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BLX Case Study

South Bay Financial Partners

Tara Unverzagt and Jessica Robertson

Embracing Flexibility and Diversity:

The Evolutionary Path of a Financial Advisory Firm

Navigating the ever-shifting landscape of providing personal financial planning services requires a keen focus on client needs, the ability to be nimble as market forces ripple through one’s business, and a continual supply of professional insights supported by investments in good human capital. A commitment to embracing diversity in the workforce can pay dividends as well in that teams with more diversity consistently outperform their peers. 


This case study draws insights from a recent conversation with Jessica Robertson, CPA, who came to South Bay Financial Partners as an intern via the BLX program, and Tara Unverzagt, founder of South Bay Financial Partners. Throughout the conversation, they emphasized the transformative role of internships, personal growth, and the progressive strategies employed by the firm in nurturing talent, adapting to change, and enhancing client services.


Internship as a Stepping Stone


Tara’s active involvement in the BLX Internship Program underlines South Bay Financial Partners' dedication to nurturing emerging talent in the financial planning field. Jessica’s story, which includes transitioning from a CPA career to becoming a pivotal team member at South Bay, epitomizes the effectiveness of the BLX approach. Robertson’s journey with South Bay began with a focus on tax-related work, reflecting her expertise and the firm's needs. This symbiotic relationship between an intern’s innate skills and a company needs is a hallmark of the BLX Internship Program.


Tara's strategic vision ensured that interns like Jessica are not confined to menial tasks. Instead, interns are integrated across various departments, gaining a holistic understanding of the business. This comprehensive exposure is critical in developing well-rounded financial advisors and staff members who understand the intricacies of various financial planning aspects, from estate planning to tax preparation.


From Intern to Integral Team Member


Jessica’s role evolved from an intern to a permanent full-time team member at South Bay. A journey marked by hard work, recognition, and professional growth. Her satisfaction with the firm's evolving policies and procedures underlines a culture of continuous improvement and responsiveness to employee feedback. Over time, Jessica’s role expanded from intern duties to managing her own client relationships, showcasing the firm's trust in her abilities and the opportunities available for career progression.


Tara's praise of Jessica's work ethic, intelligence, and proactive problem-solving echoes the qualities South Bay values in its team. Jessica’s successful integration into the firm serves as a case study for how internships can be a powerful tool for talent acquisition and development.


Looking ahead, Jessica's aspirations to specialize in small business and special needs clients reflects a growing trend in the financial planning industry towards niche markets. Her interest in incorporating financial therapy principles aligns with the firm's innovative approach to financial planning, recognizing the nuanced relationship individuals and businesses have with money.


The flexibility in working arrangements at South Bay Financial Partners, a response to both employee preferences and the evolving work environment catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrates the firm's adaptability. This flexibility is not just a logistical arrangement but a strategic decision reflecting a deeper understanding of modern work-life balance and its impact on productivity and employee satisfaction.


The firm's smooth transition to remote work, already underway before the pandemic, represents a forward-thinking approach to work environments. Jessica's seamless adaptation to virtual platforms like Microsoft Teams is indicative of a larger trend where technology is increasingly integral to financial planning services.


Despite the advantages of remote work, Jessica's preference for in-person interactions underscores the importance of maintaining a personal touch in an increasingly digital world. Events like the firm's annual retreat play a crucial role in team bonding and maintaining a cohesive company culture. Tara's recognition of cultural diversity's importance in financial planning, and appreciation of the BLX program for facilitating this, highlights a commitment to inclusive practices and perspectives in the industry.


Challenges and Successes with BLX Interns


Tara's experiences with other BLX interns, ranging from notable successes to occasional mismatches, offer valuable insights into the complexities of integrating interns into a professional setting. The varied outcomes with interns, such as an estate lawyer who had to leave due to personal circumstances and the academic struggle with the corporate transition, reflect the diverse range of challenges faced in talent development.


The firm's strategy in hiring emphasizes flexibility and inclusivity, key factors in attracting a diverse and talented workforce. This approach, while presenting logistical challenges, has been pivotal in building a robust team. The willingness to accommodate part-time roles and diverse work preferences is a progressive stance in the financial planning industry, often characterized by traditional full-time roles.


Financial Therapy and Client-Centered Approach


The firm's incorporation of financial therapy into their services represents a significant shift from traditional financial planning. This holistic approach, focusing on the “soft side” of money, aligns financial strategies with clients' life intentions and goals. Tara's insights on adopting a client-centered approach, tailoring financial plans to individual realities, are indicative of a broader trend towards personalized financial advice.


The journey of South Bay Financial Partners, as shared by Jessica Robertson and Tara Unverzagt, provides a blueprint for success in the evolving landscape of financial planning services. Their emphasis on flexibility, diversity, and a client-centered approach showcases a forward-thinking model for the industry. As financial planning continues to evolve, firms that embrace these principles, much like South Bay Financial Partners, are well-positioned for enduring success in a diverse and dynamic world.

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