolster their financial confidence.

What are the differentiating factors that steer Consilium Wealth Advisory ahead of the competition?

We’re different because we recognize that progressive companies operate in a highly competitive world and their greatest asset is finding and retaining great people to execute their vision. To attract and retain great people, and please their own investors, companies are offering boutique employee benefits, like financial wellness. It’s an area most employees need help with, and many lack the education, exposure, or financial confidence to execute well across all the areas of today’s complex, ever-changing financial world.

We are very holistic in our financial planning approach. We cover all ten areas of financial planning, as outlined by the Certified Financial Planner current curriculum, such as budgeting, investing, retirement planning, saving for college, estate planning, and elder care, to name a few. We are even introducing concepts like behavioral investing, which is crucial to financial planning and investing success, but often unheard of by many typical clients. We walk our client through each area with plenty of outside resources, readings, action plans, and follow-up assistance.

Lastly, our uniqueness stems from assigning a dedicated financial advisor who understands the intricacies and nuances of financial planning. While we cover all the areas of financial planning, we curate our work to focus on the issues most important to each of our Finance Matters participants. It’s real planning–meets real life.

Moving forward, what are the plans you envision for Consilium Wealth Advisory?

We started by virtue of serving our business owner clients–and developed a program that we thought would be helpful to them, but the word got out and soon we grew to have over 30 clients in just three years, which for us was a huge growth. We will purposely slow that growth by focusing on each new company’s key employees–we do not want to target staggering growth by compromising on quality. Our financial wellness program is not for everybody in the company, but for the key employees whose management wants to retain and grow by providing a contemporary employee benefit, to demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing. Over the next five years as we aim to double our size each year with companies that want to offer a boutique benefit to showcase their competitive progressive vision.

We’ve also partnered with Texas Tech University, as they offer the leading financial planning program in the country. Collaboratively, we aim to bring on several new, younger people and mentor them under our three existing seasoned people that helped develop this financial wellness program. In terms of geographical expansion, we are going to focus solely on the U.S. The legal structures around investing and retirement accounts are quite different in other countries, so we will stay domestic and optimize our growth figures for the next five years in the U.S.