Dan Baer leads one of HBKS®‘ client-servicing teams. His career work has been helping individuals and families negotiate the wide range of complex financial issues that impact people who have amassed substantial wealth. His work and expertise extends to estate planning, philanthropic issues, family business matters, cash management, personal tax matters and retirement planning.
Dan joined HBK CPAs & Consultants (HBK) in 1979 and opened the Naples, Florida, office in 1985. In addition to advising individuals and families, he has been instrumental in creating the firm’s service model, chairing the committee that developed the strategy resulting in the transition from a traditional CPA firm to one providing holistic financial service. Dan is a CPA and holds the distinguished designation of Personal Financial Specialist, awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to CPAs who demonstrate knowledge and expertise in personal financial planning. He is well versed in the financial markets, and has served on the firm’s executive and strategic planning committees.
Dan earned his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Kent State University.
Where do your good ideas for your clients come from?
Generally from clients and families themselves. If you develop a good working relationship with your clients, they’ll let you know, directly or indirectly, what their concerns are – and they’ll do it fairly early in the relationship. You can then take those concerns and frame solutions. If you’re a good listener, you’ll learn where the fertile ground is. For example, some people need an advocate – “trusted advisor” is our industry’s term for it – to facilitate planning among the various professionals they deal with: CPAs, attorneys, bankers, and so on. Other families are looking for sound portfolio management, which generally means an acceptable return on their investments without undue risk, a portfolio that is tax-sensitive, cost-effective and meets their objectives over the long term and provides comfort to them in times of market volatility.
What does it take to be successful in wealth management?
Good listening skills, sincerity and a desire to put the client’s needs first. If you take a long-term approach and put your client’s interests first, the relationship will grow and provide an opportunity to enhance both the client’s financial condition and the kinds of the work you do for the client – a win-win situation.
I also think every client meeting should involve new ideas. I was lucky. Early in my career, the first partner I worked with insisted that we’d bring in at least three new ideas every time we met with a client. It wasn’t about whether the client wanted to implement the ideas, but the fact that we’d be “idea generators” offering new and creative thoughts, that we’d be proactive rather than reactive. I think if clients feel you’re thinking about them and for them rather than just going through the motions, you’ll have a successful career.
How would you describe the culture at HBKS®?
The culture at HBKS® is relationship driven. Most of our efforts at the service level are devoted to building a relationship with the client or family first, then implementing a strategy and a level of service around what that relationship requires. Through our affiliation with HBK we can provide solutions for estate planning, business valuation, corporate planning and other matters in addition to sound investment management and financial planning. I think many of the families we work with at first see us solely as investment managers, but as a relationship grows, their HBKS® advisor becomes an integral part of all their financial planning and activities.
To what do you attribute the success you’ve experienced in your career?
For one, I sincerely care about the success of the business and investment clients I’ve worked with. It’s impossible to fake sincerity and I believe my clients realize I’m making a sincere attempt to help them in every way possible. When you are successful in that regard, clients do not hesitate to contact you and ask for your help – and that leads to many possibilities.
I’m also very organized – have been since college – which allows me to cover a lot of territory and make a lot of progress. Being organized and planning your days to be productive helps you accomplish more on a daily basis.
I’m willing to delegate. The fact that I was trained early in my career to push work down to spend my time on more challenging work has allowed me to progress much faster in my career and to elevate the level of work and my responsiveness to my clients. On a daily basis, if there’s a project on my desk, my first thought is who can do this better than me? I think you have to empower people around you to challenge themselves, even if occasionally they fail. I believe we all learn more from our failures than we do our successes and by pushing people at all levels of our organization to raise the bar and take chances, we elevate the level of work that we do for our clients. As a side note, the more challenging your clients are, the better off your firm will be, as those challenging clients will push you to be creative, to think outside the box, which ultimately makes you a better firm.
“I sincerely care about the success of the business and investment clients I’ve worked with. It’s impossible to fake sincerity and I believe my clients realize I’m making a sincere attempt to help them in every way possible.”