Odyssey Ad­vi­sors, Inc

The big­gest thing we sell is in­de­pen­dence,” said Parker E. El­more, pres­i­dent and CEO of Odyssey Ad­vi­sors, Inc., a Con­necti­cut-based re­tire­ment plan­ning firm that he founded in 1998. Odyssey serves small to medium-sized clients in 37 states, in­clud­ing a ne

The Suit - - Contents -

Bank­ing on an In­de­pen­dent Streak

Parker, with over 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­dus­try, rel­ishes the in­de­pen­dence of his company. “We’re an in­de­pen­dent provider. We don’t man­age money. We don’t want to man­age money. We work with peo­ple in that business,” he ex­plained, con­tin­u­ing, “Clients un­der­stand that the ad­vice we give is in­de­pen­dent be­cause we get paid only by them.” Odyssey’s in­de­pen­dence with bro­kers ex­ists be­cause – as Parker puts it, “We can work with any of them.”

Odyssey’s business is a 50-50 split be­tween pri­vate com­pa­nies and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. He said that six or seven years ago, it was more like 90-10, pri­vate ver­sus mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Since then, the num­ber of mu­nic­i­pal clients has ex­ploded.

“The tip­ping point,” Parker told The Suit, “was the emer­gence of GASB 45, an ac­count­ing stan­dard that be­came ef­fec­tive in 2008.” GASB stands for Gov­ern­men­tal Ac­count­ing Stan­dards Board.

“Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties around the coun­try have promised med­i­cal ben­e­fits to their fu­ture re­tirees. And, what GASB 45 ba­si­cally says, is that you have to re­flect on your books what the value of that prom­ise is.”

Parker seized the op­por­tu­nity that GASB 45 pre­sented and turned it into a fo­cal point for his firm. “We’ve been do­ing that kind of work since the found­ing of the company, and I’ve been do­ing it since 1992. So, it was a nat­u­ral fit for us to get into that mar­ket.”

For pri­vate com­pa­nies, Parker said that ESOPs (Em­ployee Stock Op­tion Plans) can be good al­ter­na­tives to 401K plans.

Pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ees with own­er­ship in the company as a re­tire­ment ben­e­fit means that par­tic­i­pat­ing em­ploy­ees have “skin in the game.” Park- er ac­knowl­edged, “Ul­ti­mately, the value of that stock they’re re­ceiv­ing in their ben­e­fit plan is go­ing to go up or down, de­pend­ing on how the business is do­ing.”

ESOPs also al­low company own­ers to sell por­tions of their business to the plan, a chunk at a time. “Own­ers get a chance to take a por­tion of their net worth and di­ver­sify into some­thing else,” Parker said. And, though it may not the most lu­cra­tive way to exit their com­pa­nies, own­ers can ease their way into re­tire­ment. They don’t have to sell the business and walk away.

Re­gard­ing 401K plans, Parker em­pha­sized, “Most have far too many funds. Fif­teen years ago, eight to 10 funds was the norm. To­day, it’s 40 to 50 funds, if not more.” As a re­sult, the av­er­age par­tic­i­pant doesn’t know which funds to invest in.

“It’s the para­dox of choice,” he said. “Too much choice is no choice at all.”

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