Tag Archives: AXA Advisors Southwest


How will Obama plan impact financial planners, consumers?

President Obama recently announced a “new” ruling requiring financial advisors to put their clients’ interests above their own. Sounds like a good thing, right?

Not so fast.

“We have ongoing concerns that the Department of Labor and the White House have completely ignored the existence of the robust regulatory regime under the SEC and (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority),” said Kenneth Bentsen, president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. “This re-proposal could make it harder to save for retirement by cutting access to affordable advice and limiting options for savers.”

Obama’s “new” initiative is actually not so new. It’s a rewrite of a 2010 rewrite of the 40-year-old fiduciary rule that was eventually withdrawn in 2011 amidst industry furor. Despite the retread, something needed to be done to address the “backdoor payments” and “hidden fees” that cost Americans up to $17 billion a year in lost retirement savings, according to The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings.

The new Department of Labor rules would require brokers to be held to a fiduciary standard, meaning that they must put their clients’ interests first. For example, given the choice between two similar funds, the broker would have to recommend the one with the lowest fees and commissions.

“Many consumers are not aware that the advisors they have hired to manage their investments are not required to act as a fiduciary,” said Mark Feldman, CEO and managing partner of Miller Russell Associates. “In other words, the advisor may not be required by law to recommend products or solutions that are in the best interest of the consumer. Many of these professionals receive commissions or fees for recommending certain products over others. The standard differs between different types of advisors (registered investment advisors vs. non-registered advisors or brokers). A suitability standard is not the same as a fiduciary standard.”

Feldman said SEC or state-registered investment advisors will see little impact even if Obama’s initiative is implements.

“These advisors have always been held to the fiduciary standard,” he said. “However, advisors of retirement accounts only, not currently registered with the SEC or state as an investment advisor, will be significantly impacted. It is not yet clear how that will look from a regulatory and accountability standpoint. We will likely see significant changes with FINRA, state departments of insurance and other organizations that provide oversight of advisors who are not currently required to act in a fiduciary capacity.”

Phil Kim, divisional vice president of AXA Advisors Southwest, said by raising the fiduciary standards by which advisors must be held accountable, Obama’s initiative will improve the profession and weed out the individuals that lack the knowledge and skills and do not place the consumers’ best interests first.

“With the implementation of this new initiative, I hope that a more open dialogue between consumers and financial advisors will be fostered,” Kim said. “Over time, I think people will start to regard professionals in our industry with the same respect as they do with their personal physicians.”

Until then, Sean McCarthy, regional chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank, said advisors should be prepared for the possibility of more stringent oversight with increased need for disclosure and heightened regulatory requirements.

“Beyond that, advisors should anticipate greater demand from clients that they clearly articulate their value,” McCarthy said. “Clients will want to understand what it is they are paying for and what they should expect from the relationship with their professional.”

While the potential impact on financial planners and financial advisors remains uncertain, the potential impact of the initiative is clear for consumers.

“Consumers should expect to see more benefits — free advice if the rule change is implemented, as well as potentially lower investment fees inside retirement accounts,” said Paul Rutkowski, managing partner, investment strategy for Nelson Financial Services.

While the impact on consumers is positive, McCarthy  said the industry must be prepared for the potential effect on profitability. He said Obama’s initiative could negatively impact income statements in two ways:

• Slower revenue growth is possible if fee transparency creates fee compression

• Expenses — in time and dollars — would be greater to comply with increased regulation

“Depending upon the severity of these implications, some participants may need to exit the industry, leaving consumers with an unfortunate and unintended consequence of less selection,” McCarthy said.

Despite the possible impact on the bottom line, most financial experts see the initiative’s silver lining.

“A uniform fiduciary standard for advisors who manage retirement accounts clearly favors the consumer,” Feldman said. “This is good.”


Here is what Valley financial experts advise consumers to think about before hiring a financial planner:

Mark Feldman, CEO and managing partner, Miller Russell Associates: “Consumers should understand the fee structure, and be aware of ‘hidden” fees.’ Ask the advisor if he/she receives fees in addition to any management fee paid by the consumer. Professionals who also receive commissions or other fees for recommending certain products have an inherent conflict of interest and the White House report released in February states that conflicted advice leads to lower investment returns.”

Phil Kim, divisional vice president, AXA Advisors Southwest: “This business is about building trustworthy relationships. Consumers can begin their due diligence by looking for a clean (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) record, as well as the backing of a financially healthy firm. Referrals and recommendations from other trusted advisors, along with attainment of industry designations and appropriate licenses and registrations are other items to look for in a financial professional.”

Jason R. Miller, CFP, market manager, regional director, financial planning, BMO Private Bank: “While formal training is certainly not the only factor in choosing a financial provider, it is a very important one. Look for professionals who have demonstrated the appropriate level of formal training as well as a commitment to continuing education. Research and understand the requirements for the different designations and/or certifications these professionals may have. Financial matters are often complex and it is invaluable to have a knowledgeable partner on your side.”

Paul Rutkowski, managing partner, investment strategy, Nelson Financial Services: “Ask your CPA, attorney, neighbor or family member who they work with and what level of satisfaction they have with that person. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions about costs, the amount of risk for each strategy recommended and how advisor gets paid. Advisors should provide 100 percent full disclosure on how much they get compensated for their service.”

Dillan Micus

AXA Advisors Southwest awards scholarships

AXA Advisors Southwest, a leading provider of financial services for consumers and businesses, has announced that Anvita Gupta, a high school senior attending BASIS in Scottsdale, will receive $25,000 as a national winner of the 2015 AXA Achievementsm Scholarship in association with U.S. News & World Report. 

Gupta is one of 52 students – one from each state, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico – that has been awarded scholarships of $10,000. Of those 52 students, only 10 nationwide – including Gupta – were chosen to receive an additional $15,000 scholarship award. All of the scholarship recipients are graduating high school seniors who demonstrated ambition and drive, determination to set and reach goals and the ability to succeed in college.

“Though not yet out of high school, Anvita founded non-profit organization LITAS For Girls, an after-school program that aims to inspire middle school girls to pursue computing careers by introducing them to computer science technologies,” says Philip Kim, senior vice president and director of retirement benefits at AXA Advisors Southwest, who serves as office champion of the scholarship program. “During Anvita’s year-long program, students learn visual programming, game development, and app development.”

According to Kim, LITAS mentors students to eventually develop their own project to solve a social program of their choice, using the technology skills they have learned. At the end of the program, the girls present their project in a Technology Showcase to several women CEOs of technology corporations.

In addition to Gupta, AXA Advisors Southwest is pleased to announce five fellow Arizona students will each receive $2,500 as winners of the 2015 AXA Achievementsm Community Scholarship program. They are:

• Mathew Kaplan of the Tesseract School in Phoenix

Sara Mavis of Nogales High School in Nogales

Selvam Sathana of Prescott High School in Prescott

Tata Bharath of Hamilton High School in Chandler

Meagan Bethel of Tucson High Magnet School

The program is administered by Scholarship Management Services®, a program of Scholarship America®, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit private sector and educational support organizations.

Funded by the AXA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AXA Advisors, AXA Achievement was established to address the financial barriers faced by college bound high school students. Another component is the highly successful AXA Achievementsm Scholarship in association with U.S. News & World Report, which awards $670,000 in annual scholarships. Since the program began, AXA Achievement has awarded $22.8 million in college scholarships to more than 5,100 students. 

“Our Southwest branch has a history of community involvement and we are proud to provide information and support to families so that they can help their children financially prepare for, attend and succeed in college,” commented Dillan Micus, Executive Vice President of AXA Advisors Southwest, recently honored as a 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award Winner.  “AXA Advisors is about investments, and we consider these scholarships an investment in these students and in our community.”


AXA Advisors Southwest earns Governor’s Award

The Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism announced that AXA Advisors Southwest, a leading provider of financial services for consumers and businesses, has been named a recipient of the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for its dedicating to volunteerism, fundraising and general community service. AXA Advisors Southwest was honored by Governor Doug Ducey’s office on Friday, April 17 during a special event in the recipients’ honors held at the East Valley Institute of Technology.

“The volunteer Service Awards were established in 2002 to recognize and thank Arizonans who have dedicated their time and talents to help address the needs most important to Arizona communities,” said Carla Friedman, youth program development director for the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families. “A statewide panel of judges evaluated nominations for need, action, innovation and impact, and chose AXA Advisors Southwest based on its work with Elevate Phoenix, the AXA Achievement Scholarship Program and AXA Days of Service, among other activities.”

“We’ve raised funds to fill backpacks for kids in need and rolled up our sleeves to build homes for some amazing families in Arizona, not to mention created our own large-scale charity event – Weekend Jetaway Culinary Casino Classic – to give back in every way that we can,” says Dillan Micus, executive vice president of AXA Advisors Southwest. “It takes a village – and at AXA Advisors Southwest we become that village, all in the name of volunteering and raising funds for our nonprofit.”

Sponsors of the Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards include the Arizona State Fair, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, ASU Office of University Initiatives, Cox Communications, Harkins Theaters, SRP, Fry’s and other businesses and organizations that are ardent supporters of volunteerism in Arizona.



Wealth management advice: Dillan Micus

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Dillan Micus Divisional executive vice president AXA Advisors Southwest axaadvisorssouthwest.com

Dillan Micus, Divisional executive vice president, AXA Advisors Southwest

Micus leads more than150 professionals across the Southwest and innovated both the firm’s successful “Firm of Firms” platform andits Retirement Income Distribution Strategy process, which helps identify, address and organize the variousfactors of retirement planning. Under Micus, the branch earned AXA’s President’s Trophy six times and hasgrown from $4 million to $18 million a year in overall sales revenue. 2015 trend to watch: “The industry is facing a seismic shift. There are record numbers of people entering retirement years and/or moving toward the transfer oftheir wealth. Education – both educating associates toeffectively assist with the distribution and transfer of wealth, and educating the aging population itself – is critical and hopefully a trend that positively impacts our industry in 2015 and beyond.”
Advice for 2015: “One can elect to save 10 percent of his/her income for retirement and continue to do so for the next 40 years. But, why not consider increasing the percentage as one’s salary increases? Increasing one’s percentage little by little along the way can have an
exponentially positive impact at retirement and beyond.” Best Arizona investment: “Personally, I support any financial services business that invests in its people and their continuing education as we help Baby Boomers move toward retirement and eventually the transfer of wealth in the history of our state – and nation.”


Cresent 10-24-10

Erik Pedersen named SVP at AXA Advisors Southwest

AXA Advisors Southwest, a leading provider of financial services for consumers and businesses, announced that Erik Pedersen has been promoted to senior vice president of the branch, which is located at 14851 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. In his new role, Pedersen will be responsible for oversight of growth and development with new financial professionals, development of new and existing markets in both Arizona and New Mexico and development of new leaders among existing financial professionals. He has been a member of the branch since 2005, most recently serving as divisional vice president. Prior, Pedersen worked at the Denver branch from 2003 to 2005.

In addition to the appointment, Pedersen has been named among the 2014 top ten divisional vice presidents across AXA Advisors nationwide, earning the honor out of nearly 200 AXA financial executives across the United States for his dedication to mentorship, work ethic and client development.

Passionate about developing a new generation of leaders in the Valley – both in the finance industry and beyond – Pedersen is the co-founder of GET Phoenix, a 501(c)6 non-profit organization that provides professional development opportunities to career-oriented young professionals in the area. Currently sitting on the organization’s advisory council, his focus is to help direct the organization on how to best provide networking and development opportunities to young professionals ages 24 to 39 in a variety of professional fields including finance, education, law, energy, insurance, marketing, biotechnology, real estate, medicine, accounting, manufacturing and more. In addition to this work with GET Phoenix, Pedersen recently completed service as both a board and advisory council member, respectively, of the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce.

Pedersen earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Finance with a Minor in Economics from the University of Northern Colorado. He and his wife, Jen, also keep busy as the parents of two children under age four.

Pedersen is Desert Ridge resident.

weekend jetaway

PGA Star Tom Lehman to host Weekend Jetaway

Tickets are now available for the 3rd Annual Weekend Jetaway presented by AXA Advisors Southwest, Aero Jet Services and Prisma, which will take place on Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and will feature music, culinary creations from leading Valley chefs, cocktails, surprise “elevated” entertainers and casino games set in a private jet hangar within the Scottsdale Airport. During the event, guests will take part in a casino-style dice game, with several lucky winners taking home a multitude of lux prizes, including the grand prize – a luxurious all-inclusive, first-class vacation on a private jet for four. Hosted by celebrated PGA golf star Tom Lehman, tickets are $100/person and available now at www.weekendjetaway.org.

Among the popular restaurants and beverage partners sampling scrumptious items from their Fall and Winter menus at the event are: Alliance Beverage, Proof Canteen at the Four Seasons Scottsdale Resort Troon North, Talavera at the Four Seasons Scottsdale Resort Troon North, Sassi, SOL Cocina, The Yacht Club, Tom’s Thumb Marketplace, The Mission and The Melting Pot. A silent auction including resort, spa, golf, dining and vacation packages will also take place, with proceeds from the entire evening benefiting Elevate Phoenix.

“Elevate Phoenix is a unique and often life-changing program for Arizona youth that provides in-school teaching; after-school mentoring/tutoring; career instruction/ post-secondary preparation; character, life skills and peer leadership development; community service; adventure activities; and reading/literacy improvement within urban public schools,” says Scottsdale resident Lehman, who also serves on the Elevate Phoenix board of directors.

AXA Advisors Southwest, Aero Jet Services, Jet Set Magazine and Prisma are serving as the presenting and title sponsors of the event. Additional current sponsors include Phocus Financial and Alliance Beverage Distribution Company. Limited sponsorship packages starting at $500 are still available at weekendjetaway.org.

“In 2012, AXA Advisors Southwest dreamt up this special event as our way to give back to this great community,” says Dillan Micus, executive vice president of AXA Advisors Southwest. “Our team donated its time, money and more – and with the help of amazing partners, sponsors and party-goers, we were able to gross more than $130,000 our first two years. We welcome the community to come out for the best party of the fall to help us double this number!”

This is a 21 and over event.

Shifting the financial focus

Dillan Micus

Dillan Micus: Under his leadership since 2006, AXA Advisors Southwest has grown from approximately $5 million to more than $18 million a year and averaged a 30 percent increase in staff each year – even during the recession.

Many fail to plan how retirement funds will be distributed, Micus says

Az Business: What challenges do you see your generation facing in regard to wealth management?

Dillan Micus: In regard to helping people my age with their actual wealth management challenges, I empower my team to use our Retirement Income Distribution Strategy (RIDS). Often, people spend all of their time focusing on pre-retirement accumulation, but fail to plan how those assets will be distributed during retirement, based on the things they want to actually do and places they actually want to go. This way of planning also neglects to address the most common risk factors that threaten one’s seemingly perfectly planned retirement years – longevity, inflation, taxes, interest rates, volatility and emotions. Through RIDS, we help our clients organize their money into three buckets – a cash reserve bucket, lifestyle bucket and inflation fix bucket – thereby creating a greater level of certainty that they will be able to live the lifestyle they want to live in retirement.

Moving on to actual wealth managers in my generation, I see two clear challenges, both of which AXA seeks to turn into opportunities.

First, those in my generation are neither “starting out” in their wealth management careers, nor approaching retirement. More often than not, they are eager for autonomy. So, we give it to them via an uncommon approach to comprehensive planning I developed called “Firm of Firms,” which empowers our best people to launch their own firms with our back-end support. This, in turn, allows our clients to receive a very high level of support and resources through one specific firm while getting the experience of other firms within the family of offices to focus on each integral part of financial management.

Second, those in my generation grew up very close to the “Me Generation,” but it is critical that those in my industry focus on being a “We” generation, meaning community engagement and servant leadership. I model this as a long-time member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale board as well as my work as a Thunderbird. Our office also sets aside one day each year to volunteer together, even going so far as to put on our own charity event as a team.

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First-ever Weekend Jetaway Benefits Valley nonprofts

AXA Advisors Southwest announces that sponsorships and tickets are now available for the first-ever Weekend Jetaway, which will take place on Friday, Nov. 9th. 2012, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and will feature live music, culinary creations from leading Valley chefs, cocktails and casino games set in a private jet hangar within the Scottsdale Airpark.

During the event, guests will have the chance to win several fabulous prizes, including the grand prize – a luxurious all-inclusive, first-class trip on a private jet. A live and silent auction will also take place, with proceeds from the entire evening’s events benefitting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale and Pat Tillman Foundation, respectively.

“This event is a project of passion for our team,” said Dillan Micus, former Boys & Girls Club kid and now-executive vice president of AXA Advisors Southwest. “Each year, our entire team focuses a day of service with an inspirational community organization. Eager to effect change, we decided to roll up our sleeves and put together an annual gala event meant to raise critical funds for our nonprofit partners.”

Tickets are limited and available now starting at $100, with VIP tickets starting at $200.

“Events like these help to support more than 16,000 Valley kids involved with the clubs and their access to the arts; character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; and sports, fitness and recreation,” said Steve Davidson, president/CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale.

In addition to AXA Advisors Southwest, Tiffany & Bosco P.A. and Great American Title Agency, Inc., who are serving as the presenting sponsors, additional current sponsors include Sapporo Scottsdale and Phocus Financial. Sponsorships range from $500 to $10,000 and are available at www.weekendjetaway.org.

“The Pat Tillman Foundation is proud to partner with AXA Advisors Southwest on this unique event, and we are honored to be selected to receive funds raised through its efforts,” said Marie Tillman, president of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “It is through the generosity of our donors that we are able to directly impact the lives of Tillman Military Scholars by providing the financial and educational resources needed to prevent undeserved debt, increase economic stability and establish a foundation for greater career opportunities.”

For more information about the first ever Weekend Jetaway, visit weekendjetaway.org.