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The 5 Essentials of a Bright Biography

When a potential client reads, hears or watches your biography, you want to make an immediate connection. This is your opportunity to shine; yet many advisers don’t have the sparkle they could.

Review your biography to see if you have these five essentials

1. Your Who, What and Why
People want to see you are an expert; be sure to tell them you are. This is simply done by stating with specificity whom you help, with what you help, and why you do.  Often times, using a video to covey your “why” brings out your authenticity more than just words on a page.

2. Big (or pretty big) Name Experience
Leverage the brand value of the experience you have, whether or not it is related to financial planning.  The halo effect of well-known companies illuminates your savvy. The same goes for media mentions such as “frequently quoted in USA Today,” or “a go-to resource for Parents magazine,” or awards you have earned such as “Top 5 Financial Advisers in Bergen County.” Include accolades that are relevant and be sure to include any ‘cool factor’ work or travel experience that would start a conversation.

3. Your Street Cred
What makes you a credible adviser? Include memberships, credentials, degrees, education and training. Feel free to showcase logos here, especially for a lesser-known designation to add a charge. Call out universities and armed service duty, two major “connectors.” This section can provide essential validation, especially in your early years when you may not have as much valuable experience.

4. Out and About
Where might people run into you? How might they know you? What volunteer organizations do you support? Are you on a board? What clubs do you belong to? Where do you live? Be specific. Call out your neighborhood. Speak about where you originally grew up. You’re looking for those “Do you happen to know….?” triggers.

5. Get Personal
What do you like to do? How do you spend time outside of work? Who is important in your life? How are you like your target audience? What have you struggled with?  What have you overcome and what do you understand better now that will help your target audience?

Take a look at your biography as if you are your target client. Does it help you stand out, or does it seem lackluster? Maybe it is time to polish it up.

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
San Francisco, CA

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Wealth Protection as a Practice Strategy

While 55 percent of all respondents in a Merrill Edge survey fear running out of money (women, baby boomers and Gen Xers hover right at 60 percent), an even more astonishing 53 percent of current retirees fear the same fate (PNC Bank).

In its survey series, “State of Planning in America,” Northwestern Mutual found that financial health was approaching physical health (43 percent and 48 percent respectively) as the No. 1 priority for improvement; much greater than “time with family and friends” (31 percent), career (12 percent) and education (5 percent).

Wealth Manager as a Wealth Protector
Two wealth objectives are always present for any individual or institutional investor: wealth protection and wealth creation. While present together, the calculus underlying wealth management holds that wealth can’t be created until it is first protected.

These principles hold wealth protection as an outcome:

  • A dollar that is lost is really the loss of a compounded dollar.
  • Although the power of compounding accelerates wealth creation when values are rising, it diminishes wealth values at an increasing rate with losses.

These principles bring us to another truth—avoiding any loss of a dollar allows wealth to compound from a higher floor.

Wealth Manager as a Financial Health Practitioner
The FPA Research and Practice InstituteTM study, “The Future of Practice Management” published in December 2013 determined unequivocally the practice shift from financial planner, money manager, or investment planner to wealth manager. At the core, a wealth manager works across a tactical roadmap covering a wide set of services, and the momentum is increasing to add these services in the short term.


Loury_June 2014_1

Just as a general practitioner oversees a patient’s physical health and quarterbacks any treatment plan using specialists, so does the wealth manager function in an overseer capacity.

Wealth Protection Leads to a Large Practice Footprint
One of the great frustrations of a financial planner/investment manager is the finely tuned plan, and the tightly knitted investment program, suffer from commingling with market, economic, political and regulatory factors beyond direct control. In down markets, the client sees portfolio values declining and inevitably asks, “Is this plan really working?” Rising markets suggest another question: “Is the plan working, or is it just that these are favorable market conditions?”

Wealth management engages in tactics largely unaffected by external forces, allowing the wealth manager to point to specific wealth protection outcomes regardless of the market’s movement up or down. In all respects, the list below avoids the loss of dollars that otherwise diminish wealth creation (and protecting against these losses is freed from investment performance):

  • Setting spending and budget priorities
  • Reducing debt
  • Reducing income and capital gains taxes
  • Eliminating surrender charges and product fees
  • Maximizing Social Security income
  • Stabilizing retirement income
  • Avoiding required minimum distribution inefficiencies
  • Managing portfolio income tax exposures
  • Eliminating uninsured/underinsured property losses
  • Preventing attacks from creditors and potential litigants
  • Eliminating probate charges

Wealth Protection as a Marketing Platform
The market’s shortfall risk worries offer a ready megaphone to promote the wealth manager’s broad capabilities to both retail and wholesale channels.

Retail: The many ways a wealth manager can avoid losses presents solutions and valuable benefits to a client’s full need/anxiety/aspiration inventory. No longer is an adviser limited to discussions with only those prospects dissatisfied with investment performance or seeking new investment programs. Furthermore, the educational opportunities using the aforementioned wealth protection principles, as well as describing loss avoidance planning tactics, are rich seminar/content themes that draw a direct line from a client’s worries to solutions to benefits.

Wholesale: For the wealth manager to execute the comprehensive financial plan with its overarching loss avoidance program requires multidisciplinary specialists.

Specialist Required Execution Role
Trust and estate attorney ·   Trust documents
·   Funding trusts
CPA ·   Tax filings
Life insurance agent ·   Insurance policies
·   Annuities
Property and casualty agent ·   Fire, theft, natural disaster policies

Forming multidisciplinary teams to execute the plan opens up leveraged marketing opportunities with each multidisciplinary team member’s own client base (see the Journal of Financial Planning article, “Achieving Higher Growth with Multidisciplinary Teams”).

Business Strategy Leading to Practice Tactics
Wealth protection as a practice strategy not only forms a strong marketing foundation, but it delivers two valuable outcomes

  1. increasing the client’s wealth profile even to downstream generations, and
  2. moving a client from stress to peace and from fear to confidence.

Few professions can deliver such a robust benefit package nor claim such a high calling.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey



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The Value of Vacay

I’ve long subscribed to the importance of “sharpening the saw,” Stephen Covey’s seventh habit of highly successful people. This habit is all about taking care of one’s self by embracing balance through physical, social, mental and spiritual renewal. To me, it’s simple logic that you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

But if I ’fess up, I cannot say that I’ve nailed this habit. In fact, I’m far from it. I admire colleagues and friends who are good at self-renewal. They seem to have a combination of the desire, knowledge and skill required to be truly present in the moment.

As this blog goes live, I will have been out of the country and away from the office for a total of three weeks—a definite first for me. Two of these weeks will be a vacation. Now, it has never occurred to me that taking vacation is a skill, but I think there is some truth to that. To truly leave one’s work behind does not come naturally to all of us. Growing up on a farm instilled in me a hefty work ethic, maybe a bit too much for my own good.

This June offers me the opportunity to learn a new skill: how to truly be present while on vacation. Will I be able to:

  • Visit the Sistine Chapel without thinking about the next blog post that I want to write?
  • Tour Cinque Terre without wondering how a particular adviser is doing with a difficult challenge?
  • Ride the gondolas of Venice without anticipating the emails awaiting my return?
  • Enjoy authentic pizza without being anxious of changes made without my input?

You have probably figured out where I am going for vacation. I’ve wanted to go to Italy for years. Now that the opportunity has arrived, I don’t want to just physically travel there. I want to be in Italy with all of my being. I know why this is important and have the desire to be fully present. I just have to develop the skill set.

I am fortunate to have a sophisticated staff who I know will handle things while I’m away. Any interference in my being fully present on this vacation is all between my ears. Sharpening the saw, self-renewal, whatever you want to call it—it’s a skill set that many active, busy, passionate professionals need to get better at. Stay tuned to hear how I do!

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth_2014 for web
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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What Is Your ‘Why’?

During a recent group coaching session, Bill F., a veteran financial adviser, explained that was working well for him when talking with clients and prospects was finding the answer to the question, “What is your why?”  The group members were quiet as they tried to figure out what Bill actually meant, so I asked him to elaborate.

He explained, we all have a “why” or a reason that motivates us to do what we do. However, few advisers truly take the time to uncover their own “why” or that of their clients. Instead, many advisers merely explain their recommendations to the prospects and/or clients and expect them to agree.

Let’s take a closer look at this concept of “What is your why?” and what some next steps are.

Understanding the “Why
People hate to be sold to, but they love to buy! The reason they buy is because a product or service appeals to their motivation. So how do we find out what is motivating them? We simply ask questions such as, “What do you want this money to do for you and why?”How will you feel when you accomplish that goal?” and, “What’s important about having that feeling?”

Now, their answers tell us a lot about them. Consider, for instance, these possible replies to the preceding questions: “I want this money to be for retirement so I don’t have to sell my house.” “I will feel more comfortable knowing I have a cushion to fall back on if need be.” “What is most important about having that feeling of security is to not have to rely on others.”

Obviously, these answers or motivations focus on “why” the value they place on having money equals having security.

Understanding the “What”
Once you understand their “why,” you must now help them understand the “what.” The “what” is the product or service you can offer that will help them accomplish their goals. At this stage in the conversation it is important to connect the two. Here is an example:

“It sounds to me like you want to make sure that you get some growth in order to have a cushion to fall back on, but you don’t want to take a lot of risk because you may need this money. In order to do both, I recommend we take a look at X or Y.”

Understanding the “How
Once you explain the “what” (the product or service) that will assist them in reaching their goals, you need to explain “how” those connect with their motivations (their “why”) so they will want to buy. They may also have questions about “how” the process or procedure works. That is why it is vital to clients and prospects fully understand, step-by-step, all the details of your specific recommendations.

The “where and when” can be comfortably inserted into the “how” as follows:

“If this seems like it makes the most sense in helping you get the growth (“why”) as well as security for your retirement dollars without taking a lot of risk, then (“what”—insert investment recommendation) is the vehicle that I recommend, because (“why and what”—insert all of the reasons). In order to do that we would need to (“how”) open a new account card, fill out the paperwork and transfer the money from (“where”) your other brokerage account. This should take about (“when”) a week or two to have the money transferred. Are you comfortable moving ahead?”

The reason this is so powerful is because you are helping them understand the “why, what, where, when and how” to accomplish their goals. The only thing I have left out is the “who” will help them to do it, however if you have mapped out this entire process to fit your own discussions, your clients and prospects will undoubtedly realize that you are the adviser for the job!

If you are interested in a complimentary consultation with Dan Finley, email Melissa Denham, Advisor Solutions’ director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley

Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.


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Do You Practice Strategic Golf?

The bottom line to growing your top line is activity—no news there. But some advisers pursue activity, any activity, and call it prospecting.

Not All Prospecting Is Created Equal
According to Matt Oechsli, the most effective rainmaking activities include:

  • Gaining introductions and referrals from clients and strategic alliances
  • Hosting intimate client events
  • Strategic networking

Executed well, these activities generally trump moderate-impact methods like PR campaigns and targeted seminars. Methods like cold calling, direct mail and advertising tend to have an even lower impact, Oechsli finds.

The Key: Be Strategic
While rainmaking comes naturally to some advisers, others need a plan to push themselves to increase their prospecting. But no matter which type of adviser you are, or the specific prospecting activities you pursue, it’s essential to follow a strategic approach.

Take golf, a popular way of prospecting for new business. Are you using golf games as strategic prospecting events or more of a lifestyle activity? While organizing a round of golf may be easy, the strategicgolf game involves carefully considering whom you’re playing with and the points you want to cover while you’re on the green.

The same goes for networking opportunities. Where do you interact with prospects? Attending meetings of groups, clubs and organizations may be the equivalent of not working instead of networking if you aren’t exposed to potential clients at those events. And participating in such meetings isn’t very strategic if the conversation never gets around to business.

How Do You Use Your Prospecting Time?
Too often, advisers are involved with an organization for years without mentioning what they do for a living. Don’t get me wrong: if you’re consciously choosing to spend your time socializing or volunteering, that’s excellent. Just understand that there’s typically a difference between prospecting and pure socializing.

When prospecting is the goal, strategic advisers carefully determine which organizations their desired clients belong to, find ways to affiliate with them, and ensure that others in the group are aware of their expertise and the unique value they bring to clients.

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth_2014 for web
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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Clients Buy Benefits, Not Features

Too often, the process of selling professional services emphasizes features and not benefits. In other words, practitioners push features such as, “We offer retirement planning services,” or “We have a disciplined investment process.” When selling features and not the value contained in the resulting benefits, a practitioner’s services become commoditized and the target market diffused.

Diagnosing the Need-Feature-Benefit Relationship
Language development begins first by learning nouns (i.e., a product’s features are like nouns) but the meaning of a sentence relies on verbs. In persuasive communication, we latch onto a product’s feature (the noun), but the verb-based benefit statement tells the listener what it means (or why it is important). Moving from selling features to benefits orients the message to the, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) question that underlies every purchase. As consumers, we all want to know the value received for the costs incurred.

The selling process flows over time from the general to the specific. During those first interactions with a prospect, he or she appreciates general benefit-based statements such as:  “A client just like you was worried about running out of money, but our planning process identified a strategy that provided a secure retirement income stream; they moved from worry to excitement about the future.”

In diagnosing this statement, we see a strong structure.

  • Need:  “. . . worried about running out of money . . .”
  • Feature (noun):  “. . . our planning process . . .”
  • Benefits (verbs): 1. “identified a strategy” 2. “provided a secure retirement income stream” 3. “moved from worry to excitement about the future”

You’ll note the benefit statements all begin with action verbs.

Deeper into the sales process, after you’ve discovered the prospect’s needs, anxieties and aspirations inventory, a general benefit statement will be viewed as a platitude and be unconvincing. The prospect has given his or her time to you and divulged a lot of personal information, and they expect to hear what you’ll do for them with specificity.

“[Client name], when we first met, your known retirement income was $X and your instinct told you this would insufficient. Through our planning process, we identified that your anxiety about shortfall risk was well founded, and we have put together a plan using [investment strategy] to produce additional annual income of $X. This plan meets your retirement income needs and you can now release your worries and feel confident about the years ahead.”

Here, the diagnosis goes further:

  • Stated need:  “. . . your known retirement income was $X . . . would not be sufficient.”
  • Validated need:  “. . . your anxiety about shortfall risk was well founded . . .”
  • Feature (noun):  “. . . our planning process . . .”
  • Benefits (verbs): 1. “put together a plan using [investment strategy] . . .” 2. “produce additional retirement income of $X . . .” 3. “meets your retirement income needs . . . 4. “release your worries . . .” 5. “feel confident about the years ahead.”

In this diagnosis, the same persuasive structure holds, but there are two key additions based on a now developing relationship. First, what was initially a conceptual need is validated from analysis; state this validation clearly as it illustrates your active listening skills that lead you to apply your expertise to the prospect’s needs/anxieties/aspirations inventory. Second, your analytical evidence is used to tailor the benefit statements that enable the prospect to see how he or she can own each benefit’s value.

Leading the Prospect to the Benefit Treasury
Two types of benefits fill your prospect’s treasury: (1) financial and (2) quality of life. Because wealth management focuses on money, it’s natural to identify a solution’s financial benefits. However, don’t lose sight of the quality-of-life benefits—comfort, peace of mind, confidence, excitement, fulfillment—that generate enormous value for the solution you propose. The sum of the financial and quality-of-life benefits is the benefit treasury.

Net Benefits
Applying monetary and quality-of-life values to the total benefit package shifts the focus from costs to net benefits (like net profits to a business). In this context, your services’ costs (planning fees, product fees, ongoing AUM fees, etc.) are compared against your solution’s benefit treasury. This side-by-side view reveals that the client is literally richer from working with you than not. A profitable relationship sells much faster than one that only reveals costs.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey

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Capturing Information Visually Can Go a Long Way

At FPA Retreat today, attendees were treated to visual representations of various sessions thanks to Giselle Chow. Chow is a skilled artist, who describes what she does as, “visual thinking and graphic facilitation to convene groups, engage participants, and develop solutions.”

Here’s a look at some of what Chow captured today. How might you visually capture planning points for your clients?

One of three panels captured in the Circle Gathering at FPA Retreat. (For some perspective, this is about 6 feet by 4 feet!)

One of three panels captured in the Circle Gathering at FPA Retreat. (For some perspective, this is about 6 feet by 4 feet!)


Chow's visual representation of Michael Kitces's session on the "rising equity glidepath." (Thank you Rick Kahler for posting this on Twitter!)

Chow’s visual representation of Michael Kitces’s session on the “rising equity glidepath.” (Thank you Rick Kahler for posting this on Twitter!)

Giselle Chow visually captures the Circle Gathering at FPA Retreat in Miami.

Giselle Chow visually captures the Circle Gathering at FPA Retreat in Miami.











Carly SchulakaCarly Schulaka

Journal of Financial Planning 
Denver, CO



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