VOL. 126 | NO. 35 | Monday, February 21, 2011
EMPHASIS Financial Services
Kelman-Lazarov Prides Itself on Customer Service
By Allison Buckley
For 30 years, business partners Ron Lazarov and Marty Kelman of Kelman-Lazarov Inc. have taken financial planning and turned it into something people can holistically approach.
Marty Kelman, left, and Ron Lazarov are principals in Kelman-Lazarov, a wealth management firm in Clark Tower. In 2010, the firm had its best year and grew in several ways, including hiring associates and adding space to its footprint. (Photo: Lance Murphey)
The staff at Kelman-Lazarov walks in their client’s shoes, which just might be what separates them from the rest.
In 1977, Ron Lazarov had just graduated from the University of Texas. At the time, his father, Sidney, desperately wanted his son to come back to Memphis and work closely to him. So, after receiving his MBA in finance from Southern Methodist University in 1979, Lazarov got into the business.
A year later, Marty Kelman, with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Virginia, a M.Ed. in counseling and an MBA in finance, both from the University of Memphis, became co-founder and chairman for Kelman-Lazarov Inc.
Today, Kelman-Lazarov is a wealth management firm that prides itself on servicing its clients well, acting as investment contrarians and, in Marty’s case, even a counselor at times.
“I think it’s hard for anybody that’s not (managing their money) 24 hours a day – that’s our job,” Lazarov said. “We try to look at both sides of what’s being said and make sure we understand there are two sides to every investment.”
Lazarov and Kelman have been equal partners for 30 years, and before making any decisions, both must come to a full agreement with each customer, which isn’t always as easy as it may seem.
“(Clients) laugh at us because we’ll be in a meeting with them and each one will take a different position and we’ll argue in front of them … to come up with the right answer,” Lazarov said.
Even so, Kelman-Lazarov has seen significant success and Lazarov says that’s because the company offers a service that people need. In the beginning, Kelman-Lazarov was able to offer its clients a 30-year finance projection – technology almost as unheard of as financial planning itself.
Today, Lazarov says the amount of finance information on the Internet is almost dangerous and that Kelman-Lazarov helps clients organize their money by understanding inflation and looking at the clients’ taxes, cash flow and asset growths. Lazarov even described it as a one-stop boutique where customers can have all their financial needs met.
One of the company’s specialties is close-end mutual funds. Kelman-Lazarov helps its clients find bargains on the New York Stock Exchange.
“Most people buy high and sell low. … Our goal is to make sure people can sleep at night,” Lazarov said. “If we put them in the wrong risk and the market starts going down and they bail out, then we haven’t done out job because they’re not going to be there for the recovery.”
Kelman-Lazarov consists of about 12 employees passionate about what the founding partners have worked so hard to obtain: a healthy following of clients and an exceptional reputation in the industry.
The firm is based on the principle that education and understanding of a client’s current financial situation is vital to successfully making prudent decisions concerning that client’s future financial condition. One of Kelman-Lazarov’s biggest fans was Ron’s father, Sidney.
“The first 10 to 15 years, I was probably down (in his office) asking for advice,” Lazarov said. “The next 10 years, he was down here asking me for advice.”
And Sidney’s fatherly advice paid off for Kelman-Lazarov, which recently hired two employees and is planning its third move within Clark Tower to meet growth goals.
“I think we’re in the right place at the right time,” Lazarov said. “It’s very complicated out there. People need help. They need somebody that cares for them and we really put their interests first.”