Scott Farnsworth named
"INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR"
by Financial Advisor Magazine!
Scott Farnsworth is the founder and President of SunBridge, Inc. SunBridge is the national leader in practical and affordable training, tools, and support for financial advisors, estate planners, and philanthropic professionals. Scott believes that profound joy and fulfillment come from understanding clients’ stories and helping them tell the rest of their story with elegance, grace, and love. He thrives on working with financial advisors, estate planners, and philanthropic professionals who yearn to make a more meaningful difference in the lives of those they serve. At SunBridge, his goal is to help them to do so.
Scott is one of thirteen children and grew up on a small dairy farm in Fruitland, New Mexico. In college, he met and married the love of his life, Marcie. In the early 1980’s, after law school and a judicial clerkship with a federal court of appeals judge, they moved to Marcie’s home town, Brookhaven, Mississippi.
Scott became a professor of business law at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and then worked as the head of the Trust Department for a community bank in Brookhaven. During that time, Scott earned the Certified Financial Planner designation.
He tells this story:
“On April Fool’s Day 1989, I left the bank where I had worked for five years and set up my own office. All the other attorneys in town were convinced I was going to starve to death in a town as small as Brookhaven because I announced I wasn’t going to do all that messy stuff they had to deal with like divorces, personal injury litigation, and criminal matters. Instead, I was going to focus on estate planning and asset management.
“Fast forward a few years to 1996, and I had defied all their expectations. Things were going well with me. I had a thriving estate planning and asset management practice. I owned the business and I owned the building where I had my offices. I had four full-time employees. My accountant said as far as he knew, I was the best-paid attorney in town, including all the personal injury lawyers. Best of all for me, I was taking off 165 days a year. I felt like I had arrived. I was ready to coast to a serene and comfortable retirement.
“One day I was going through some draft estate planning documents with a client and somewhere around page 27 or so, he stopped me and said, “You know, Mr. Farnsworth, back when we were talking about this, we had a lot of conversations about family values, about the things that I really wanted for my children and grandchildren, about the lessons and wisdom of my life that I hoped to somehow pass along to them. But these papers you wrote all seem rather cold and impersonal. They seem to be strictly about the money. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would say that you probably just plugged our names into one of your forms.”
“Wow, that was an awkward moment because he had nailed it. That’s exactly what I had done. I’d simply taken their information, pulled out one our forms, plugged their names in, and then passed it off as something I’d created just for them.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a lawyer tap dance, but there I was, dancing like crazy because he had put his finger on the truth. I just wanted him to sign the documents, write the check, and end the meeting. I guess I was good at the dance, because I calmed him down and he paid my fee and left.
“But he left me very unhappy. His questions caused me to realize that I had not only let him and my other clients down but I was also letting myself down. I could see that I had become like a worker on an assembly line: grab a part, slap it on, screw it in, move on to the next one.
“But that was not why I got into the business. I became an estate planner and Certified Financial Planner because I wanted to help people. I wanted to help people at a very deep level, to make their family ties stronger, to pass on the things that meant the most to them, to make sure the way they handled their money and their estate planning was a true reflection of what mattered most to them. And I realized I wasn’t doing that. I wasn’t even coming close.
“So I looked around to see if I could find anyone else who knew how to do what I wanted to do. I was hoping to pattern my practice after theirs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anybody who had a model I could follow, so I decided I would just have to figure it out for myself.”
That began a journey that goes on still today. While Scott continues to work with his own high-end client families, he and his company, SunBridge, have become renowned for developing the processes, the tools, and the support systems that allow caring advisers to address the deepest issues in their clients’ and donors’ lives.
Over the years, Scott has become a popular and sought-after speaker, storyteller, workshop facilitator, and coach. He has authored three books and a slew of professional articles and workbooks. He is actively engaged in a wide variety of organizations in the philanthropic, estate planning, and financial advisory communities. He is widely respected for his practical wisdom, his innovative tools and training, and his commitment to supporting the professional development of his colleagues.