Cover Stories Features On The Cover September 2017

TradePMR: Staying Ahead of the Financial Curve


Written By: Alyssa Ramos

“We have taken a stance that we want to be a firm that is unique in our industry – an extremely caring firm that services high-end advisers that are successful in what they do, have a history of taking care of their clients and want to grow their business with great technology and custodial support.”— Robb Baldwin

Finance wouldn’t typically interest your average 14-year-old. However, that wasn’t the case for Robb Baldwin because managing money runs in the family. During long summer visits to his grandfather’s Kentucky home, Baldwin recalls watching the stately gentleman leaf through his massive ledger where each page detailed every transaction he ever made. He remembers watching his grandfather go through the same process over and over again as he meticulously entered every dividend and every interest payment, month after month in an era where consolidated statements and computer programs did not yet exist.

From a very young age, the idea of owning a business fascinated Baldwin, and finance appealed to him as the avenue to make that dream a reality. He recalls being introduced to his grandfather’s young, energetic new broker, Sue Badget, more than thirty years ago and thinking to himself, “that’s what I want to do.”

“But as much as I’d like to be a broker,” he thought, “I think I’d rather own the firm.”

In 1984, Baldwin began his career like most financial advisers, selling investment products and managing client assets. Over time, he realized that taking a fiduciary role as a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA), instead of as a broker, would be better for his clients as he managed their finances long term.

“It was an area that I thought was better suited for consumers, so I immediately wanted to take my business in that direction,” he remembers. “In effect, it put me on the same side of the table as my clients.”

Baldwin began working with custodial firms catering to fee-based advisers to hold client funds and safeguard assets. At one point, the firm he used went through a merger and wreaked havoc on his clients’ accounts. While the assets were safe, statements displayed incorrect balances making it seem like funds had disappeared overnight. The issue took months of long hours to rectify and the frustration that grew out of his experience gave Baldwin the idea of creating a firm more uniquely focused on RIAs and their clients.

In 1998, Baldwin founded TradePMR, an independently owned and operated company that provides custodial services1 and technology solutions like electronic account opening, automated fee deduction, performance reporting and model trading.

The firm works exclusively with independent advisers to provide the innovative technology and dedicated support they need to serve their clients and run their businesses. Now approaching its twentieth anniversary, TradePMR has grown beyond Baldwin’s initial expectations and far surpassed what he envisioned in his childhood dream of owning his own business.

He recalls the long weekends spent at the office sorting through paperwork and client accounts with spreadsheets downloaded from vendors draped over the edges of his broad conference table. The tedious task of preparing reports for his clients so that he could properly communicate performance to them took hours to complete.

Yet another frustration was turned into an innovative solution when TradePMR began to develop its own technology for advisers in 2007. Today, the firm’s top priority remains continuously delivering secure and innovative technology to help advisers automate their process and work more efficiently.

“The industry is constantly evolving, and so are we. We build our systems to make sure advisers can perform their daily job functions quickly and easily with a few clicks of a button,” Baldwin said.

As a constant reminder of his inspiration, the ledgers that Baldwin’s grandfather meticulously used to comb through are on display in the officers of TradePMR

While TradePMR continues to forge a path of steady growth, it remains in Baldwin’s words, “a boutique firm able to adapt quickly with cutting-edge technology.”  The company boasts an all-encompassing platform that makes client data available in real time from just about any device – which Baldwin feels is a real competitive edge.

“We have taken a stance that we want to be a firm that is unique in ourindustry – an extremely caring firm that services high-end advisers that are successful in what they do, have a history of taking care of their clients and want to grow their business with great technology and custodial support,” Baldwin said.

Fusion, TradePMR’s proprietary software, is a comprehensive adviser workstation the firm developed in-house. It allows advisers to run their practices more efficiently by enabling them to complete tasks in as few steps as possible. Advisers working on Fusion’s automated system, typically have more time to serve their clients instead of laboring on tedious tasks.

“In my opinion, it’s the only system in our business segment that is ready to go out of the box and operates with that level of efficiency on day one,” Baldwin said.

One of Fusion’s most popular features is the analytics reporting. Advisers can review their entire book of business, household groups or an individual account and produce various reports for each. These reports allow advisers to review and present their performance from multiple perspectives, which he believes helps cultivate client confidence.

In this way, RIAs like Nick Cladis, owner of Cladis Investment Advisory, LLC., can look at things like performance, asset allocation and risk tolerance to help build portfolios that meet his clients’ objectives. In a complex industry where clients expect no mistakes, TradePMR’s services are provided in a timely manner, with secure technology and individual attention. Advisers save time and money by reducing expenses and resources spent on outsourcing technology.

Cladis has been working with TradePMR for about eight years now. As he says, “I come to work every day with a sense of security knowing that I am working with a firm that has my back.”

“I really feel like I have a handle on my business and our staff does too. We know where we stand every day and what we, ourselves, need to do to improve our services,” Cladis said. “TradePMR’s technology certainly streamlines the process, but more importantly, it keeps me on target,” he added. “They are always trying to help us help our clients.”

Each May, TradePMR hosts its annual adviser conference. This year in Miami Beach, it released EarnWise, the latest software environment. EarnWise is a complementary, mobile-friendly platform that allows advisors to access pertinent client data without having to be at their desk. The new technology also features a client portal, which allows advisors’ clients to access more information how and when they need it.

Remaining true to TradePMR’s priority on innovation, EarnWise also features a robo workflow.

This workflow will allow new clients to open their accounts entirely online without the need for face-to-face interaction with the adviser. It’s an efficient, seamless process for advisers looking to attract a new segment of clients or simply wanting to implement a better workflow.

In addition to TradePMR’s technology, the firm also delivers specialized support to its advisers. To maintain the highest level of service, TradePMR is committed to keeping its clientele “small”– if 770 individual advisors across the U.S., two in London and one in Belgium, is considered small.

“We consider it a great privilege when a RIA considers working with TradePMR, and we want to make certain we maintain a high level of support. Our firms deserve it and we are committed to delivering it to them year after year,” Baldwin said.

Growth at TradePMR has been steady. One indicator of this growth has been its annual conference. The first event in 2006 was a simple meeting. Today, hundreds of firms gather to meet with department managers and hear from industry leaders and vendors to discuss cutting-edge technology, the latest trends and the changing financial landscape. As mentioned, the most recent conference took place on Miami Beach with more than 200 people in attendance. The gathering in 2018 will be in San Diego, where attendance is expected to top 300.

Baldwin feels that TradePMR separates itself from the competition, in part, by listening to the needs of not only its own advisers, but by gleaning from advisers at other firms as well. By conducting over 100 face-to-face interviews with advisers over the past few years, the firm can better understand how the it is perceived in the marketplace.

One of the things advisors have said they value is the fact that TradePMR does not compete with them in the retail client channel. That means advisers using TradePMR can feel confident in the adviser-client relationship. The idea that TradePMR does not compete in this manner has begun to resonate with advisers as competitors maintain retail channels and compete directly with RIAs.

The Gainesville offices of TradePMR, founded in 1998

While advisors working with TradePMR can be found across the country and overseas, Baldwin says he has no problem cultivating deep relationships, despite the physical distance. He emphasizes that his dedicated staff is always available to assist advisers on any matter. Advisers and TradePMR employees work on a first-name basis, and team members are constantly rewarded for delivering personalized service that makes each adviser feel taken care of.

“We really believe in a tight-knit service element with our individual adviser-clients,” Baldwin said.

Under Baldwin’s leadership, TradePMR has continued to grow and make a name for itself in the industry. Decades after creating his firm, he was able to see his childhood inspiration come full circle.

In October 2016, Baldwin was introduced to the president and CEO of a brokerage firm based in Kentucky. To his amazement, Sue Badget, his grandfather’s broker and his original inspiration to become a financial adviser, was working at the firm.

Now the CEO of his own company, Baldwin is no longer the wide-eyed 14-year-old with big dreams. As for his grandfather’s weathered, old leger; it remains proudly on display in TradePMR’s Gainesville home office as a constant reminder of his childhood inspiration.

If TradePMR is any indication, the passion and diligence that grew out of that inspiration has certainly served him well.

Photography by John Sloan and courtesy of TradePMR

 

ALYSSA RAMOS is a second year Journalism major at the University of Florida with a minor in French. She is an aspiring magazine journalist, a fashion enthusiast, and a Netflix binger with hopes of telling people’s stories through all forms of media. For now, she is still honing her writing skills, but she’s always in search of a good book and a strong cup of coffee.

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