VALDOSTA — Bush Wealth Management has made a big change by becoming the only full-time financial advisor in the area to be a registered investment advisor.
Stacy Bush, founder and chief executive officer, said this is a big change for the local financial advisory business that opened its doors 15 years ago.
RIAs are required to register either with the Securities and Exchange Commission or state securities administrators. Being an RIA means Bush Wealth no longer works for any company's interest, only for the interest of its clients, Bush said.
It has a fiduciary duty to its clients or a fundamental obligation to provide investment advice that always acts in the clients' best interests, he said.
"In other words, when a doctor takes the Hippocratic Oath, they are required to take care of their patient to the best of their ability," Bush said. "Many advisors say they are doing that, but they are really selling their clients an insurance policy.
"Now, we are legally bound to act as a fiduciary and take care of the client."
Although the change will bring in less money for the business overall, its clients can have more confidence in the work being done at Bush Wealth, he said.
Kent Patrick, wealth advisor, said for the past 15 years Bush Wealth has been acting as a fiduciary with the ability to sell its clients policies from other companies and make a commission on those sales. This doesn't mean it wasn't acting in its clients' best interests, but left open the possibility of doubt for Bush Wealth's intentions and priorities.
For example, Patrick said a person buying a car from a dealership has no idea if the salesperson really likes the car being sold or if he is just trying to make a commission.
"We don't want to be viewed in that way," Patrick said. "When you come to work with Bush Wealth Management, you are working with the only financial advisor shops in South Georgia and North Florida."
At Bush Wealth, he said, clients can now be 100 percent certain they are getting the best option available and not being sold a lemon.
For Bush, this is the rare occasion where there is a win, win, win, he said.
"Normally, it's a win, lose scenario," Bush said. "This, everyone wins. It's a win for the client. It's a win for the community. And it's a win for us."
He said becoming an RIA completely transforms Bush Wealth Management for the better, and its clients have given him great feedback about the transition.
In the end, Bush said it is all about being good stewards of clients' money, and the change makes that even more of a reality.
He and everyone else at Bush Wealth will continue giving back to the community that has opened its arms to him and his business, he said.
"We're open to do business with people who are tired of being sold stuff," Bush said. "We are now a cutting-edge wealth-management firm that has the ability to serve clients with excellence and 100 percent transparency with no conflict of interest."
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256