By Leslie Hughes, California Business Journal.
For some industries, like wealth management planning, it’s virtually impossible to be different from colleagues.
But Elisabeth Dawson, President and CEO of Copia Wealth Management & Insurance Services and Copia Wealth Management Advisors, Inc., found a way to do that.
“No one offers what we do,” she says. “We go into the weeds — you have to go into the weeds for the knowledge of the individual.”
Additionally, “all most companies do is sell what their company offers.” As a fiduciary and investment advisor, “I’m not bound by those major, biased constraints,” she says.
Dawson guides clients through a comprehensive process. Once her team has gathered enough information, Copia goes into what the client’s biggest concern is: “They might not have enough for retirement, for children’s college education, or may not know how to buy into real estate as an investment.”
Copia sees the whole process through, no matter what the stage of the process.
Dawson made it a point to not be a traditional financial broker or agent. “I like to explain how Wall Street works,” she says. “Most people don’t understand Wall Street, yet they’re still heavily invested in it.”
Many people put their money into investments that do not offer the security of liquidity, which is a huge part of Dawson’s philosophy. One of her client success stories involves a real estate advisor who knew he wanted to retire to Palm Springs eventually, but also knew that retirement was 10 years down the line. “For all the years I’d been working with him, he had been putting money into a liquid account. It was a well-designed permanent life insurance policy where he had several hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
When the market crashed in 2008, Dawson’s client purchased several pieces of property in Palm Springs because he had liquidity. “So now with that growth and wealth, and selling and transferring to purchase other properties, he is able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. At 55, his retirement home is ready. “It’s a success story that liquidity was such a major factor in,” Dawson says.
This is just one of many success stories Dawson has with her work in managing client money. “It’s not just the money, we manage people’s lives too. Our Success stories range from so many strategies. No one product does the entire job. Strategies for success have to be created for the best possible outcome.”
Unlike other wealth management companies, Dawson pays her employees a salary. Most companies only provide the opportunity for commission, but Dawson feels that skews the importance of the work.
“The failure rate of our industry is 99%, so if the industry doesn’t do something about bringing in youth and making them more confident, then the industry will die. I keep my people on salary so that they can have that consistency. I don’t want an agency. I want a brand that can bring the next generation into the industry.”
Dawson pauses for a moment, smiles and says candidly: “The average person wants to do things themselves, but you can’t do the full comprehension and not miss anything because this isn’t your career. You need a qualified super knowledgeable fiduciary that is working in your best interest and that is giving you true knowledge of what your situation is, depending on your goals. Great financial advice is so powerful.”
Starting business 20 years ago, Dawson’s mission was to “educate people on how to simplify the financial worries of life and avoid the anxiety, anger, and stress of money.
“Money,” she adds with emphasis, “is one of the biggest causes of stress in life. We keep clients on a consistent framework and on track to ease their worries about the past, present and future of their finances.”
Dawson’s firm now manages $80 million of wealth for her clients. Quite amazing for someone who never intended on working in the financial industry in the first place.
Dawson worked as a manager and buyer at Nordstrom for over 10 years, and absolutely loved being a part of the company. “I loved fashion, and I still do,” she says. “I just wanted to help people in a way that benefited them — not just a one-time purchase.”
She left Nordstrom because it was time to turn the page. “My time was very much absorbed and I had had my second child who had complications from birth.” The 60+ hours a week she was working was not giving her the time or flexibility she needed in order to help make a change for her family and for her son.
Thus, her decision to start with MetLife and work with a general agent who practiced great patience and helped Dawson train and learn a new trade. “I had all the energy in the world,” she says. “I was able to go to classes on a Saturday morning when my husband could be home to watch the kids and I was able to study when the kids were sleeping. It worked out great.”
She then went on to The Guardian and went through a mentorship program that taught her the strong basis of what she knows now. “I learned the good, the bad, and how I wanted to run my business moving forward.” Fast-forward to the creation of Copia, and Dawson has done just that — figured out how to run her business today and for the future.
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