I believe our client onboarding process is a critical element in the success of our practice and in laying the foundation for enduring client relationships. During the first meeting that I have with a prospective client or client couple—what we call a “fit meeting”—we primarily get to know one another. I do not ask clients to bring any documents. The first thing that we do is to send them an introductory kit, to put something physical in their hands. That kit contains a description of who we are, the firms we collaborate with, and an outline of our fee and the services that we provide.
After they have reviewed the material, the onboarding process begins with that first meeting to ascertain if the client-advisor relationship is a good fit—both in personality and with respect to client goals and advisor skillset. I do not accept everyone who wants to become a client, nor do I expect every prospect to become a client. I need to make sure that clients are committed to diligently working through our process and that I feel we have the requisite skills and resources to help them meet their objectives. Through our experience, we have learned it is important that both the advisor and the client are clear on what to expect if we are to develop and maintain a successful working relationship—one where we can work to help a client or client couple strive to achieve their financial and lifestyle goals.
The material in our introductory kit reinforces our commitment and what a client can expect from our relationship. It also outlines what we expect from clients. We emphasize that this is simply to help us present solutions that are appropriate for the client’s needs. This requires a client to be very engaged in the financial-planning process and offer full disclosure of their current financial situation and any significant changes in the future.
Once it is determined that the match should be a good one, we begin a full discovery process and in a subsequent meeting paint a picture for the client of how we see their financial situation and their potential objectives. We also talk about setting priorities. It’s likely that not every issue can be addressed immediately, so we need to follow an orderly process over time. For example, college-funding planning may be a meeting all on its own and follow its own distinct track.
In ensuing meetings, we continue with a methodology that encourages the client to marry their money to their specific purposes via the planning process. If they are an investing-only client, I follow a risk-measuring and review process that focuses on consistency of return and maximum drawdown during major market events.
For the majority of clients, we are addressing a broad range of financial-planning needs. Generally, our process might include investment management, retirement planning, risk management, tax planning, estate planning, debt and cash flow, educational planning, and philanthropic planning. Our planning methodology is designed to ensure that our clients will not outgrow the process as their lives unfold and needs evolve. We help clients prepare and navigate for critical financial events, which can be as diverse as planning for retirement, selling a business, receiving an inheritance, buying a recreational property, or proactively planning for their legacy.
I firmly believe that setting expectations at the outset of the client-advisor relationship is extremely important. Our firm has been blessed with numerous long-standing client relationships, and I take great satisfaction in our ability to help guide clients on their quest toward a better financial future.
- The client onboarding process should be repeatable. Written materials can help provide consistency.
- Both the advisor and prospective client should be clear on what to expect in developing a successful working relationship.
- Onboarding should lay the foundation for a systematic financial-planning process.
Disclosure: Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Good Life Advisors LLC, a registered investment advisor. Good Life Financial Advisors and Good Life Advisors LLC are separate entities from LPL Financial. Certified Financial Planner and CFP are trademarks or registered trademarks of The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.
This article first published in Proactive Advisor Magazine on October 8, 2020, Volume 28, Issue 1.
Photography by Escobar Photography
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