Structured Settlement Specialist Albert Alexander plays a unique role at B. Riley Wealth Management and is one of only a few financial advisors across the United States in his area of concentration. Recently, he shared what makes his role so specialized, and what his day-to-day is like at the firm.
you talk about structured settlements and share a little bit about how they
Structured settlements are typically used for cases involving qualified physical injuries, although we have brokered sizeable non-qualified cases, as well.
With cases involving clear liability, the party responsible for causing injury will often enter into a settlement agreement with a plaintiff rather than risk the uncertainty of a jury trial. Instead of receiving a lump sum, the injured party may prefer to be paid in the form of a structured settlement, which is a future periodic payment stream-funded with the purchase of an institutional annuity.
You have a unique and highly specialized role. Talk about your day-to-day work life at BRWM.
A large part of my job is helping clients figure out their best options in each situation. While every case is different and individual circumstances are unique, the fundamental question I must address is, "What funding solution provides the best outcome for this person who has sustained a life-changing or debilitating injury?"
It can be years before a case is settled or goes to trial, but in the time period between when a case is brought and when it is resolved (via settlement or at trial), claimants who have suffered personal physical injury need good financial advice.
My first role, then, is as an on-call expert witness, helping attorneys navigate through the financial aspects and impacts of injury cases. Members of both bench and bar have a duty to protect a minor or incapacitated person's proceeds. Even if, for example, a plaintiff is a competent adult receiving wrongful death proceeds in settling the loss of a spouse, there is a duty to disclose all suitable financial solutions, including the potential use of a structured settlement annuity.
Sometimes I'm called in before a lawsuit is even filed; other times, I'm called to consult on negotiation strategies for an upcoming mediation. I also receive calls out of the blue from active mediation, or once a case has been settled and the attorney needs immediate, actionable assistance.
What differentiates you from other financial advisors who work on structured settlements?
There are about 200 active structure brokers across the country, but I'm one of only a handful who can provide fully-integrated, tailored financial solutions that speak to every product and service available in the financial markets. While a traditional structured settlement broker has only the institutional fixed and determinable annuity in his or her practice, I am licensed and registered in 50 States, D.C., and the USVI to advise on the suitability of every financial consideration, so I may have different ideas about what produces the best result for a claimant than most structure brokers. It may be a settlement, a trust, or a private client account. Sometimes, the best solution involves a combination of instruments. The traditional broker simply doesn't operate in the realm of suitability, and because they often only have one product offering, they work hard to make it one-size-fits-all. Over time, attorneys and judges have gravitated toward my service model, because it speaks to suitability with every aspect of settlement funding: trust services, different ways of managing investments, non-performing assets, the family office function, and risk.
As an example, an old-school structure broker may generate an annuity quote for a healthy six year-old receiving wrongful death proceeds that crafts a college fund for the minor. But what if that minor ultimately chooses not to attend college? Structured settlement annuity contracts produce future periodic payments that cannot be accelerated or changed in any way, and since I don't like trying to predict the future of young children, more often than not, I'll submit the idea of a court-restricted UTMA (Uniform Transfer to Minors Act) accounts for smaller cases, or a court-ordered minor trust in larger cases to provide future flexibility.
Do you have a specific area of focus within your practice?
Children with special needs are a large part of my business, and there is a heightened fiduciary duty to protect children with permanent disabilities. The complex challenges of court-ordered special needs trusts led me to this niche about 25 years ago when my late father, an obstetrician and gynecologist, was serving as an expert witness in a bad birth trauma case. The trial lawyer happened to know I was in financial services and asked me about special needs trusts.
At the time I had had little knowledge of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, but I dug in. Signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993, OBRA '93 authorized the creation of certain types of exempt trusts to allow disabled people to continue to receive medical assistance and other collateral source benefits. The flexibility these trusts offered their beneficiaries, combined with our mandate of a full suitability determination for every case have brought us to where we are many years later. And, we continue to operate within the same model that has always worked best for every client in the financial services arena: If we put the client's interests above our firm's and our own, we're off to the best possible start.
What drew you to B. Riley Wealth Management, and how has it benefitted your clients?
I grew my business with another firm that was acquired by B. Riley Wealth Management. Things have turned out well for me, because everyone here is accessible. My practice would have been extremely challenging had we been acquired by a wirehouse, but B. Riley Wealth Management is a boutique firm with myriad specializations. Management has been supportive and encouraged me to continue my practice with the same autonomy I've had in serving my clients' best interests all along.
How are you taking advantage of the larger firm (RILY) to take care of your clients, and what has it meant to be part of a larger company with a full suite of financial solutions in your arsenal?
Every so often I have cross-platform opportunities to explore here, and that's exciting. One of the attractive things about this firm is its diverse set of business capabilities. I recently had a contact reach out to me who was potentially divesting from a hospital. I was able to refer them to the B. Riley Securities investment banking platform for review and comments. The ability to make referrals for people to different parts of the platform, like investment services or business advisory services, is what makes our firm an exciting place to work.
What tools and resources do you have available at BRWM that contribute to your success?
The tools here that benefit me the most are the people I work with. Herb Taylor in the office next to mine completely understands what I do and has been a huge help managing many of my cases. Two doors down is a world-class money manager, Philip Wunderlich, who has done so well managing so many of my trust accounts, as well as a good number of my trial lawyers' private client accounts. Then, of course, there's the support of our best-in-class executive, compliance, operations, technology and marketing teams.
Albert Alexander is a Voting Member of the National Structured Settlements Trade Association based in Washington, D.C. and a 30-year veteran of general securities and trust arenas with a specialization in tort claims financing solutions and fiduciary services. He holds insurance licensure and general securities registrations in 50 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He earned the CSSC® designation from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business in cooperation with NSSTA and is listed with the USDOJ under 28 C.F.R 50.24. Mr. Alexander has participated in settlement transactions and funding obligations exceeding $1 billion. A Senior Managing Director at B. Riley Wealth Management, Mr. Alexander brings specialized expertise, a wealth of financial management resources, and years of experience in producing the most suitable settlement funding outcome.
B. Riley Wealth Management provides comprehensive wealth management and brokerage services to individuals and families, corporations and non-profit organizations, including qualified retirement plans, trusts, foundations and endowments. Established in 1996 and headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, B. Riley Wealth Management has over 20 locations in 12 states and 300 associated professionals. B. Riley Wealth Management is a wholly-owned subsidiary of B. Riley Financial, Inc. (NASDAQ:RILY), a publicly traded, diversified financial services company. B. Riley Wealth Management, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC.