Today I decided that rather than working from home I would check out “that new coffee shop” a few miles down the road in the newly gentrified downtown area of this small-ish southern town I live in.
I had noticed several times that the Copper Coin coffee shop shared signage with something called Acru: Money + Life. The first is indeed a coffee shop and the second a financial advisor firm. But they are not two separate businesses. They occupy the same space – by design.
Acru is the financial services partner to a community bank, founded by the son of a bank president who saw the need for a different approach to providing financial and life planning services. He felt that having an aesthetic and productive space where community members could gather over pleasantries like a cup of coffee provides a more empathetic environment for what can be a fairly intimidating topic.
But the space isn’t just office on one side and coffee shop on the other. It has a community conference room that can be rented (for free) for entrepreneurs and folks like me who work from home a lot to have a meeting space. There is bleacher seating in one of the center spaces opposite a wall that has a retractable screen where people can come to free seminars on topics like resume building. There is even a cozy and quiet-ish living room space in the back where you can settle in with a good book or have a more private conversation. But as i look around while writing this blog, there are at least three iPad assisted conversations happening with financial advisors and clients at coffee shop tables and in restaurant style seating booths.
In a conversation with one of the advisors she was able to tell me all about the founders vision. When I mentioned I worked in brand strategy she was pleased to show me the book on brand identity that her coffee was sitting on, in which the Acru brand is featured. She also handed me some readily available marketing materials that shared a bit more about the unique and forward thinking holistic approach of their business.
The focus is very human insight oriented (which parallels with a macroforce currently driving the evolution of consumer culture). Their tagline “Money + Life” sums it up quite well. And you won’t find dollar signs anywhere in their brand packets or materials. Rather, you will see images of flower fields and family snapshots. You will see words like : clarity, wisdom, community, stories and well-being. Lines like “your well-being extends beyond finances. It’s about family, business, education and the future” and “we believe wealth is defined by how you live your life, net your net worth”.
This kind of approach is a strong departure from bigger firms who focus exclusively on financial accrual and base levels of service tiers on net worth.
It stands to reason that referrals come a lot easier in a space where you can walk in to a coffee shop setting and have a conversation rather than walking into a corporate high rise to meet with guys in suits and have your parking validated. As a matter of fact, there is a financial advisor standing at a welcome desk in the middle of the space at all times with a chalk-written welcome message to answer questions from anyone who walks in and offer to buy you a cup of coffee if you want to sit down and have a chat.
It’s a kinder, gentler, balance-oriented approach to helping a new generation and / or new mindset of investors get control over their finances while putting that topic in balanced perspective with their life priorities and happiness.
It speaks strongly to the trends of consumer empowerment, holistic health and the new conceptual economy we are entering in to.
It’s an infusion of fresh air into an industry that has been characteristically viewed as stuffy and riddled with a hint of distrust and anxiety. But at Acru, they sprinkle a little cream and sugar in to help the conversation go down a little easier. I will be eager to see how well this trend catches on.
Here are some images of the space for a little context:
- Holistic Investing Approach Allows San Francisco Financial Advisors to Conserve Clients’ Money (No Matter What the Stock Market is Doing) (prweb.com)
- Financial advisors good for more than advice (business.financialpost.com)
- Macroforces and Changing Consumer Culture: Advancing Human Insights (thebrandsherpa.wordpress.com)
- Empowerment Is The New “Green” (thenarcissisticanthropologist.com)