Planning for a stable financial future is imperative to quality of life.
Consumer costs continuously rise and economic uncertainties can put a burden on how we live.
It's never too early to start planning for retirement. Fortunately, throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley, there are many financial consultants and investment advisers to help you get started.
Here to answer this week's “Behind the List” questions are Robert N. DiNicola and Robert D. McFarland, partners of Rockland Financial Group in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Rockland Financial Group been operating in the Greater Lehigh Valley and what are its primary services?
Robert N. DiNicola and Robert D. McFarland: Rockland Financial Group was founded in 1989 with one branch in the New York area. It has since opened up four locations within Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Rockland Financial Group branched out into our Lehigh Valley locations in 2009 to meet the growing needs of our individual and corporate clients in the area.
We know that trust, like success, is earned. We take pride in caring for our clients, and their success drives our success. Our team of financial professionals has the depth and breadth of skills to design innovative strategies in the following areas: private client strategies include estate planning strategies, wealth preservation, wealth accumulation, insurance review and audit, asset management platforms, retirement planning and income stream in retirement planning, and education funding.
Corporate strategies include executive benefit plans, business continuation and business succession.
Our firm invests in the ultimate client experience which grows over time with our relationship-driven focus. We distinguish ourselves as financial professionals by working on building the strategies and creating a financial road map to help clients protect some of the most important things in life. That is our job.
Each day, we strive to earn our clients' trust and confidence. That is our goal. A goal we constantly work on through our services and professional capabilities.
LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Rockland Financial Group has encountered throughout its years in business?
DiNicola and McFarland: The continuous changes in the industry and regulations have provided Rockland Financial Group with the opportunity to be an asset to our clients. As policymakers continue to add and update rules and regulations, the landscape has become very confusing and complex.
This is especially true for our business clients who provide retirement plans and employee benefits. They have had to cope with a multitude of changes that have been occurring over the past few years. We have found the regulatory atmosphere to affect our high net-worth clients and that is why we have experienced financial professionals on our team who can navigate through the various challenges presented.
Even though Rockland Financial Group does not offer tax or legal advice, some of our financial associates and resource relationships hold the following certifications, degrees and designations: in law, Juris Doctor, Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner, Certificate in Retirement Planning from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and MBAs [Master of Business Administration].
LVB: How does Rockland Financial Group directly stimulate the local economy? Does it work solely in the Lehigh Valley or does it expand into other markets?
DiNicola and McFarland: The Lehigh Valley has had impressive growth over the last few decades, and we see the benefits of this growth for many of our clients. Our firm has made it a mission to educate as many people as we can on financial success here in the Lehigh Valley.
For example, we will present purely educational seminars and workshops as an extension of business' employee-benefits programs. This creates added value to both business owners and their employees. In our opinion, the more financially educated people are, the better their decisions are and the clearer the pathway to success in reaching their goals can be.
The one way we accomplish direct stimulation of the local economy is to expand our firm with both seasoned professionals with the same passion to help businesses, executives, professionals and individuals to succeed.
We also have plans to build more staff positions to create the infrastructure for the added professional partners. If we grow, and our clients grow, the Lehigh Valley grows.
Because we concentrate our efforts in the Lehigh Valley, we tend to expand only in this market region. We do have relationships with CPAs to provide financial services for their clientele in New Jersey and New York, however our expansion plans are focused on our communities here in Lehigh Valley and eastern Pennsylvania.
LVB: What credentials and licenses have to be obtained to become an investment adviser representative, Certified Financial Planner or asset manager?
DiNicola and McFarland: The financial professional is able to provide services to the public by having an approved affiliation with a broker-dealer and carrying the state licenses for life and health insurance, FINRA [Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] Series 6, 63 or 65 or 66 registrations. Individuals must have a FINRA Series 7 registration in order to recommend individual securities such as stocks or bonds. In addition to the necessary credentials, the broker-dealer will have required training modules for specific planning strategies.
The Certified Financial Planner is a certification program, administered by the CFP Board, that identifies to the public those individuals who have been authorized to use the CFP certification marks in the U.S. These individuals have met rigorous professional standards and have agreed to adhere to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients.
The education component starts with a bachelor's degree requirement, then, a college-level study program in personal financial planning with seven course sections that must be passed before taking the comprehensive examination. The education for CFP continues with required courses and exams to maintain the designation.
For the most part, a wealth manager is an individual or a team within a financial firm that is dedicated to managing the assets (cash, investments, etc.) of clients.
LVB: What does the future look like for Rockland Financial Group on a local level? Does it have plans for growth?
DiNicola and McFarland: Rockland Financial Group evaluates plans to grow with each passing year. Because we build relationships with our clientele with our ultimate client experience, new introductions are earned. In fact, we don't ask the client for a referral — we simply earn referrals through our constant attention to service.
We are expanding our partnership with new financial professionals and experienced financial professionals. With those expansion plans come building an infrastructure to support those professionals by hiring staff and key management personnel. We believe that our business can double in two years as a result of these measures. There's no doubt that a growing firm helping more and more clients, and creating more jobs, helps the Lehigh Valley.