Chip Simon, CFP®, Taconic Advisors, Inc.
Years before he found his way into financial planning, Chip Simon wandered into the Yale University placement office searching for some clarity about the next step in his life. After getting a liberal arts degree from Colgate University, he’d taken a year off from school, and now he was ready to find his career path. Browsing through brochures on that day, Chip found his inspiration. “I thought that public accounting would allow me to serve the community, and I’ve always felt compelled to try to do good in that way,” he says. Soon enough, he enrolled in a master’s program at New York University.
After years of working as an accountant, and then moving into sales and marketing, he knew he wanted to find something different—something that would allow him to use his skills and give up his 3.5-hour daily commute. Financial planning seemed like the answer. There was only one problem—when he interviewed with local brokerages, he found that all of them wanted sales, not financial planning. “I realized that if I wanted to work locally, I would have to build it myself,” he says.
He discovered NAPFA, and soon after, made his way to ACP, where he found like-minded people. When he heard a tape of Bert talking about the ACP model, Chip thought, “This is it. This is something that can work for me.” Even so, he didn’t get much encouragement from local attorneys and CPAs; they didn’t think he would be able to make a retainer-based practice work in their area. But Chip was undaunted.
“Those training days were like drinking from a fire hose,” he says about the initial ACP training, but the ACP approach to doing business clicked for him. ACP gave him the tools he needed to get his practice started the right way. It provided the essential foundation—a community, an ethos, and a clear practice model. For Chip, the sense of community in ACP was instilled from the beginning. He formed a strong bond with his coach, and he understood that he was part of something special. As his practice grew, he found himself relying on his ACP colleagues. In fact, he named his practice Taconic Advisors so that he could highlight the community to prospective clients. “Even though it was just me when I started, I put that ‘s’ on the end because I felt there was a whole team of people helping me,” he says.
Chip credits ACP for offering a planning model and professional environment that fulfilled his professional goals beyond expectation. One feature of ACP that he loves—and which he finds is not talked about much—is the “high contact” nature of the group. This is embodied in the frequent face-to-face meetings with clients, in the study groups, and at the ACP conferences. He also encourages new ACP members to get out into their communities to meet other professionals and get involved. After all, that’s how he met his partner, Meredith Briggs. “Advisors ask me ‘How do I find a Meredith?’” Chip says. “The first thing you have to do is get out of your office.”
Chip relied heavily on the ACP program to get started and is an avid user of the traditional systems, although he recognizes that these may be adapted in the future as his firm grows under Meredith’s leadership. He believes that he joined ACP at a transitional time in 2002. At that time the organization was still being built as it was learning to fly. “I got to know many of the original members who were the core of the advisor-led community. We took great leaps of faith by joining. After me came the new generation of high-quality, credentialed members who are much more thoughtful about purchasing the system. I feel like I have a foot in each world.” As he looks to the future, he’s excited about what’s ahead for ACP and in his own life. In 2019, he’ll cut back his workload to 50% to make room for other pursuits.