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Financial group finds success in staying focused

JOHN SEELMEYER

Looking last year for a way to serve the community and build some team spirit, the 14 employees of Schultz Financial Group in Reno decided to sing Christmas carols at the Veterans Administration Hospital.

They took the task seriously.

Thirtyminute practices were scheduled.

Even executives whose travel schedules take them across the country were expected to show up both for the practices and for the evening they spent singing in the hospital’s hallways.

Employees like telling the story.

It typifies, they think, some of the spirit that has brought Schultz Financial Group national recognition as a money manager for wealthy families.

The company, which just moved into new garden office space on West Huffaker Lane in south Reno,manages about $90 million in securities and a similar amount in real estate investments for approximately 80 clients whose net worth ranges from $3 million to $30 million.

That’s not particularly huge Wells Fargo, for instance, runs about $850 million out of its Reno office alone but Schultz Financial Group brings its own touch to the business.

It’s one of the few financial management firms, for instance, to maintain a regular consulting relationship with a psychologist who helps clients with their often tangled feelings about wealth.

“This isn’t just a quaint shop,” says President Russ Schultz.”It’s 50 percent psychological and 50 percent financial.”

The company’s services, too, range far beyond mere stock picking.

Jeff Ostomel, a former lawyer and construction executive who’s now a vice president with the company, has been spending a fair amount of time lately commuting to New York City, where he’s helping a client buy a co-op apartment.

Eric Miller, the company’s technology vice president,meanwhile, has devoted much of the past year developing family Web sites for clients Web sites where far-flung wealthy families can share baby pictures as well as financial strategy.

The worries of its founder say a lot, too, about Schultz Financial Group.When he looks over the investment universe these days, Schultz is more worried about the lack of intergrity and honor in the business world than he is about the direction of corporate profits.He grabs every opportunity to make his point.

It’s not for everyone.

Clients and the firm typically interview one another two or three times, says Vicki Schultz, the company’s executive vice president and wife of its founder.

If the relationship doesn’t feel right to either the company or the client, they move on.

More clients come by, and fewer leave, than during the company’s early, lean days in Southern California.

Russ Schultz launched the company as a fee-only financial advisor in 1982 in Southern California.

Annual fees these days for personal financial management are based on a percentage of net worth, and typically range from 0.4 percent to 1 percent with a minimum annual fee of $7,500 for new clients.

In the early 1980s, however, the fee-only advisory business accounted for such a tiny piece of the industry that practitioners joked that they’d taken a vow of poverty.

That changed quickly, however, when the 1986 tax reform law brought to an end many of the exotic tax shelters that were popular in previous years.

Schultz suddenly found himself with a growing list of clients, some of whom looking for his help in winding up messy tax shelters they’d purchased from commission-driven investment houses.

By the early 1990s, Russ and Vicki Schultz were parents of a young daughter and knew they didn’t want to raise her in Southern California.

A client had moved to Reno and suggested they take a look at northern Nevada.

They liked Reno, and they liked the fact they’d still be close to their clients in Southern California.

(That part of the world still accounts for about half their clients.) Schultz Financial Group completed its move to Reno in mid-1993.

Early this year,Vicki Schultz was named to Worth magazine’s list of the 100 best financial planners in the country.

That sort of recognition as well as referrals from existing clients fuels a steady growth for Schultz Financial Group, but Russ Schultz remains cautious.”We want to grow on the basis of the right people and the right clients,” he says.

And the company refuses to grow either in assets or client numbers simply to chase higher profitability.

Describing himself as a fellow with 1950s values who happens to live in 2004, Schultz says,”If you’re doing the right thing, the money will follow.”


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