The Forbes Best Idea Competition: A Workbench for Developing Equity Investment Opportunities

When sponsored by SHOOK Inc., the Forbes Best Idea Competition is a workbench for developing equity investment opportunities and securing upper bracket clients.

Financial advisors have a hard time finding new clients. Most rely on referrals, but what is the best way to get a client to recommend you?

   Alexandra Frazier 
  The Frazier Group
   Alexandra Frazier The Frazier Group

Merrill Lynch financial advisor Alexandra D. Frazier, 33, suggests that financial advisors offer free financial plans and then ask those lucky recipients for referrals.

Alexandra Frazier, who won the Forbes-SHOOK Best Idea Competition, said that the strategy helps families plan for their future whether they become clients or not. The Frazier Group, led by Alexandra and her mother Rebecca Loyd-Frazier, 53, sees 25 to 40 clients per week and serves 550 households. The team manages about $550 million in assets.

"We're adding about 40-50 new households each year," Alexandra Frazier said. "The idea" has generated at least 20 of those 50 new clients in the past several years, she added.

"Once clients see the financial plan, they are very appreciative," Alexandra Frazier said. "I always say the highest compliment you can pay me is the referral of a friend or family member. I give them my business card and ask them to pass it along."

Alexandra Frazier explained: "We take this approach because the cost of a plan is high. We do it for free since people are nervous about something [financial plan] that could cost $1,500 to $2,000."

Merrill Lynch's Kingsport office is unlike the majority of its urban offices, which serve Knoxville, a city located about 100 miles northeast of Kingsport. Eastman Chemical is one of the area's biggest employers and a major source of clients seeking financial advice. The median income in the area is $38,333, unemployment runs 6.1% and a single-family house costs $157,000.

The Frazier team focuses on helping clients build retirement savings and establish an estate plan, Alexandra Frazier said. The minimum account size to join the Frazier's practice is $250,000. The practice is multi-generational with the Fraziers often working with clients' children.

Alexandra Frazier has been a financial advisor for five years. She joined her mother at Merrill Lynch after graduating from Drake University law school and working as an attorney in Iowa.

"I usually say that when I was in court, people packed my bags for me," she explained.

Alexandra Frazier says: "We really enjoy writing financial plans. We see it as a service, a goodwill gesture. The truth is my mom and I just really enjoy what we do."