Fireside Chat with James Phillips, Phillips Financial

December 29, 2021

Talk to a Workflow Expert

Hubly’s Co-Founders, Louis and Ron, were joined by James Phillips, President of Phillips Financial, for a frank and friendly conversation about workflows. James discusses his mindset for laying down a strong foundation that allows him to scale his team and become a dominant player in the future of the financial planning industry. James shares strategies, learnings, and even a live demo of how he personally uses Hubly workflows to streamline his business and manage his team.

Phillips Financial Fireside Chat with Hubly Transcript


James Phillips is the president of Phillips financial advisors.  James opened his firm in 2012 with a desire to protect, grow and distribute people's wealth with integrity and wisdom. His firm has now grown to a team of seven and each member is equally dedicated to helping prepare their clients to meet their financial goals.

Thanks for joining us today, James I'm excited to chat with you. 

How James became one of Hubly’s first ever customers

Louis Retief

I'm personally very excited about today's webinar with James.  James leading up to this webinar I started thinking about how long we've been working together and I thought I'd share one of my favorite stories about how we met. I clearly remember exactly when I first got a message from you. 

It was when I was living in New York, right before COVID and I was standing and waiting for one of the subways, looking at my phone and I got a notification on our Hubly Facebook account. I proceeded to open up this message from a guy named James. I don't know if you remember what message you sent me James, but the message I got from you was “can someone give me a call?…with no further context at all.

I proceeded to make my way to the office, where I gave you a call. I remember we kicked it off right away. We started talking about your advisory business, about your need to scale and manage your business. But most importantly, how frustrated you were with existing solutions.

I don't know if you remember this, but in fact, you were so frustrated that you decided to make a deal with me – as you do –  that you would pay for our product before our integration with Redtail was even ready. About four months later, I came back to you with a product that was finally able to support you and onboard your team.

It is crazy how long our relationship evolved before we even got you into the product. That's more than a year ago now and as a co-founder of Hubly, I'm always very extremely grateful for our earliest users. 

Fireside chat with James Phillips


I'm curious as to when you think back to before Hubly, what drove you down the path to look for a solution to help improve your workflows and even sign up for a product that did not exist and trust our team to deliver? 


Yeah, so what was happening was my firm was growing at such a fast pace that I was worried about dropping the ball and I had post-its everywhere.

I had pieces of paper that I was writing on and I was trying to use the current CRM.  I was looking at their workflows but they just didn't work for us.  Anyone who's in the financial industry knows that the current workflow systems that are out there are just not up to par with what some other industries have.

I was even doing my due diligence, asking other CEOs of different companies, not even in the financial world, just different industries and saying; “hey, what do you use for workflow?” I was looking at different companies like, Asana, Favro, and all these different workflow managers.

I'm like, "how can I build these two without taking so much of my time to make this work for my firm?" I didn't even know Hubly was out there so the second I found you guys that's when like; “hey, give me a call” on Facebook. I was like; “I need you more than, you know.”

You didn't know how much I was willing to pay otherwise you would have charged me a little bit more, huh? It was just such a huge need for my firm. 


And how would you describe your work life before and then after that? 


I mean, my work life was terrible before. At the end of the day I’d think, "what did I forget to do? What sticky did I lose? Did I put that in my pocket, did I put it in my briefcase?”

It just got wild. And then I'm looking at my tasks, and all the tasks on the calendar, I knew that it would be a big problem as we scaled.


I remember on our first call, we asked you, “what is the goal of the advisory firm? What are you trying to accomplish?” You said you wanted to build something massive and you wanted to set yourself up for scale. Why was this important? Why were you in that mindset of scale? 


Just, how my firm works. We're big into education. We're big into teaching. We just love to help people and change people's lives.  We do full financial planning so we don't just offer investments, but we add different streams of revenue and different planning as a holistic planning method.

I knew that we could reach more people if we were able to scale and scale faster. If I was able to add new team members with those workflows already established where, when they come on they know exactly how a process is done. It comes down to reaching more people and helping more people.


I know we've spoken about that quite a bit offline about reaching more people, and simplifying your new client account opening and onboarding experience so that you can take on a large volume of clients, even if they didn't necessarily have the net worth or assets. Can you walk us through how your ability to handle client volume has changed since you invested in Hubly’s workflow technology, operations, and just overall organization?


Yeah. So, it would have scared me if we had multiple clients coming on board in one week. But we are so efficient now and we're able to have all these balls in the air because now with the workflows. We know where every client is so that we don't drop them and it's gotten to the point where we can open 40 to 50 accounts in a week.


Unbelievable. A crazy volume. A lot of advisors I talk to struggle to onboard more than two or three clients at once. What we've seen is that you've been able to do with your investment in workflows is unbelievable, from just being able to onboard clients adamantly. 

You also started spending a lot of time designing workflows that are going to drive additional revenue for the business and increase your client's stickiness and make sure that you retain them. Long-term, can you talk us through how you thought about designing workflows for client retention beyond the initial stages of the relationship? 


Yeah. So obviously opening up accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, trust accounts, besides that we thought; “okay, well, how else can we help people?”

We do a lot of term life insurance. It's just part of their full financial plan, so we have a whole insurance workflow. We have 401ks that we run for multiple companies, so we have a 401k workflow. We have estate planning, so that was another piece that we added. 

I can't tell you how many times we would sit down with clients and they would say, “oh yeah, we'll get it done, we'll get it done” It got to the point where we've been working with them for five years and they keep telling us, “oh yeah, we're going to call them right after this meeting.” I would say; “yeah, sure you are.” It's just something that people push off until they feel there's a need or someone else in their family passes on, and then they get that urgency. Now we have a workflow where we can do it for them and get that process started.

It's funny when we have clients and when they're meeting with other people and about to do any type of transaction, they're like, “let me call my people”. And we are their people, which is awesome. 


I love that, James. I speak to hundreds of advisors and I've always been so impressed with how you approach building your business from an organization and workflow standpoint. You streamlined the delivery of services to your clients. 

Enough of us talking, I think everyone came here to see a live demo and see everything in action so I'm going to pass it over to, Ron and James who are going to lead everyone through a live demonstration of Hubly. 

Demo of James’ Hub

Client Onboarding Process


So, James, you've talked to us all here about how this helps you scale and supercharge at capacity to bring on new clients and the confidence on following through on the promises you make. Could you demonstrate what that looks like, for you on a day to day? 


We have multiple workflows set up and then we have multiple processes. This is our new investment process. This goes from when a client comes in, if they need an investment, to when they need to open up retirement accounts, or any type of investment account. You can see there are multiple processes, but we're going to stick to this one today. 

So Jimmy is a fake client that I have in here. I can show you, this is the firm introduction, where we already have the tasks set up so that we can go through and we check all of the tasks off and add in any comments. This is the first scheduling of appointments and anything that we send out to the client. 

We have a checklist of things that clients need to bring and they're attached to the workflow so that every advisor, when they first open this workflow, knows exactly how to schedule that first appointment. Then as you get through, it moves to the next workflow.

Phillips Financial's New Client Workflow

This is where we had that first appointment. We do a plan presentation and we do their financial plan. We run investment performance and portfolios that we would recommend and we ask all of these questions [shows a list of questions].  We decide on fee schedules, everything. It's more of a presentation to the client, so the first appointment is education. The second appointment is a plan presentation and how we would manage their money and manage their plan.

Now we're at account opening. You can see that there are actual notes in each workflow as well, so you can add notes. These are all pre-made tasks for this workflow and it'll show you, here what forms need to be filled out. So even if you have a new advisor, a new team member, or new admin staff they'll know exactly what to do because you've already laid it out. 

Okay, then I'll move to the next workflow, which is also in the account opening step. 

Account Opening Process

A lot of times you need a client's account statements or a void check and clients don't want to send that to you in an email – and also clients just don't know how to lock stuff or keep it secure. Hubly has a nice feature where it will create a link, and you can send that link out to the client and it will create a secure upload portal for clients to add files. Those files will show up right under the client’s attachments so that you have those statements easily available. You're ready to go and fill out the transfer forms. 

Once we mark the workflow completed, we move to the next workflow.  After clients, come on, we use Orion. This [Hubly client card] is where I can assign tasks to anyone in my team. So let's say I wanted to assign this task to myself and I wanted to do it tomorrow at 9:00 AM. This will create that task and it will also send me a notification in an email. If you turn on notifications – if you like that sort of thing. It will also show up over here, in what’s called the Hub Feed. It will show you reminders that you need to do. Everything that you have to do that day will be there.

Hub Feed for task monitoring


It looks like you built quite an amazing dashboard to keep on top of all of these different steps and all these moving parts for every new client relationship. I can see how that helps when thinking about the one individual client, but how do you stay on top of your entire dashboard on the day-to-day?


When you look at the screen you see all the clients moving about at different stages of your RIA renewal or current client process. In the Hub Feed though, it will show every single client and every single task that is due today. And that's the first place I look in the morning.

When I open up my computer and I start logging into all the different software that we have, the first place I look is the Hub Feed, because it will show me anything that any of my teammates have sent to me. Anything. I can look at different teammates and it shows their tasks.

I can look at any of my clients, and anybody else's, and it will show everything –  all the tasks that you have in each workflow. They don't have any reminders or priorities innately programmed into them but you can set a reminder for yourself or your team members,  based on what you want to do today, or what you want to be reminded to do next week.

Hub feed for task prioritization


Did you use the  Hub Feed to monitor tasks and move things around or complete them as you have that short list now of priorities? 


Yes. It allows you to plan your days, weeks or months.  As things flow into the Hub Feed, you know exactly what you're facing that week or that month.

If  I click on this thing up here, it will show other teammates,  and they have their own Hubs that they're able to work out of. They can also share and share tasks and things like that with me as well. It's a way for you to see exactly what's going on. So in the  Hub Feed, you can click on these tasks and manage them right there. You don't have to go in and find them, throughout your workflows. So hopefully that gives insight to everybody. 

Multiple Clients in a workflow


As advisors know, sometimes it takes clients a while to get back to you. Or there are things that you're just kicking down the road, so you're able to reschedule those reminders.

We're always on task and we always know if something hasn't been completed. Another nice feature that Hubly has that I love is that I can add the same client to one workflow – I can add them multiple times. 

Let's say I'm waiting on transfers or waiting on rollovers or waiting on deposits. I can add this client multiple times in this workflow, where we're waiting for accounts to be funded. It allows me if I have a transfer coming in and one that other one came in, I can move this client to the next workflow and trade their accounts and have a Client Card still in that workflow waiting for a different type of transfer, rollover, or deposit.


When you look at the workflow back in the Hub, you would still see Jimmy at the top of that workflow and still see the progress that you're making. 


Yes, you can add them multiple times into that one workflow.

Then we have a prep training workflow. This ensures that we have a peer review on everything that we do so that we don't cause huge capital gains. You can see some of the questions that we've created for all of our advisors that they need. These questions need to be answered before any trades are put in. This is just checks and balances.

Then the next workflow, see how it automatically created a task for our trader. So we have a full-time trader that's on staff and she will place these trades and it automatically sends her a notification to go into this workflow and to place those trades.

Then the last workflow is where we send out clients so that they can log on to their financial planning software, their performance reporting, and everything. 

Hubly for compliance purposes


When a new client starts out, a lot of that work is done by the advisor and then they build a little team around themselves as they lead them through it. But once they get to the more stable workloads of trading and accounts, you have specific people responsible for specific tasks every single time.

This way, Hubly is almost transitioning a new prospect, or a new client, from a state where there is no structure to a state where they are a fully onboard client, fully structured into who's responsible for what. From there they flow into your maintenance workflows.


Correct. And then not only that but also when you put notes in, for compliance purposes, it flows into Redtail. As you can see, everything flows in when you take notes or anything is done in Hubly. It flows in here so that you have a record of everything that's being accomplished


So complete oversight. 

James Phillips

Yes. And that makes our compliance team very happy.

Ron Gorodetsky

I can see how that's helped you track all the moving pieces and also feel confident introducing new moving pieces as I'm sure you add with these additional compliance steps questions, and just knowing that once you've planned it and you reviewed it, it's going to be in place for the future clients.

James Phillips

Yes. So Hubly allows you to customize your workflows, that meet your firm and everything that you need to do. It sends out notifications, you can automate things. As you can see from our workflow, look at how many people we have running through our Account Opening Process. I mean, it's pretty wild to see this many people.

I couldn't imagine trying to do this with the task manager in a CRM or my good old sticky notes. 

Service Workflows


At this point, you have 103 active people in those active workflows, which is, which is incredible. 

I did have a follow-up question in terms of your Service Workflows. Once a client has become an active client, could you show us how you use Hubly to service existing clients and some of the more proactive workflows that you've put in place to help you deliver those additional services and create new revenues as a result?


Yeah. You have your clients who call and say, “Hey, I want to make a one-time contribution.” If you need to place trades in a client's account if there are withdrawals that need to occur. I'll let you just see some of the things that we have, like contact information, and a change of a client's address. 

We have the analysis of portfolios or investments. I put in some business projects as well for our firm. We have age 59 withdrawals, tax planning, tax preparation, retirement, and RMDs. So there are tags that you have in Redtail and those flow over to Hubly so any client who needs to receive an RMD, we have a whole workflow, so we know by the end of the year this workflow needs to be empty. It allows us to make sure that everybody was taken care of. 


Can you show us how Hubly helps you stay on top of your age 59 and a half clients or your RMDs?


Yeah, so if you look here, clients that have assets under management and they have the RMD, tag, will be added Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021. So we know that all of our clients with RMDs are automatically going to flow in here on November 2nd, 2021, so we can make sure that before December 31st, they all go.


Got it. And then around their 72nd birthday is when they initially get added in here, you decide whether or not there's a distribution to be taken, correct? 




And we have a question in the chat. Is there any way to build this out to track the RMDs? Do you build those out every single time to track each client's RMD?


As far as the tracking, it's pulling in those clients and then from those clients, I'll go to whatever the custodian is that we're holding those investments with and have those calculations. But we will put in notes for every client that's in this and say, “Hey, we've completed this”, and then move them out of the workflow as we complete it. 

But it's all automated, to answer that question.

So you can see there are other different things. Another one we have is the IRA, Roth IRA, and backdoor Roth. I'll show you that one because we also have that in the workflow itself. 

Automation rules for RMD workflows

Every year we have multiple people who need to fund a Backdoor, Roth. We have some questions in here to make sure that they still need a Backdoor Roth. What it does is clients with Backdoor Roth as a tag will be added, on January 1st, 2022, so that we can call them and make sure it's all processed. Then from there, once it's funded, we can do the conversions.

Then we have people who do annual contributions, so it allows us to get to know how the client likes to be treated. And then we don't drop the ball on that client. I mean, how cool is it as a client to receive a phone call from your advisor that says, “Hey, I know you do this every year, this is my annual call to get this taken care of. I didn't drop the ball.”

Client Review Process


Client check-in; so this is where clients get added. This is for review processes making, we schedule their appointment, and we send them a calendar link so that they can schedule it. We prepare our presentation, and clients love that we're staying in contact with them. 

Another thing that we have is when clients turn 59 and a half, right? So we have different opportunities right there. So some of the big ages we like to capture, something we're working on right now,  is an age 65 Medicare Workflow. So that we can make sure that we can introduce them to somebody who can educate them about Medicare. 

We want to be that knowledge center for our clients. When anything comes up financially in their life, we want them to know, my people are on it and they're going to keep me informed.


That seems very powerful. You've built out so many different templates for the types of work that you would do for a client – the different types of value that you can create for them and new revenue opportunities for the firm. 

Scaling Your Firm


Now, you mentioned that your firm is growing pretty quickly, does everybody use the same workflows? You mentioned you had multiple Hubs. Can you talk to us a little bit about how Hubly has helped your entire team scale your services across multiple locations?


Yeah. Once you have these workflows built out, when we're hiring and building out our team, it's so nice for them to be able to go in and see that the workflows and the processes are already in place.

They don't have to ask me a ton of questions and they know that they're doing the right steps because they have to check off all of those tasks to get the clients through the process. Hubly has allowed us to bring on new advisors. Instead of me spending so much time educating or teaching, I can just give them their own hub and then create these workflows and share those processes over to their hub.

Now that being said, they can customize it and do other things or add things. These workflows are being edited all the time to improve the process. So whenever we drop the ball, we can edit and change these. 


It sounds like you're looking at a future that you're excited to grow. When we first started working together, it seemed like it was a thought that excited you, but you didn't know where to start. I'm glad that we can get over that feeling in a very short time,  just over 12 months now. 


Yes. And on top of that, Hubly is always making improvements.

I've been so impressed with your team. I will tell you if you're an advisor watching and you think that there are additions and things that can be made that will help the advisors be more efficient, Hubly is very open to suggestions. I've been impressed with all the improvements and all the different features.

You're always growing and adding new features that I'm so impressed with. 

In Conclusion


James, incredible and super informative. I hope the audience enjoyed it as much as I enjoy seeing this every single time.


I’m always so impressed by the way you operate your business. I think the coolest thing for me when I see that is I just think about the impact you're making on the end clients and the number of financial lives that you're transforming.

It ties back to your vision for building a business. You can truly scale the comprehensive service to a client that couldn't always have access to it.

If you're a growing firm, and you're looking to put a repeatable onboarding experience for new clients in place, and more specifically looking to scale that across advisors as James has illustrated, Hubly’s ideal for that. If you're looking to improve overall team collaboration and seamlessly hand off tasks between one another, Hubly allows you to do that at scale.

And lastly, as James illustrated, when it comes to the advisory business, it is all about increasing the value of your relationship with a client; increasing that stickiness and focusing on what are you going to do for them over the course of a 10 or more year relationship. Hubly’s great at helping you think about what those value-add services are that you're going to provide to your clients over the long run.

Learn more by reading the case study; How James Used Hubly to Smash Through Barriers Preventing Business Growth.

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