Kevin Fringer has always enjoyed working in a target market, to be viewed as a specialist instead of just another financial advisor.
His practice, Collegiate Financial Services (CFS), has always been geared toward individuals working in university-level education, specifically in athletic departments at higher education institutions around the country.
now has unique clients in 30 states at about 80 different universities.
joined the financial services industry in 1993 with American Express Financial Advisors after graduating from Kent State University
After his time with American Express, Fringer became a branch manager of approximately 75 AXA advisors in South Carolina.
It was in South Carolina that he
began to build his
own practice and book of business focusing primarily on collegiate athletics.
In 2007, he stepped down as branch manager and started CFS.
"People like the fact that we specialize in their industry," Fringer
"We have developed our expertise in their specific area, which gives us a big advantage over other financial advisors.
The other big advantage of having such a specific target market is that most of our clients know each other and most of our prospects know our clients."
has embraced the positives of this niche market and has turned them into a successful practice that runs not on traditional referrals, but on what he
calls reverse referrals.
"We work off of introductions," Fringer
"We find out which of our current clients may know a prospect that we are targeting, and then ask that current client to introduce us."
clients are always willing to help him out, but they aren't typically able to think of people who may need his
services when put on the spot.
Instead, Fringer and his staff come up with prospects themselves, typically by researching institution employees for those who sound like a good fit based on age demographics and income.
then asks current clients if they would mind sending a note of introduction to the prospect, copying him on the email.
"I have never had a client say no," Fringer
"My clients are always willing, if not excited, to help me. Even after 19 years in the industry, I have never felt comfortable asking people 'Who do you know?' But if you ask a client for an introduction to a specific person, they are more comfortable, you are more comfortable, and most importantly, the prospect is comfortable."
Having a target market with a practical referral plan isn't the only thing that makes CFS
said all successful practices must have an organizational structure that compliments each individual member's skills.
At CFS, Fringer works with partner Joe Funderburk and assistant Kelly Calamas.
Both Joe and I despise paperwork so that's where Kelly comes in. She's the third leg of the stool and delivers on the promises that Joe and I make," Fringer
Typically, Funderburk works with specific financial plans and products while Fringer
creates sales and marketing plans and Calamas facilitates paperwork and other administrative duties.
"We probably 'over service' our clients with rigid client reviews and constant communication," Fringer
"I am fully aware that I will be calling on my clients for introductions to others, and obviously, if they don't feel they are getting the best service available, they won't be willing to do so."
has always had an interest in sports, especially college athletics, and said he
is blessed to have been able to make his
hobby a career.
"There are a large number of niche markets available, nationwide and locally," Fringer
"Art, music, NASCAR, etc.
If you can turn your hobby into your business, it won't ever feel like you are working.
I love being around and following college athletics, and now I make a living doing what I love."
doesn't think everyone needs a niche market, but he
notes it makes marketing and other business tactics easier.
"Your whole interest and approach becomes more genuine when you focus on a target market," Fringer
"Also, your clients will appreciate you more for taking the time to learn about them and the things that impact their lives the most."
does admit, though, what makes his
niche such a good market is that the people can be difficult to deal with at times.
"These are administrators and coaches that are often in pressure cooker situations," Fringer
"They are balancing big money with the spotlight and pressures and focus of games.
Our clients often literally sleep on cots in their offices, working until midnight and back up at 6 a.m. for workouts and scrimmages.
Many are miles from the families they are providing for and are constantly moving, which makes them difficult to get ahold of."
feels like many financial advisors have tried working with this market in the past and have given up because of these difficulties.
said anyone in this industry needs to have patience, but with his
clients, they need to be thick-skinned too.
"There is a lot of scheduling and rescheduling, and a lot of hurry up and wait with my client base, which can be disheartening at times, but I have learned it is just a part of the demographic I have chosen to work with," Fringer
To better serve his
clients and manage his
needed to come full circle with his
"When I was a new advisor, we were placed on strict schedules," Fringer
"I've gone back to that.
I have forced myself to keep to a schedule so I am more productive.
I normally complete prospect calls and emails in the mornings while my clients are typically busy, then I schedule physical and virtual appointments with my clients in the afternoons according to their availability."
is certain he
wouldn't be where he
is today if it weren't for his
pursuit of this particular target market.
said having Securities America
broker-dealer has provided him the wide breadth of products, services and support he
needs to meet CFS
's slogan of being comprehensive and independent.
Currently, Fringer is working with Securities America's Branch Office Development to continue to build his own book of business, and to partner with other Securities America advisors across the country who are interested in the same target market of higher education and collegiate athletics.