Frequently Asked Questions

At Cambridge, we are business innovators, financial planners, wealth advisors, business builders, next generation, retirement planners, visionaries, investment advisors, succession planners, entrepreneurs, and business owners. We believe clients come first, and we all need the freedom to customize our businesses, our way, to best serve our clients.

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Our purpose is to make a difference in the lives of our advisors, their clients, and our associates. We take great pride in the many financial professionals with Cambridge that share our purpose and values of commitment, integrity, flexibility, and kindness. In fact, we honor financial professionals that best reflect our purpose, values, and service excellence to their clients by recognizing them with a Spirit of Cambridge award.

We are known for our culture of trust and innovation, as well as our core values of integrity, commitment, flexibility, and kindness. At Cambridge, we believe culture counts, values matter most, and independence is the base for our success. Cambridge has been honored as a ‘Top Workplace in Iowa’ by the Des Moines Register for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011. We are one of only six employers to be named among the Top Workplaces in Iowa every year since the program began in 2011.

Cambridge offers a well-rounded portfolio of benefits that encourage and support associates work-life balance and wellness. We understand life outside of Cambridge is important, and we work to support our associates in all areas of their lives.

At Cambridge, we focus on attracting competent, fun, enthusiastic, hard-working people who reflect our values of integrity, commitment, flexibility, and kindness. Our associates share our purpose to make a difference in the lives of our advisors, their clients, and each other as associates. We preserve and protect our valuable culture. We invest in our people through our extensive professional development program and we create ways to make friends and have fun at work. Our FISH® committee of associates plans volleyball and Wii bowling tournaments and other fun events throughout the year. We have our own Cambridge bag toss boards that are in use regularly by the pond on our 60-acre campus.

At Cambridge, we believe happy associates are better able to serve financial professionals.

We believe wellness is life and work – in balance for the associate. Work-life balance is the key to individual success. When life is enjoyed, we all prosper. Our Wellness Committee of associates works to promote a healthy lifestyle for associates in both their professional and personal lives. Cambridge is a Designated Blue Zones Worksite and we have a walking track around our pond that associates are encouraged to use daily.

Independent financial professionals choosing Cambridge are financial planners, retirement planners, wealth advisors, investment advisors, fiduciary advisors, and succession planners for business owners. For their investing client, they offer a long term, trusted relationship to help them meet their financial goals. At Cambridge, we are proud that we have a shared purpose and values many financial professionals choosing our firm for the support they need in their businesses. Through Cambridge, these financial professionals have broad access to many financial solutions and types of products in order to give investing clients choice and provide more personalized service. By working with a trusted financial professional, an investing client can get guidance and advice on how best to develop and manage a plan that works for their goals – including savings for their children’s college funding or saving for their retirement and then spending those hard-earned retirement funds. Many of these financial professionals work closely with CPAs and attorneys regarding tax planning and estate planning – and several have been instrumental in helping their clients in the immediate aftermath of devastating natural disasters like flooding and fires.

Independent financial service professionals are not employees of an independent financial solutions firm like Cambridge – they are independent business owners. They have the freedom to structure their business in a manner that best serves their investing clients. Independent financial professionals utilize a broker-dealer and/or an RIA who provides services that include processing investment business, marketing assistance, practice management, and education. In addition, a broker-dealer and/or an RIA holds responsibility for regulatory compliance and adherence to securities laws.

More than 3,300 financial professionals throughout the country choose Cambridge with over 800 associates on our team to serve them and their clients. Through these financial professionals, Cambridge serves more than 400,000 individual retirement accounts and retirement plans, as well as over 300,000 nonretirement accounts. Cambridge is proud that advisors who share our core values of integrity, commitment, flexibility, and kindness choose Cambridge as their financial solutions firm. These financial professionals live and work in communities all across the country, serving their investing clients who reflect the unique demographics of their communities.

Cambridge is located in Fairfield, Iowa, where it is the largest employer with over 800 associates in this Midwestern community of about 10,000 residents. Just over 50 percent of Cambridge’s associates live in the immediate area and Cambridge draws most of the other half of its associates from six surrounding counties in southern Iowa. Similarly, the more than 3,300 advisors affiliated with Cambridge live and work in communities all across the country, servicing investing clients who reflect the unique demographics of their communities. Cambridge and its associates live and work in a small community and the Midwestern roots and main street connection are integral to the personalized connection Cambridge has with main street financial professionals; and the personal relationship these advisors have with their investing clients – many of whom also live and work in the same communities.

In an independent model, the financial professional, investment firm, and custodian are all separate entities that work together to process a client’s financial transaction. We provide associates with education and training – for those new to our industry, as well as a variety of options for ongoing and advanced learning.

Following are highlights of connecting points:

  • Investing Client: They can invest with confidence, knowing that multiple entities are working toward protecting their financial assets.
  • Financial Professional: Provides financial guidance to their investing clients and typically receives fees for financial planning services, or commissions related to a specific financial product. Some financial professionals may be registered representatives licensed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA is an independent regulator of securities firms doing business in the United States. Securities are f
  • An Investment Advisor Representative (IAR): Provides financial guidance to their clients and is generally paid a fee for either managing assets, giving advice, or both.
  • Investment Firm: A broker-dealer processes the commission business of registered representatives licensed with the firm and holds responsibility for regulatory compliance and adherence to securities laws.
  • Registered Investment Adviser (RIA): Processes the fee-based business of IARs licensed with the firm and holds responsibility for regulatory compliance and adherence to securities law.
  • Custodian: Pershing LLC, Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, and select firms provide the trade execution, clearing, custody, and other services for securities and related transactions.
  • Typical Investments: Mutual funds, managed accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.

An independent financial professional is not an employee of an investment or financial services firm – they are an independent business owner. They have the freedom to structure their business in a manner that best serves their investing clients. An independent financial professional utilizes a broker-dealer, who provides services that include processing investment business, marketing assistance, practice management, and education. In addition, a broker-dealer holds responsibility for regulatory compliance and adherence to securities laws.

Cambridge is an independent financial solutions firm and this means the independent financial professionals work for themselves out of their own offices and are free to help their clients choose the best investment products. Cambridge gives then freedom of choice without pressure to sell a particular company’s products; and this enables the financial professional to better serve their investing client’s financial goals. This business model differs from that of other, large financial institutions, often called ‘wirehouses,’ whose advisors (stock brokers) are employees of the company.

There are many different types of firms for a financial professional to consider. You may be familiar with broker-dealers that are subsidiaries of conglomerates such as commercial banks, investment banks, and investment companies. An independent broker-dealer is different from such firms because they generally do not underwrite securities, they do not create research, and they do not engage in investment banking. Many independent financial professionals choose to work with independent broker-dealers because of their ability to provide investment advice and holistic financial and retirement planning guidance without any expectation that certain products must be recommended.

A broker-dealer provides services to the financial professional that includes processing investment business, marketing assistance, practice management, and education. In addition, a broker-dealer holds responsibility for regulatory compliance and adherence to securities laws.

An independent broker-dealer allows financial professionals to offer non-proprietary products, such as mutual funds or life insurance, from a wide variety of companies. A financial professional chooses to work with an independent broker-dealer in an effort to offer more choices as part of their financial planning and investment advice that is compensated in the form of fees, commissions, or both.

A Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) processes the fee-based business of an Investment Advisor Representative (IAR) licensed with the firm and holds responsibility for regulatory compliance and adherence to securities law. A Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) is a firm that is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The RIA buys and sells investment products on behalf of investors. In our case, investors don’t contact us directly; rather, we receive instructions from financial professionals who choose to work with Cambridge. These financial professionals are independent business owners who have relationships with their clients, and we function as the unseen back office that processes client transactions for them.

We are in the financial advice industry, and it is a heavily regulated business. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) delegates the supervision of financial advisors to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA, in turn, requires every financial advisor to affiliate with one, and only one, broker-dealer and/or Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) with the intent to maintain a clear chain of responsibility.

Just as investing clients have the opportunity to choose their trusted financial professional, the independent financial professional chooses their independent broker-dealer or RIA. We are honored that financial professionals choose Cambridge. We believe their choice serves the investing client’s best interests because we are independently controlled and the independent financial professional has the freedom they need to best serve the needs and financial objectives of their investing clients. This means we do not force them to sell proprietary products or meet any sales quotas. Therefore, the independent financial professional is not pressured or distracted by corporate interests and can focus on what is best for their client in terms of their financial goals.

At Cambridge, we believe in the entrepreneurial spirit of the independent financial professional. Instead of asking a financial professionals to fit into a mold of how we think they should do business, we empower them with a vast menu of compliance-friendly programs, products, solutions, and services. This enables the financial professional to customize an investment strategy or financial plan designed to meet the unique long-term financial needs of their investing clients.

We believe every journey is important. Cambridge is focused on the financial professional with an independent mindset and dedication to best serving the needs of their investing clients. Whether the investing client is experiencing major life changes, planning for retirement, or simply deciding where to invest and save their money, a financial professional can advise the investing client, on how to best prepare their finances for the future. Selecting an independent financial professional is an important step to achieving a client’s goals.

At Cambridge, we are focused on the financial professional with an independent mindset and dedication to serving the best serving the needs of their investing clients. Our firm is indirectly owned by our associates through an ESOP, and directly owned by executive management. Our leadership is dedicated to maintaining a structure that enables us to control our future so independent professionals can better control their businesses.

Financial professionals who choose Cambridge are independent business owners who desire freedom of choice in what they can offer clients. They are often entrepreneurial by nature and are comfortable with the responsibilities and challenges of running their own business. These financial professionals choose Cambridge because we are independent and privately controlled, and because of our purpose, values, and culture. Across the industry we have a reputation for service excellence and integrity. We also listen and respond to what a financial professional needs to serve their clients while running their own businesses.

At Cambridge our primary focus is the independent financial professional and you — their client. We believe preserving our commitment to both of you must start with the stability of management and ownership within Cambridge. We’ve spent more than 20 years establishing a flexible business model, a committed senior leadership team, a legal structure, and a formal succession plan; all in order to stay focused on both of you and remain true to our core values.

Years ago we embraced strategic planning for long term independence for Cambridge as a firm with dedication and enthusiasm. Cambridge has a written plan in place for independence and maintaining control – designed to enable us to better control our destiny so financial professionals can also better control their future and service to their clients.

  • Leadership committed to culture and values: Cambridge was founded by Eric Schwartz, our Executive Chairman, more than 35 years ago. Over the last 20 years, Eric and Amy Webber, our President and CEO, have developed Cambridge’s senior leadership team which reflects a culture and passion for independence. Together, we serve financial professionals and their clients with an unwavering dedication to our firm’s values of integrity, commitment, flexibility, and kindness. At Cambridge, culture counts, and values matter most.
  • Financial strength through profitable growth and service excellence: as Cambridge nears into its fourth decade of financial strength and profitable growth, our commitment to financial professionals is clear with our achievement of an average of 9 out of 10 overall satisfaction rating from our advisors for over 20 years. In addition to service excellence, Cambridge has been recognized 11 times as the Broker-Dealer of the Year. Controlling our financial stability and future translates into freedom of choice as well as quality of service and expertise for your business and ours.
  • Stock ownership by senior leadership, and an employee stock ownership plan: while it may be appealing for founders of some companies to cash out as they get older, this is not part of our succession plan or of interest to Eric, Amy, or the senior leadership team. We have spent several decades perfecting the succession plan now in place, which includes ownership by management and indirect ownership by associates of the firm.

The Main Pillars of Cambridge’s Succession Plan

The Cambridge ESOP, Advisor, and Management Ownership: Beginning in 2017, Cambridge offered a major expansion of our associate benefits with the Cambridge Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to eligible associates. The Cambridge ESOP is intended to provide a means whereby eligible associates receive an account with equity interest in Cambridge with a focus on accumulating assets for retirement savings. The Cambridge ESOP is another step in controlling our own destiny by remaining privately controlled based on associate, management, and advisor ownership — which includes hundreds of associates as indirect stockholders, along with management who are direct stockholders. A bonus program is in place that aligns with company, department, team, and individual performance on an annual basis, along with a 401(k) matching program for associates.

The Cambridge Foundation: Eric has formed and funded family foundations, as well as The Cambridge Foundation, which is focused on community giving at a local level. Various trusts are in place and controlled by Eric, along with Amy, and other senior executives to serve as a plan if he were to pass unexpectedly. This structure is designed to ensure that ownership of the company will remain with Cambridge management, associates, and advisors. Eric continues as executive chairman with Amy as president and CEO, along with a deep, experienced senior executive bench.

Cambridge offers Succession Solutions for independent financial professionals. At its core, succession planning creates a foundation for relationship building, inspiring action, and creating solutions. Cambridge’s continual drive for innovative solutions and preserving private control means our efforts are at the forefront of tackling the challenges of succession planning. We strive to proactively transform services and business processes with a visionary view on practical solutions to help independent financial professionals define and execute succession plans. At Cambridge, we have our succession plan firmly in place, and we stand ready to assist financial professionals with their independent journey and succession plan. Many financial professionals with Cambridge have a business continuity plan as well as detailed succession plan in place to better serve their investing clients in the event of the unexpected.