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Aligned With One of the World’s Largest Money Management Companies, The Customer Service Driven Hall Has Helped Retirees Manage, Protect and Transfer Wealth Since 2000

Like a lot of college grads flush with confidence and eager to start making money, Bob Hall took his finance degree from Arizona State and jumped right into the financial services fray. Though he ultimately became one of the top reps in his five years with a large brokerage firm, he quickly grew tired of the constrictions of working in such a corporate environment – where a manager came to him every week and told him which products to recommend to his clients. He realized he couldn’t serve his clients as well as he wanted to if his boss upstairs was telling him what to say and sell them.
While he had always gone slightly against the grain in leaning towards conservative low or no risk investments, in 2000 – just as the tech market bubble was starting to burst – he embraced the risky step of becoming an independent advisor. Launching the firm that became Absolute Financial, which is currently based on North San Diego County, Hall could finally focus full time on safe money strategies and work for his clients without worrying about reaching quotas under someone else’s supervision.

“There is always risk involved in going solo,” he says, “but I was able to maintain my connections with the big brokerage houses. The dynamics had changed however, and now all of a sudden instead of me calling them to get business, they were calling me, asking if I could send them some of my clients. It was nice finally working on behalf of my clients and not for a large organization.”

Throughout his time with the large firm, Hall began realizing that many retirees were taking more risks with their investments than they should be – but the company, for reasons related to profits and the bottom line, frowned on Hall’s desire to specialize in working with them. When he started his own venture, he finally had the opportunity to specifically help this underserved demographic and educate seniors and those soon to retire on strategies that would help bring them income for life and the resulting peace of mind.

In the economic downturn of 2000-2001, Hall was alarmed at how quickly retirees who had been led into more risky plans saw decades of their life savings wiped out in such a short period of time. While vowing to ensure to work on behalf of as many clients as possible to ensure they wouldn’t suffer the same fate, he also brought a more personal motivation to his desire to help and be an advocate for them.

“I am a very patriotic person,” he says, “and I have felt very blessed to live in America and have all the opportunities I have been given. I know that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the hard work and sacrifice of the generations before me, including what Tom Brokaw has famously called ‘The Greatest Generation’ of those who either fought in World War II or contributed at home to the war effort. I have a lot of passion towards that group and the subsequent generation, and it’s my privilege to have the chance to serve them.

“After meeting some of these retirees,” Hall adds, “I realized that they were often out of balance with their investing style and were taking a lot of unnecessary risks. After the bull market of the late 80s and 90s when stockbrokers could wear blindfolds and still hit bullseyes, it was challenging to now advise people that they needed to focus on preserving what they had accumulated. So many had learned the hard way that it is a whole lot harder to accumulate wealth than to lose money.”

Another factor in his decision to work with retirees was observing the financial challenges his grandfather faced when his grandmother wound up needing long term care at a relatively young age.

Never having embraced the idea of “passing people off to a 1-800-WHO-CARES line,” as many advisers do at large firms, Hall enjoys the fact that he has fashioned a small, specialized firm that allows him to be available to his clients from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Having been married since April 2006 and now the father of a six year old girl and three year old boy, he appreciates the time flexibility as well.

Hall is proud of the fact that Absolute Financial is a family run business. His wife Melody is also a licensed advisor and serves as office manager, and since 2008, his father has also been an advisor, working in Phoenix with many of the clients who came on board during the firm’s early years there. “My dad has been a great asset because those clients enjoy meeting with him face to face,” Hall says. “We’re able to offer much better customer service for those foundational clients than we could if I were just dealing with them over the phone.”

He stresses that clients of Absolute Financial have a unique experience, working with a friendly and personalized, family run firm that thoroughly evaluates and customizes their investments with the peace of mind of knowing that their assets have been strategically invested with some of the largest financial companies of the world. In essence, Hall sees himself as a client relationship manager, “where the client sees me as a point of contact able to give them personalized attention and the personal touch they need, but with the power of those deep resources behind me.” 

“These days,” he adds, “people are looking for transparency. They want an advisor who treats them with respect, whether they have millions or thousands in assets. After almost 20 years in the business, I understand how hard these retirees have worked to save for their retirement. The world is different than it used to be, and was for many of them when they were growing up. We used to be able to do business with a handshake, but these days, we unfortunately can’t do that because trust is harder to come by in the financial world.”

Along those lines, Hall brings old school values and a powerful work ethic to every client he works with. Throughout high school and college, he worked for his father’s swimming pool construction company, engaging in all the backbreaking labor the other employees didn’t want to do. By doing every kind of odd job, including scrubbing the bottoms of pools when it was 120 degrees out, he learned the value of hard work. Hall credits his grandfather on his mother’s side, a ranch hand from Texas who eventually became a carpenter, for imparting the value of hard work as well. “I thought he was the strongest man alive,” Hall says. “He could take pecans in the shell off the tree and put them underneath his bicep and forearm and crack the shells!”

Hall’s paternal grandfather, who hailed from Boston, was an early inspiration for his choice of career path. “He was a stockbroker back in the 50s,” he says, “and when I was growing up, I would ask him about the pros and cons for me getting into the financial industry. I wondered, ‘How can I be successful?’ He told me that there were three ways to be more successful than anybody else – show up on time, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and deliver what you promise. Another unwritten principle was ‘treat clients with respect.’ Those are the simple values I have built my business on.”

One of the elements of Absolute Financial that sets Hall apart from other retirement advisors is his development of what he calls his “Three Point Check System” for financial products. His system, which can be applied to a multitude of investments including variable annuities and mutual funds, helps retirees uncover hidden fees. Hall explains that most retirees do not know how to look at their plans to find these hidden fees, so his system looks at things like their mortality and expense risk fees, which can average 1.25 percent. There can also be rider charges that can average another one percent. “These are the products we are competing against,” Hall adds.

He invites prospective clients to come to him for their Three Point Checkup. The first point is mortality and expenses and the second is rider charges, or add-ons to the basic plan – which in lay consumer terms he compares to adding the cost of heated seats to the base price of a car. The problem is, just as his clients in Southern California might never use those heated seats, some of these riders that are added on are never used. “A lot of brokers will add those on and gloss over them without really analyzing for their clients what they will be paying,” says Hall.

The Third Point in the check system is in the area of fund fees. Inside variable annuities, he says, there are subcontractors that manage various funds and accounts. Of course, they don’t work for free, and the average cost of them is an additional one percent. So if an investor has a variable annuity with one hundred thousand dollars, the total cost of hidden fees on that is a whopping $270 a month, or $3250 per year – that the investor may or may not be aware of. “That $270 a month gets deducted whether your account makes or loses money, because that fee must be paid either way,” Hall says.

Becoming a father of young children in recent years has changed Hall’s perspective on the work he does on behalf of clients and his vision for the future of Absolute Financial. “I know Lily and Jacob are little kids now,” he says, “but someday when I’m ready to retire, it’s nice to imagine that maybe Jacob will want to carry on the family business. Raising them with Melody also makes me realize that when I’m working with clients, I’m not only serving their long term financial goals but also, in very important ways, serving their children and their children’s children, who will be beneficiaries of all we do here when they are gone.

“I am proud,” Hall adds, “that Absolute Financial is to the point where new clients come to us by referral and we don’t need a certain number of them to cover our overhead. This allows us time to relax and socialize with the clients we have in addition to helping them achieve that very important peace of mind through prudent financial strategies. In the end, it’s all about knowing that when they go to sleep at night, they can rest assured that they are protected and that their future is secure.”

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