Advisor Quick Tips
Advisor Quick Tips
Telton Hall, CFP, founder of Utah-based Advanced Financial Planning LLC aims to deliver an exceptional wealth-management experience to clients, with a focus on successful retirees. He believes that compatibility between advisor and client is the key to a successful relationship. His robust approach to discovery meetings gets at core client beliefs that help ascertain if there is a good fit. Here are a few areas he explores:
- Highest current priorities/current financial situation.
- Defining a productive working relationship.
- Core values.
- Important personal relationships.
- Outside advisor relationships.
- Lifestyle interests and health concerns.
- Long-term goals.
Michael Mason, founder of Summit Capital Services LC, provides holistic financial planning to clients, with a focus on retirement planning. A cornerstone of his practice is developing highly personalized relationships with clients, digging deeply to discover clients’ important life and financial objectives. In the discovery process with clients, he explores the following areas, which he summarizes with the acronym FORM:
- Family (F): What are the high-concern areas and dreams the client has for their family? Do they need to plan for educational expenses? What are their priorities in legacy planning?
- Occupation (O): How long does the client plan to work? Do they have any plans for a career change? Do they envision having a second or third career in retirement?
- Recreation (R): What is important in their lives outside of family and work? Do they have specific future goals for travel, a vacation home, or pursuing a hobby? Are they involved with their church? Do they see themselves being involved in volunteer or charitable activities?
- Money (M): How do they handle their money? Are there cash-flow or budgeting issues? What are their prior experiences with investments? Their attitudes around risk? Do “gaps” exist in their expected retirement income?
Jim Bales, founder and principal of James Bales Financial, LLC, and his son, Jacob Bales, provide comprehensive financial-planning services and implementation strategies to individuals and small businesses. They believe it is important to set high client expectations and share their mission statement, vision, and commitment with all current and prospective clients. The firm’s “Commitment to Clients” includes the following seven principles:
- To be committed to the firm’s mission.
- To set reasonable expectations, and then strive to surpass them.
- To always do what is in the best interest of their clients.
- To acknowledge a mistake and solve it immediately.
- To be proactive when an opportunity to help their clients arises.
- To take time to educate clients.
- To be proud of their work, but never satisfied.
Daniel Ruben, founder of Life Strategies Advisors, Inc., says the name of his firm was carefully chosen and informs how his holistic process works. He believes his role in working with clients is to help them successfully navigate what he calls “critical life events.” He has a grid he shares with clients in the planning process that covers five strategic life goals, with detailed priorities under each:
- Clarifying a vision and plan for the future.
- Balancing work and lifestyle.
- Creating financial comfort.
- Protecting and helping family.
- Leaving a legacy.
Tyler Holden, of Holden Financial Group, places great importance on employing cutting-edge financial-planning practices and coaching his clients toward achieving their financial goals. This can only be possible, he says, through building strong client relationships using multiple points of contact, such as the following:
- Scheduling regular client review sessions and setting new appointments at the close of each review meeting.
- Providing monthly market commentary to clients and personalized messaging for milestone events.
- Using compliance-approved educational communications through social media channels.
- Hosting client-appreciation events and targeted educational seminars.
- “Quarterbacking” the coordination with clients’ other trusted advisors on a regular basis.
Brian Mock of M&A Wealth Management employs a step-by-step process in working with wealth-management clients on investment planning. For most clients, he uses active money management that has risk management as one of its strongest priorities. His process for clients includes the following steps:
1. Defining their investment time horizon and risk tolerance to set portfolio objectives and define expectations.
2. Designing a portfolio solution that may include multiple traditional and alternative asset classes and strategic and tactical strategies.
3. Implementing the investment plan based on the recommended management approach, allocations, and objectives.
4. Managing the portfolio to the targeted objectives, using the services of third-party managers.
5. Reporting on progress toward portfolio objectives on a regular basis.
Strategic Financial Advisors Corporation employs a “serve clients first” philosophy in offering comprehensive approaches to financial planning, wealth management, and business consulting to individuals and businesses. This requires a dedication to process management in several areas:
- A six-month timetable of specific milestones to achieve a final, agreed-upon financial road map covering detailed analysis, goals, and action steps.
- Regular progress reviews on a schedule that meets client needs, usually every four months.
- Periodic meetings with clients’ trusted third-party advisors such as insurance specialists, attorneys, and accountants.
- Weekly internal workflow meetings to prioritize client tasks and proactive communications.
Managing client expectations, especially regarding how services are delivered, is critically important for a wealth advisory firm. This is a two-way street, says Judson Gee, and he asks that clients review and sign a “Client-Advisor Expectations” agreement that specifically addresses the following:
- How promptly each party agrees to respond to inquiries from the other.
- Preferred methods of communication (e.g., in person, via phone, text, or email).
- Frequency of client review sessions and how they should best be scheduled.
- A summary of broad investment objectives and a commitment by both parties to “stay the course” in working toward long-term financial goals.
Determining and implementing best practices for an employee retirement plan can be daunting for owners of small and mid-sized businesses. Arnie Beck’s firm, Financial Management Associates helps businesses tackle these tasks using a process called “The Ultimate Retirement Plan Solution,” which includes the following steps:
- Evaluating a company’s current retirement plan, including fee analysis.
- Developing a request for proposal (RFP) and analysis of proposals—identifying the most effective solution.
- Maximizing tax benefits and facilitating employee education and participation.
- Protecting a company’s fiduciaries from unnecessary litigation.
- Ongoing monitoring of plan investments.
Digital automation of advisory firm communications with clients, lead tracking, marketing efforts, and other customer relationship management (CRM) functions are fast becoming the wave of the future for progressive financial advisors. David Salley is rolling out an innovative approach provided by a third-party resource that offers compliant-friendly digital marketing strategies that include the following:
- A total business management system for client and prospect CRM database management, calendar organization, and business segmentation.
- A digital storage system that allows clients to upload important personal financial documents and can show consolidated investment performance from multiple accounts.
- A virtual marketing assistant program that helps efficiently manage email campaigns, newsletters, events, and client appreciation communications.
Earl Schultz’s growth plan for his firm, Strategic Wealth Advisory, LLC, includes public relations, advertising, and publishing educational content to heighten exposure to his target audience. Here are a few of his strategies:
1. Co-authoring the book “You’re in Control: Planning the Most Important Retirement in the World—Yours.”
2. Running TV ads in local media markets and developing direct-mail programs to drive attendance at financial education seminars.
3. Giving interviews for local newspapers and prominent industry podcasts.
4. Using a public relations specialist to obtain quotes and features in national media such as U.S. News & World Report, TheStreet.com, Financial Advisor, and an upcoming issue of The Wall Street Journal.
Having state-of-the art planning software builds credibility and transparency in the client-advisor relationship. Paul Humphrey uses a software-based financial-planning methodology that employs innovative technology for holistic financial planning and client communications. Features include the following:
- A streamlined interface for client data collection, allowing for changes in assumptions as life circumstances change.
- A robust risk-tolerance questionnaire and scoring that enhances the suitability of investment recommendations.
- Monte Carlo analysis to stress-test plan assumptions.
- Goals-based assessments of plan options and optimization of cash-flow, Social Security, and tax-sensitive strategies.
- User-friendly graphics charting plan progress and a client portal that can aggregate accounts from different sources.
Having a first-rate contact management program allows financial advisors to communicate on a regular basis with current clients and to provide a perspective on their firm to prospects. Andy Paladino of Paladino Financial Group (PFG) uses a third-party provider of automated customer relationship management (CRM) solutions as well as the robust marketing resources of his broker-dealer, USA Financial Securities Corp. This entails several specific steps:
- Creation of a database from current clients, email or phone inquiries from prospects, and visitors to his website or listeners of his radio program who request a consultation or financial education materials.
- Bi-weekly automated communications to current clients in the form of educational newsletters on topics such as retirement insights and economic or market updates.
- A three-month email campaign to new prospects that features a variety of educational materials and invitations to tap into PFG educational resources or to request a consultation.
- Automated tracking of client communications/meetings with prompts for regular follow-up emails or phone calls and the scheduling of client review sessions.
Stephen Franklin of Kentucky Planning Partners (KPP) has been an independent financial advisor since 1984. He says that he is always involved in a “passionate effort to keep abreast of the latest trends in the very big world of global finance.” Mr. Franklin has taken several steps to build and refresh his knowledge base in seeking to benefit his clients. He recommends the following:
- Conduct research on the many professional designation programs available to financial advisors. Select first those with the most immediate relevance to your practice and any areas of personal specialization.
- Take advantage of continuing education programs, webinars, and conferences.
- Consider enrolling in graduate-level certification programs in academic areas such as finance and securities analysis.
- Develop your own disciplined research and reading program to stay current on developments within the industry and the overall economic and business landscape.
- Give back to your community by teaching financial education classes to college-level students, senior citizens, and/or the public at large, focusing on your areas of expertise.
Cathy Jackson of Beacon Financial Group, LLC, is a Certified Kingdom Advisor (CKA) and says she enjoys “helping families become more responsible stewards of their finances and, where appropriate, incorporating faith-based financial strategies as part of their financial and retirement plans.” Ms. Jackson identifies several attributes that clients desire related to this area:
- They want to work with an advisor who applies biblical principles in their firm’s financial-planning approach.
- They seek to become responsible stewards of their finances, with a commitment to family values, their faith, their church, and their community.
- They value advisors with high standards of integrity who serve the needs of clients first.
- They are interested in how faith-based principles can help inform their legacy planning and charitable giving.
- They wish to work with an advisor who is experienced and maintains a commitment to excellence in their practice.
Brent Mowinski, founder of Mowinski Financial LLC in Michigan, works with a number of client segments with a goal of helping them all with their distinct financial-planning needs. The key driver of his firm’s business growth has been referrals from current clients, which he believes stem directly from excellent client service. He has five broad goals in developing successful relationships with clients:
- Help clients protect and grow their investments.
- Help clients establish a long-term financial plan.
- Regularly monitor progress and performance.
- Provide competitive management fees.
- Help clients simplify their financial lives.
Aaron Tice of Cirrus Retirement Solutions says that referrals from current clients and third-party professionals are critical to the continued growth of his advisory firm. He stays in constant contact with each group and facilitates client referrals by providing them with a credentials packet that identifies his firm’s product and services and fundamental operating principles. This packet includes the following five core principles, which he stresses when speaking with prospective clients:
- The independent status of his advisory firm.
- The unbiased nature of his firm’s advice.
- The comprehensive scope of his financial-planning process.
- A commitment to the highest standards of service for his clients.
- His firm’s dedication to developing customized and goals-based financial plans.
Ted Moyer, founder and principal of Legacy 360 Financial and Wealth Management LLC in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, says that his financial advisory practice combines a sophisticated wealth-management process with a values-based approach. He wants prospective clients to know and feel comfortable with his belief system and what to expect if they engage with his practice. He starts this process at the beginning of the relationship by providing prospects with the following:
- His biography and personal life history.
- An overview of the values and principles that inform his work.
- What steps to expect in the process of wealth-management planning.
- Answers to frequently asked questions.
- The services and additional benefits available to clients of his firm.
- How review sessions and outside referrals are handled.
As a financial advisor, Grace Himmelright of Transamerica Financial Advisors finds effective time management is critical to running her practice. She says she “is a student of time-management theory” and tries to stay up to date on the literature in the field. She feels it is important to:
- always have a plan for annual business development and growth;
- make sure shorter-term activities are aligned with long-term goals;
- identify deliverables in the context of achieving business development objectives;
- make progress toward annual goals consistently throughout the year; and
- emphasize the activities that matter most, minimizing time and effort on low-value work.
Advisory firms can drive profitable growth through the acquisition of other practices that present a favorable opportunity for expanding a client base. Here are the “ideal” criteria John Zinaich looks for when acquiring practices:
1. The practice is well-established, has a long-term and stable client base, and the current owner is willing to work toward an efficient transition of the equity in current client relationships.
2. There are long-term benefits to the client base of the existing firm in moving to a practice centered on holistic financial and investment planning.
3. The practice includes services that complement his firm, such as tax planning.
4. The practice should be small to midsized, with assets under management of at least $10 million.
Using the latest technology helps financial advisors provide comprehensive financial-planning services to clients. Rhett Sinclair of Creative Financial Strategies gains efficiency in consultative decision-making with clients by using several tools:
1. Financial-planning software that offers an integrated wealth-management platform, including a robust client portal and the capability to model a range of financial scenarios for clients.
2. Software that helps provide a quantitative measure of client risk tolerance, enabling alignment of client portfolios with individual risk preferences.
3. Advanced planning software to analyze a client’s or client couple’s potential Social Security claiming strategies.
4. A CRM solution that offers detailed tracking of client data, facilitating communications and workflow. Using mobile dictation and transcription software to capture discussions with clients and identify next steps.
Understanding the financial-planning needs of your clients and customizing your process to fit their unique circumstances can be a worthwhile task. These tips from Kelly Hubrig can help make it more manageable:
- Establish a personalized schedule for planning and client reviews.
- Coordinate with internal resources or trusted third parties to deliver a custom 360-degree approach to a client’s financial needs.
- Maintain a database of client milestone events and reach out accordingly.
- Follow up on any client referrals with a note or call of appreciation.
Arnie Pechler Jr. credits peer study groups with adding to his body of knowledge and providing a resource for best practices for his firm. Here is how his peer group works together:
- A group of seven or eight advisors from different firms meets monthly over the phone.
- There is a “supergroup” session of about 40 advisors once a year.
- Sessions are moderated by a broker-dealer representative and can include outside speakers.
- Goals, challenges, practice management concepts, new technology, and sales ideas are discussed.
Doug Bauerband believes a good business coach can add transformational value to an advisory business. Here are his quick tips on finding and working with one:
- Conduct exhaustive due diligence on potential coaches. Your practice and clients deserve it.
- Make sure your prospective coach is philosophically aligned with your belief system as an advisor.
- Understand fully what services you will receive and how they will be delivered.
- Design a meaningful and distinctive client value proposition with your coach’s guidance. It can pay huge dividends for your practice.
Janice Hammond hosts many educational events throughout the year to attract new clients and build relationships with current clients. She gives a short presentation about her firm and then moves on to financial issues that most concern people, including the following:
- How to optimize Social Security benefits.
- How to design income streams for retirement.
- How to transfer assets to beneficiaries in a tax-advantaged way.
- How the current market environment may affect your retirement.
Advisors from the baby boomer generation often mistakenly believe it is difficult to connect with millennials. While some millennials may be skeptical about the role of advisors, Rob Santoriello finds using these four core practices helps in reaching out to this group:
1. Leveraging technology.
2. Providing meaningful financial education content.
3. Establishing a social media presence.
4. Presenting a strong value proposition.
Retirement can be an intimidating prospect for many people, and the closer they get to their target date, the more concerned they are about the complexities of retirement planning. Tim Wells’ firm aims to address the many financial issues these clients face by employing a process called the True Wealth 360 Holistic Planning System. The advisor starts this process by developing a consultative relationship that explores a client’s values, beliefs, and life goals and addresses the following categories:
- Foundation and estate planning.
- Income and investment planning.
- Insurance and legacy planning.
Kevin Brennan, founder of Brennan Investment Services in Hartland, Michigan, says that his firm works with many affluent, younger working couples with children. These clients have busy lives, and one of his firm’s important objectives is to create an efficient and effective way of handling their financial planning and strategy implementation. His tips for doing so include the following:
- Employ a systematic and repeatable process for client onboarding that minimizes client time.
- Use paperless technology throughout the financial-planning process, allowing clients real-time access to their aggregated financial accounts and financial plan.
- Provide clients with an interactive calendar tool for booking client appointments and review sessions.
- Conduct client meetings via phone or online if that is the client’s preference.
- Empower team members to handle client requests/questions in a timely fashion and provide the tools/technology to facilitate ready availability of information.
- Use a robust relationship-management tool to continually update clients’ data and profiles.
Treta Sellers of Personal Economics Group in Dallas, Texas, places education at the forefront of her relationships with clients. She advocates for a holistic approach to financial and retirement planning and shares the following broad principles with clients at the beginning of the process, providing detailed explanations of each area:
- Understand the differences between wealth accumulation and retirement-income distribution.
- Take a long-term view of retirement, employing efficiencies spread out over many years.
- Be conservative in planning and return assumptions.
- Use an integrated planning strategy that manages risk across many components.
- Explore how insurance, fixed-income products, and investments can play synergistic roles.
- Use economic principles in approaching a retirement plan and allocating resources.
Steve Rosauer of Rosauer Financial says that his firm’s emphasis on holistic financial planning has enabled his firm to continue to grow through organic referrals. He says he subscribes to the planning methodology he learned in the process of becoming a Certified Financial Planner. This encompasses several steps:
- Learning about the client, sharing the firm’s perspective, and defining the working relationship.
- Data-gathering and discovery.
- Analysis of a client’s current financial situation, assets and liabilities, investments, and future income streams.
- Seeking agreement on goals and objectives and building a financial plan.
- Presenting specific recommendations and examining alternative scenarios.
- Implementing the plan and investment strategy.
- Monitoring progress toward objectives and having regularly scheduled review sessions.
Chip Hill, founder of Chill Financial Group in Lexington, Kentucky, has a practice focus on serving the financial-planning needs of professionals in the medical and academic communities. He says these are “very busy people who appreciate working with a financial professional in an efficient and productive manner.” He takes a “project management approach” in working with his clients that includes the following steps:
- Implementing a policy of transparency on fee and services disclosures at the start of the relationship.
- Conducting a comprehensive and efficient onboarding process.
- Identifying client resources and building out timetables for plan implementation.
- Prioritizing client objectives, working systematically in addressing these needs.
- Using time-saving technology for financial planning, client reporting, and communications.
- Offering clients the option of conducting meetings “virtually.”
Miranda Bonde uses an approach that is both humanistic and disciplined when helping clients with their financial lives. This approach has also allowed her to build strong personal and professional networks while exploring her passion for working with philanthropic causes, especially in the LGBT community. Here are a few ways she’s accomplished this:
- She tries to help the underserved segments of the community who are looking for an advisor who places a premium on a supportive atmosphere, openness, and transparency.
- By volunteering and serving organizations that she is passionate about, she has met like-minded and successful people who are natural fits as “ideal clients.”
- She does not get involved in organizations simply to prospect for clients. She seeks to build quality personal relationships over the long term.
- She believes in getting deeply involved, making a real contribution, being accountable, and exhibiting leadership skills. Demonstrating those qualities will ultimately lead to earning respect and trust.
Peter Roe, a partner at Masters Private Client Group, specializes in clients in professional sports and the entertainment and technology fields. These are “top-performing, high-energy clients” who are located throughout the United States. His work involves extensive travel, coordination with outside advisors, and attendance at many industry events. Here are his tips for maintaining a high level of focus and energy to interact effectively with his clients when times are hectic:
- Staying fit through a program of exercise and weight training.
- Spending as much quality time with family as possible, making that a priority.
- Indulging in your passions—for example, reading or music.
- Practicing relaxation exercises, such as yoga or meditation.
- Using technology for productivity while “avoiding its pitfalls.”
- Planning travel carefully to maximize interaction with clients.
Steven M. White of Steven M. White Financial, LLC, believes in developing holistic financial-planning relationships with clients and their families. Mr. White has a special focus in helping clients make sure they have strategies in place to manage unforeseen circumstances in the future. He helps clients focus on several key areas:
- Do they have adequate life insurance to protect their family?
- Do they have a trust or will?
- Do they have patient advocate paperwork and a power-of-attorney document in place?
- Do they have a plan for their own or their spouse’s long-term care?
- Have they developed a comprehensive legacy plan?
- Are there any special needs for children that must be considered?
Bob Chitrathorn of Providence Wealth Planning believes that technical expertise and experience is critical in developing sound financial and investment plans for clients. But he also believes that enduring client relationships can be built on the following four approaches to client service:
- Client education. Make sure complex issues are discussed in understandable language, and present options with a review of pros and cons.
- Create a comfort level. Clients need to feel that there is an atmosphere of openness and transparency, where they are comfortable understanding and taking ownership of their financial decisions.
- Instill confidence. A function of education and feeling comfortable with decisions, clients can see a clear road map that will help them advance toward their financial objectives.
- Reinforce your value proposition. Building financial plans that set clear expectations, are goals-based, and reviewed against objectives helps clients understand the value added for their long-term financial success.
Larry Hill of Six8 Advisors in Hoover, Alabama, runs a fee-based, holistic financial-advisory practice that is oriented toward the financial-planning needs of multiple generations of families. He says that while a quantitative and analytical approach to planning is critical, “it all starts with a discovery process that uncovers family members’ values and aspirations.” He has interactive discussions early in the process that focus on four key areas:
- Life history: How have you arrived at where you are today—including life-changing events or defining moments?
- Life transitions: How will changes that you are currently faced with or expect to take place impact your life goals?
- Life principles: What are the values by which you make important life and money decisions?
- Life goals: What would you like to have, do, or be during the rest of your life?
Linda Persechino, founder of Persechino Financial in New Hartford, Connecticut, places a premium on developing personalized relationships with her clients. While she focuses on building a personal connection in face-to-face meetings, the technology platform of her broker-dealer, Voya Financial Advisors, Inc., is a valuable resource for furthering relationships. This platform provides the following:
- Customized wealth-management solutions and reporting.
- Tools to seamlessly run a practice from the office or on the road.
- Compliant and customizable newsletters, financial commentary, and marketing materials.
- Tools for managing ongoing client communications and tracking client key dates.
- Website, seminar, social media, and public relations support.
Gary Wargo nurtures the growth of his practice through client-retention efforts, speaking engagements, networking in the community, and using a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) platform. His CRM system facilitates client touch points and allows him to do the following:
- Segregate clients by assets under management, creating A, B, C, and D classifications.
- Schedule client review sessions according to these classifications.
- Keep track of important client dates and trigger follow-up communications as appropriate.
- Efficiently monitor critical client authorizations, signatures, and requirements.
- Integrate client accounts from a variety of sources and generate reports and billing.
- Provide a user-friendly client portal.
Advisors need to stay current on best practices in the industry, build their knowledge base, and enhance their qualifications in the eyes of potential clients. Here are four ways Bryan Nakamoto of Spectrum Wealth Management, LLC, in Honolulu has tackled these goals over the course of his career:
1. Pursuing professional certifications and ongoing continuing education. Mr. Nakamoto is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC).
2. Taking leadership roles in professional organizations. Mr. Nakamoto has held officer positions within the Financial Planning Association of Honolulu and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) of Honolulu.
3. Earning industry recognition. Mr. Nakamoto has earned professional recognition from several organizations, including the NAIFA Hawaii’s “Insurance and Financial Advisor Professional of the Year—2011,” and Pacific Business News’ “Forty Under 40—Top Hawaii Business Leaders.”
4. Giving back to the community. Mr. Nakamoto has been involved in a variety of community and school organizations and has provided mentorship to industry professionals entering the financial-services industry.
Small-business owners represent a multi-dimensional target audience for an advisory practice. Their needs include essential financial services for their business, as well as individual financial planning for themselves and key employees. Matthew Rubis employs several strategies in approaching this segment:
- Networking with property and casualty (P&C) insurance agents, attorneys, and accountants to identify mutually beneficial referrals.
- Offering a range of business services, including insurance planning (for example, key man and buy/sell agreements), business continuity planning, and guidance on employee and executive benefits.
- Providing services in several personal financial-planning areas, including retirement-income planning, legacy planning, risk management, and investment management.
- Recommending that business-owner clients review their company financial plans on a consistent schedule.