Active investment management’s weekly magazine for fee-based advisors

Advisor Quick Tips

Advisor Quick Tips

Using innovative technology for client financial planning

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.

Serving clients first with systematic process management

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.

Keeping advisors and clients on the same page

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.

Helping businesses with employee retirement plans

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.

Finding the right fit with a business coach

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.

Connecting with millennials

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.

How to efficiently manage client & prospect communication

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.

Strategies to address the needs of small-business owners

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.

Set up “ideal” criteria for acquisition targets

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.

4 ways to customize your process for each client

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.

Using financial education to attract & retain clients

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.

Using technology to add value for clients

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.

Increasing your advisory practice’s visibility

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.

Digital tool kit for client and marketing management

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.

The importance of holistic financial planning for retirees

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.

Peer study groups pay large dividends

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.