15 years ago, when Irfan Bhabhrawala’s mom was retiring, he stepped in to help his parents find a financial planner. Little did he know, the research he was doing was setting the groundwork for his own future, too.
At first, Irfan struggled to find the right person. So many financial planners were selling products, it was difficult to know who to trust and who would truly have his parents’ best interests at heart. That’s when he discovered Arbor Financial run by Savvas Giannakopoulos, an early ACP member. As a fee-only practice, Arbor Financial guaranteed to put clients first. Irfan was thrilled to find the right person to help his parents.
Though he didn’t pursue a career in it at first, Irfan had always been interested in finance. He credits his parents with teaching him the importance of saving early. When he got out of college and became a consultant, he was strategic about how he managed his finances. At the time there weren’t many tools for individual investors, so Irfan built his own retirement projectors. “I guess you could say I was drawn to financial planning in a way a lot of other 23-year-olds were not,” he says.
After 10 years in consulting, which included launching his own consulting company, Irfan wanted a change of pace. He took a few years off and moved to Australia before returning to Michigan where he began a career in university administration. As much as he enjoyed his role, he wanted to take his career another direction. He considered financial planning. Not only did it tap into his lifelong interest, but his past experience would lend itself to the work.
As Irfan researched the field, he realized that based on what he went through helping his parents, he wanted to go the fee-only route. He connected with a planner in Oregon who was looking for someone to take over his practice. Irfan decided to reach out to Savvas for advice. They got together to chat, and soon enough Irfan joined Savvas and began the process of taking over Arbor Financial.
Though he had no industry experience, Irfan bought the firm within a year and a half. “It was like drinking from a fire hose,” he says. Luckily, he was able to draw on his years of consulting, and later, his discovery of ACP. “There’s overlap in the two—that need to figure out people’s lives and goals is similar to consulting, which was often about figuring out the end goals of a company or institution,” he says. Plus, he knew what it was like to own his own business. Once he added the formal education of a CFP®, he felt like he had his feet underneath him.
As soon as Irfan heard about ACP, he knew he was interested. Arbor Financial had been founded as an arm of Bert Whitehead’s Cambridge Connection, and remains solidly aligned with the ACP philosophy. Plus, as someone new to the business, Irfan knew he needed a community.
Although ACP looked like a good resource on paper, Irfan was blown away with the reality. “I never thought I would find a financial community I would actually want to be a part of,” he says. He attended the ACP Annual Conference and found an incredible group of people who were passionate about helping each other. “In higher education, people tend to be more collaborative than competitive, but I never thought I’d find that in financial planning,” he says. Not only did ACP provide a connection to a network of other planners, it gave him the tools and philosophy he needed to grow.
Currently Irfan is happy with the growth he seen since he bought the business. As he looks ahead, he is focused on incorporating more life planning into his practice. “I really want to empower people to live their best lives,” he says. Recently, Irfan joined the ACP Conference Planning Committee to help organize the 2021 conference. He’s looking forward to having a hand in the event and finding more opportunities to get involved throughout the year.
For all you do for ACP, thank you, Irfan!