September 9th, 2019 · 3 min read
Chalice is making sense of independence
I’ve been writing about wealth management for a long time, with a strong focus on practice management. But I never even thought about health insurance until I came across Chalice Network.
Chalice is a membership organization for smaller and midsize financial advisors, insurance agents, CPAs and attorneys. Membership fees start at $25 per month, and that gets you access to discounts from vendors on products and services associated with portfolio accounting, risk analysis, investments, CFO and payroll functions, compliance, M&A, borrowing, marketing, website design, HR, IT — and yes, health insurance, employee retirement plans, and a raft of ancillary benefits.
I stumbled across San Diego-based Chalice’s website pretty recently. I saw it was run by Keith Gregg, whom I’ve known slightly for about 15 years, and Derek Bruton, who first came to my attention as head of TD Ameritrade’s institutional business for several years starting, I think, in 2004.
I make my living writing company newsletters, so naturally I reached out to Gregg, who passed me to Chalice’s marketing team — and here I am, helping out with their bi-monthly newsletter and other odds and ends, including this little missive.
Again, what got me here was Chalice’s interest in getting its members better deals in health insurance — because in 20 years covering financial service, I had never written about employee benefits.
I’m still getting up to speed on Chalice’s messaging, but I have my own, maybe not too marketing-savvy, take on what they’re doing, and I don’t mind sharing it with you. They’re making sense of independence.
Being on your own in financial service is tough, right? We all know that. Technology is making some things easier, I guess, but it’s still hard to run a business while looking after your clients and making sure those clients are properly cared for when you’re gone.
For the past 20 years at least, it’s been assumed that small firms are doomed, especially small financial-advice firms. The only way to get them the economies of scale and viable transition strategies they need — the assumption goes — is to roll them up into bigger firms until the ‘independent” RIA landscape is dominated by several dozen national entities.
Chalice, quite simply, says “no” to this paradigm. It’s not a matter of haves and have-nots, it’s a matter of bringing a sweet of services to smaller firms that free them to engage with the marketplace on their own terms.
Last time we talked, Keith Gregg was telling me Chalice is a “movement,” and I wasn’t buying it. I don’t know what comes first for me, being a cynic or being a reporter, but I have a hard time with “movements” of any kind.
Still, Gregg persisted in making his case, comparing Chalice to Costco and Amazon Prime, which I sort of got — and then he likened Chalice to a credit union. Which I totally got.
I’m in a credit union. I adore my credit union. I love being a member, not a customer. I love that I’m friendly with my branch manager, several loan officers, and all the tellers. I wish I could do every last bit of financial business for the rest of my life with my credit union because I like and I trust it.
If Chalice is anything like that for its members, I get it. I get it now.