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Not just a traditional trust department

Not just a traditional trust department

The following article was originally featured in the October issue of SDBANKER Magazine. You can view the digital issue here

“The eternal question for wealth management firms is: How do we as advisors stand out in a sea of sameness? You have to be authentic. You have to be vulnerable. You have to put yourself out there. The more that you do those things, the more that people will identify with you.”

When Adam Cox entered the role of Chief Wealth Management Officer in 2016, First National Wealth Management was what he would describe as “a successful, but very traditional trust department.”

Today, the wealth management arm of The First National Bank in Sioux Falls is a dynamic firm with 45 employees and $7.5 billion in assets under administration, and they onboard an average of more than one new relationship every business day.

“We’ve had meteoric growth as a firm,” Adam says. “We’ve added products and services that people want, we’ve made ourselves highly referrable, and we’ve really prioritized the role marketing plays in building and maintaining client relationships. Seeing as I’m still here,” he adds with a laugh, “it’s obviously worked.”

The front entrance to First National Wealth Management in downtown Sioux Falls.

Creating an ideal client experience

“My goal when we started all of this was that, when someone says, ‘I could really use a financial advisor,’ we would be in their top three,” Adam says.

For the team at First National Wealth Management, achieving that goal would take more than just new product and service offerings — it would take a shift in culture and mindset.

“When I came into this role, we had to clean some things up,” Adam says. “We had to optimize. We had to get processes, procedures, and people in place so we could create a more ideal client experience. And, we had to have the courage to stop doing things that didn’t make sense for what we were trying to become.”

Once that groundwork was in place — we’ll spare you those details in favor of the more exciting parts of the transformation — it was time to start innovating.

Members of the First National Wealth Management team meet around a conference room table.

They began adding new products and services that clients needed and wanted. A perfect example is the Framework Investment Portfolio (FIP) program.

“We launched this program in 2018 to help clients find an easier and better way to invest in their futures,” Adam says.

With a FIP account, clients could invest their hard-earned money in the ways that work best for them based on their unique time horizon, personal risk tolerance, and individual needs.

“The FIP program is just one way we help clients take a more personalized approach to investing,” Adam says. “Some other services we offer include Wealth Advisory and Personal Trust accounts — all of which cater to clients with different lifestyles, needs, and goals.”

But no matter what accounts clients have with First National Wealth Management, they can all expect the same high level of service: tailored financial plans to meet their specific goals, expanded offerings based on additional needs, regular communication about their accounts and the market, and transparency in fees and expected expenses.

“And these products aren’t just great for the client,” Adam adds. “They also help us as a business to diversify income streams while making ourselves more referrable and marketable. We can work with people in just one area of their financial lives, or we might have clients with multiple different account types under our roof.”

Other examples of enhancing the client experience include providing team members with a budget to use as they see fit — which could be for something as simple as sending a gift to a client to say “thank you” — and putting together a “task force” of empowered decision makers.

“This specific group of team members is focused on continually improving the client experience,” Adam says. “They observe current interactions, test ideas across departments, and implement new methods of improving operations, communication, and the overall experience.”

Members of the client experience task force compare notes on creating an ideal client experience.

Content as the future of wealth management

In early 2020, Adam and First National Wealth Management did something that was about as non-traditional as it gets: they launched the first episode of their award-winning financial podcast, Common Cents on the Prairie.

It was ten minutes long, featured solely Adam behind the microphone — reading from a script — and was available only on podcast streaming platforms.

And yet, that episode has, today, been streamed nearly 1,000 times.

“Since day one, the goal of this podcast has been to provide quality, accessible financial education,” Adam says. “There’s so much misinformation out there when it comes to money. On the other hand, a lot of the quality financial advice that does exist is stuck behind some kind of paywall. We wanted to do something different.”

Adam Cox sits in front of a microphone, recording an episode of the "Common Cents on the Prairie" podcast.

Currently, there are 46 episodes of the podcast available to listeners.

And not even just to listeners — you can stream the episodes on podcast apps, watch them on YouTube (video recordings were added in 2021), or read recaps of them on our blog.

“We’re on track to surpass 40,000 all-time listens by the end of the year,” Adam says. “That includes streams, downloads, and YouTube views. And, again, the key to our growth can really be attributed to the level of authenticity that we’re bringing to the table.”

“We’ve had clients come in and say directly, ‘I’m here because I listened to the podcast,’” Adam adds.

But the podcast is just the start of it; over the past few years, the team at First National Wealth Management has buckled down on creating and providing a constant stream of high-quality financial content.

That includes quarterly newsletter emails, monthly articles on our blog, and one-pagers and worksheets to guide clients through their financial planning and wealth management journeys.

“People are finding our content to be so engaging because we create it,” Adam says. “We don’t buy content, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, for us, creating that content is an opportunity to make our team members more visible to clients and to be able to be viewed as thought leaders in the industry.”

In fact, that content creation has opened many other doors for the team — and especially Adam, who has shared his expertise through a number of speaking arrangements recently.

In the past few months alone, Adam has been a guest on ProudMouth’s Top Advisor Marketing podcast, presented a breakout session on creating financial resilience at the 2023 Crossroads Summit in Sioux Falls, and spoken on a panel about competing with the scale of wirehouses at the 2023 Future Proof festival in Huntington Beach, CA.

Chief Wealth Management Officer Adam Cox sits on a panel at the 2023 Future Proof festival in Huntington Beach.

“I truly think content is the future of this business,” Adam says. “The authenticity that comes with creating content and putting it out into the world — signaling to others what you’re about and who you want to work with — is really important. Otherwise, how are people going to find you?”

“It will all come back around”

“One thing that firms tend to do, especially when the markets pull back a bit, is cut down on their spending — which I think is a mistake,” Adam concludes. “We put this money into improving the client relationship, or into providing quality content, and we don’t always know when it’s going to come back to us. But you can use our firm as an example; we’re proof that, eventually, it will all come back around.”

Learn more about Adam and the First National Wealth Management team here.

Have questions? We're here to help.

Adam Cox
JD, MBA

Adam Cox

Executive Vice President and Chief Wealth Management Officer
Maggie Groteluschen
JD, MBA, CTFA

Maggie Groteluschen

Fiduciary Services Manager
Don Rahn
CFP®

Don Rahn

Wealth Advisory Manager
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