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Cybersecurity: Preparing Your Team

2016Cybersecurity_Whitepaper2_V5.inddCybersecurity is high on advisers’ priority lists.

In a white paper released by the Financial Planning Association and TD Ameritrade Institutional found that 81 percent of advisers say cybersecurity is high or very high among their firm’s priority list.

But there is a gap when it comes to providing mandatory training for staff. The white paper, titled “Cybersecurity: Is Your Team Prepared?” reported that 11 percent of firm CEOs “completely agree” that their team is fully aware of what would be required to adhere to guidelines set out by the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). And only 44 percent of firms with more than one team member provide mandatory training for employees.

But finding the right training for you and your staff is the ticket to closing that gap and safeguarding and preparing your firm for cyber attacks.

The white paper reported that the average team member receives less than two hours of cybersecurity training per year. But it offered some steps to take action on training.

  1. Define clear goals when it comes to cybersecurity. Keep the OCIE requirements as well as the goals of your team in mind during training.
  1. Define team expectations in relation to those goals. Be clear and concise in communicating your expectations.
  1. Gather input from the team. What questions or concerns do your team members have when it comes to cybersecurity?
  1. Conduct anonymous internal assessment. Find out what your team knows and understands regarding OCIE requirements and cybersecurity.
  1. Identify gaps. Focus your training on closing these gaps.
  1. Create training process. Determine how often, whether its mandatory and how you will deliver training, among other things.
  1. Summarize training process. Summarize the process on a single page so you can tell your clients what you are doing.

For a full sample assessment recommended in step No. 4, download the full white paper here.

AnaHeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.


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Be Proactive about Cybersecurity

Your clients are concerned about cybersecurity.

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab, a global cybersecurity firm, found that 65 percent of consumers worry about the cybersecurity practices of companies that have their personal and financial information. And yet the first of three white papers by FPA Research and Practice InstituteTM, “Cybersecurity: Client Perception and Communication,” sponsored by TD Ameritrade Institutional, found that only 11 percent of financial advisers surveyed think clients are “very worried” about this issue.

Regardless of perception how many clients may or may not be worried about cybersecurity issues, cybersecurity risks to advisers and their client are real. The FPA white paper offers the following steps to be more proactive:

  1. Conduct a team meeting. In this meeting, ask employees what their experience has been and whether they’re hearing concern from clients.
  1. Gather data. Find out specifically what clients are concerned about. A survey might help with this. Doing so will help you determine what gaps exist between what your clients are worried about and what you are doing to mitigate their worry.
  1. Decide your role. Determine whether you want to reach out to clients proactively and tell them what your game plan is in case a breach exists, or reach out reactively.
  1. Map out communications plan. Figure out what you’ll say over multiple channels because one form of communication won’t be enough. You’ll need to communicate through emails, blog posts, articles, conference calls, etc.
  1. Focus on consistency. Make sure every staff member is relaying the same message to clients. Ensure all team members understand the issue.

Download the first of three white papers, as well as the full, original study at www.OneFPA.org/cybersecurity.


AnaHeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.


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A Lesson in Humility: What I Learned from Dan Rather

I recently had the opportunity to introduce Dan Rather, who was a keynote speaker at Commonwealth Financial Network’s 2016 National Conference. I felt honored to do so, and he gave a wonderful presentation. But even more than his speech, it was the brief interaction I had with Mr. Rather that left a lasting impression on me, and it’s one I think worth sharing.

As many of you are likely aware, Dan Rather has had a distinguished career in broadcast journalism that spans nearly six decades. He is well known for his 24 years anchoring the CBS Nightly News and covering countless stories as a 60 Minutes correspondent. While there’s no doubt that Mr. Rather has experienced difficult times in his career, you don’t get inducted into the Television Hall of Fame or receive an Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award without being someone who has consistently made outstanding contributions in the field.

When I was getting ready to meet Mr. Rather in the green room at the conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a person of such accomplishment. But I can tell you, he seemed more interested in me than I was in him! He listened intently to every word I said and was curious to know me better. While we all tend to make assumptions about famous people, Mr. Rather struck me as an authentic, good, down-to-earth man. At 85, it would seem the vicissitudes of his life and career have simply made him a better man.

So, what does this have to do with you? As financial advisers, many (if not all) of us have had moments when our egos get away from us. But we’ve also all experienced a good failure every now and then. I would argue that these failures are actually opportunities to help keep our egos in check and provide a valuable lesson in humility.

Although my time with Mr. Rather was short, there’s no doubt he gave me the gift of this life lesson. I’ve since taken the time to pause and reflect that it’s not just about me. Honestly, does anyone really care how many blog posts I’ve written, presentations I’ve given or articles I’ve published? Perhaps we tend to focus on quantitative measures like these because the qualitative ones are just too scary. Still, those qualitative questions are the ones we should be asking. Did my efforts actually help people? Were problems solved, guidelines used or insights embraced?

I know that ours is certainly not a profession of small egos! But as we enjoy our successes, we should also remember our failures. Of course, we need to pick ourselves up and get back in the game after a particularly tough time or a solid failure. Just as important, however, is keeping our egos in check when everything is coming up roses and failure seems a distant memory. After all, this profession is less about our personal success and more about the people we’ve helped and the gifts we have had the opportunity to use.

As I strive to keep in touch with what’s really important, “check your ego at the door” and “get over yourself” are two good catchphrases that will be with me. How about you?

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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Become an Authority: Establishing Your Financial Planning Career

Did you know that in the last year there were 308,937 financial planners practicing in the United States? That much competition makes it hard to stand out amongst the crowd. The industry is getting hit with a flood of advisers, including robo-advisers, so the competition isn’t going anywhere. Set up your business for long-term success, so you can continue to dominate and stand out from the crowd.

To make yourself known in the financial planning world, it’s essential to follow these all-too-important tips, ranging from managing client relationships to your marketing strategy.

1.) Gain Clients’ Trust
One of the most important aspects of your business should naturally be the clients, but there are several ways to improve the quality of your relationship with those valuable customers.

While you can be a financial planner to any potential client base, it’s important to find a target niche. Whether the niche is dentists, entrepreneurs, doctors—you name it—developing a niche and dominating it makes you become the expert in the field. Fine tuning your client base allows you to provide solutions for a specific group of people and customize plans to their needs.

When a client comes to you for financial planning advice, they already have a mission and their own goals. You need to make it your objective to find out what these expectations are and exceed them. Your planning advice needs to be correlated in line with theirs and if you fail to make the connection between their goals, the client will walk away from your services for good.

Building trust within your client base is one of the most crucial aspects to running your business. As a financial planner, you need to act in the best interest of your clients 100 percent of the time because you are dealing with a customer’s private material. Putting yourself in your client’s shoes will no doubt help you make better decisions for them, but it will also make the client appreciate your personalized approach.

2.) Have Patience
Patience is a virtue, but not everyone has it, especially when you’re thrown into the hectic life of a financial planner. When you’re meeting with a client, though, it’s best to put your restlessness oh hold and make your clients feel like they have all the time in the world. Then you can truly listen to what they’re saying so you can get all of the pieces to the puzzle while giving the best financial advice possible.

Utilizing customer relationship management tools could be helpful. Programs such as Salesforce, Pipedrive and Marketing 360, among many others, help you remember important details about each and every one of your clients. By simply remembering a birthday or a major life event, a client will feel like you are truly listening to them and they will feel more at ease when you’re meeting to talk about personal details. Keeping up with the latest software developments for your profession will not only help you offer great service, but will also allow you to track your ROI for each client and help you easily distinguish between effective and ineffective marketing campaigns.

3.) Educate Yourself, Put Yourself Out There 
Obviously, existing clients will always be the heartbeat of your business, but reeling in new clients is essential to keep that pulse pumping. To attract new clients you need to validate your professional expertise, meaning you should be constantly putting out fresh content through speaking at events, writing articles or blogs and sharing other industry experts’ content through social media.

David Molnar, a managing director at HighTower San Diego financial services firm, stated in an August 9, 2016 Investopedia story, “The more often you are seen at various events and networking functions, the more you will be viewed as an expert by others.”

One of the best ways to put yourself out there and stand out from the competition is to become the authority in your field. By definition, Authority Marketing™ is a strategic process of systematically positioning a person or organization as the leader and expert in their industry, community or marketplace to command outsize influence over all competitors. Essentially, it drives new leads, expands your profit and creates fame for yourself and your business.

This process is built on seven pillars that you need to succeed: branding and omnipresence, content marketing, public relations and media, lead generation, referral marketing and speaking. Educating yourself on each of these can open the door for a whole new prosperous world for your business.

Standing out from the competition involves developing a trusting relationship with clients, being patient, and implementing Authority Marketing strategies. Following these essential tips will not only develop yourself as a professional but will also launch your business’ profile to stand out from the competition.

For more information on how you can stand out from the competition, request your complimentary copy of Adam Witty’s new book Lead The Field. To request your no-cost copy, click here.

emily-fisherEmily Fisher
Marketing Copywriter
Advantage Media
Charleston, S.C.

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Winning the Inner Game of Business

Successful team athletes know that they face two opponents in every game: the other team and an inner opponent—the little voice in their head. Similarly, successful financial advisers know that most sales are won from the inside out, as growing a business is really about having a strong mental skillset to create and then maintain steady successes.

Joe, a financial adviser with 15 years of experience, is a current coaching client of mine. When he initially contacted me to discuss his challenges I quickly realized that this was a man whose inner opponent was clearly defeating him. So I explained that the solution was to increase his mental skillset for winning his Inner Game of Business. Once he could master that, he would be back at the top of his game. Let’s take a look at how he (and you) can make a comeback.

I was curious to know more about Joe and the evolution of his business to get a better idea of his situation, so I simply asked him to share what happened during the first five-year period of his career.

He explained to me that in his first five years he was consistently having record years. As a result, he loved the business and had a positive attitude toward his future. He went on to say that his business plateaued from years six through 10 and he later realized that it was because he was comfortable and complacent. Unfortunately, that resulted in a decrease in his business each year for the past several years until he found himself doubting whether he should continue on or move into another career field altogether.

I commented that typically when a professional athlete is in a mental slump they don’t throw in the towel but instead they may seek out a sports psychologist who would work with them on what’s known as a performance pyramid, which has three levels to sharpen metal skillsets. Below are three tips to win against your inner opponent.

1.) Increase your basic mental skillsets: Sometimes the hardest thing for anyone to do to make a comeback is to accept that they need to get back to the basics. In other words, a professional football player doesn’t want to be told how to hold a football properly. Similarly, advisers in a slump don’t want to be told to change their attitude toward prospecting.

However, the first level of the performance pyramid is about rebuilding a strong mental foundation by focusing on essential mental skillsets such as having a positive attitude, finding motivation, setting goals, establishing accountability, making a commitment and increasing communication. Joe needed to get back to the basics in order to get his head back in the game. So we clearly defined what successful outcomes would look like for each of the aforementioned mental skillsets and then we went to work on putting a plan into action.

2.) Increase your preparatory skills: It didn’t take long for Joe to start feeling better about himself. I decided we needed to go to the next level by sharpening his preparatory skills, the mental skillsets that athletes use immediately before they perform. Examples of that would be a professional golfer taking practice swings or a professional basketball player taking easy shots. The two most important activities at this tier are positive self-talk and mental imagery. For a financial adviser, that may include telling yourself you will get the new client and mentally picturing the prospect signing the paperwork.

Joe quickly embraced the process but was admittedly amazed at how taking five minutes before a meeting with a prospect made him feel much more confident.

3.) Increase your performance skills: The third level of the performance pyramid focuses on what an athlete (or in Joe’s case an adviser) does during the big game. Joe’s “big game” happened when he had a second meeting with a million-dollar referral. To help him close I explained that there are three ways to increase performance skills: focus on managing anxiety, emotions and concentration. In order for Joe to accomplish this, I knew he needed to not only prepare for the appointment but to role play every step of it so that he was conditioned to successfully close!

The Final Score
Joe went into the meeting with a new level of confidence. He was focused, calm and genuinely excited to help the prospect. He asked the right types of questions, made a great connection and effortlessly closed.

The next time you step onto your business playing field, be sure to tap your inner game by preparing for it and sharpening your mental skillsets. That way you are on the road heading toward victory.

If this blog post has resonated with you and you are struggling with your inner opponent, take the next step and email me at dan@advisorsolutionsinc.com to discuss what to change first.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.


9 Things Clients Need to Know about an Adviser

In my last blog, I focused on the importance of having a service plan for those investors seeking a shared decision-making advisory relationship. Winning in this market segment requires a clearly articulated presentation.

However, beyond the now-common “elevator pitch” and “value proposition” summaries every marketing guidebook or consultant mandates, the fact is, investors looking for a new advisory relationship will want much more before making a decision—it’s called due diligence.

Most individuals will not have a clearly articulated process, but all want to reflect on their decision and know that they made a good choice. This is not just for the basic satisfaction of a well-made decision, but there’s real economic and emotional value at hand. An adviser that encourages scrutiny shows confidence and transparency, two characteristics central to a trusted advisory relationship (note: for a discussion about making this scrutiny visible to your market, see “Removing Purchase Obstacles to Valuable Benefits”).

Making Business Personal
Whether a formal or informal process, there are nine key messages that every prospect must know about an adviser. Unlike an institutional due diligence process that emphasizes sterile facts, an adviser personalizes these to not only reach the prospect’s mind but also the heart. Both must exist for a professional relationship to flourish.

1.) The Key Benefits Clients Receive: This goes beyond the service listing often found in standard value propositions to personalizing the importance of each benefit (see “Clients Buy Benefits Not Features”).

Example: “When my clients see their needs and aspirations carefully marked as milestones in the wealth plan, a real sense of financial purpose takes over.”

2.) Pricing Services: Clients’ value a fiduciary’s watchful eye over increasing complexity and uncertainty, and this must translate into an appreciation for relationship pricing such as a retainer or fee on AUM, compared to a commission approach that is inherently transactional.

Example: “We only work for your best interests, and this isn’t something that is turned on or off but rather is a constant, and that’s why we price our services in a bundled fee for the wealth we oversee.”

3.) Services Have Value: Services deliver financial or emotional benefits, and a specific example brings tangibility.

Example: “Our retirement income planning ensures that the income you receive is done so efficiently. Recently, we increased a client’s monthly income by XX percent through improved tax efficiency.”

4.) Your Service Practices: Move beyond the overused term “relationship” to how a client actually experiences the delivered services.

Example: “It’s important that we get to know you and your family. Then, when we have our meetings, you’ll see how our services directly connect to what’s on your heart and mind.”

5.) Why You’re an Adviser: Your advisory business is a service business delivered by a server. It takes a certain personality willing to serve, and the energy source for this is an adviser’s passion.

Example: “My family struggled with financial anxiety and my heart still aches for the burden it caused. I became an adviser to bring peace of mind to my clients.

6.) Your Community Involvement: Your advisory business is a people business, and this is best illustrated in community involvement.

Example: “My family took root in this community back in [year], and we are involved in X, Y and Z. This involvement gives us a deep appreciation for what it means to be a true neighbor and, since many of our clients are local too, we connect on many professional and personal levels.”

7.) Your Credentials: More than listing specific charters, list needs-based expertise.

Example: “My expertise sits right in the center of what you need in identifying a retirement-income plan. I’ve developed similar plans for XX of our clients, so it’s rare that an issue comes up that I haven’t already encountered.”

8.) How You Built Your Company: Knowing why an advisory firm started tells a lot about the adviser.

Example: “It was important to me that my business dedicate itself to specific wealth needs instead of being diluted as would be the case in a larger firm.”

9.) Your Business’s Objectives: An advisory firm is usually a community-based business.

Example: “We’re a small business in town and when our clients achieve financial, social and emotional success, the whole community benefits.”

Messaging to Win
Clients who understand an adviser’s relatable characteristics easily can paraphrase them to others. When a client speaks in this way, he or she not only offers the adviser an important due diligence reference, but the adviser’s characteristics become further internalized.

Kirk Loury


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

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3 Tips to Incorporate Health Into the Financial Planning Discussion


Carolyn McClanahan presenting at FPA BE Baltimore 2016

When a client who Carolyn McClanahan thought was 70 walked into her office, the woman told her she hadn’t been to a doctor in decades.

“Why are you coming in to see me now,” McClanahan, MD, CFP® asked.

The woman, who was actually 98, wanted to participate in her weekly tradition of acting out a play with her friends and needed a doctor to cut a thick toenail so she could fit in her fancy shoes.

When it comes to clients’ health, it runs the gamut from people like the 98-year-old recreational actress to chain-smoking overweight clients to vegan yoga practitioners. McClanahan said it is a good idea to incorporate discussing health into your practice to help your clients save money on insurance rates and overall health care spending.

“People are more comfortable talking about their health than they are about their money,” McClanahan said.

Regardless if your client has health issues, start with Livingto100.com, which helps project people’s longevity so you can do better planning.

McClanahan says incorporating health care into the discussion has three components: getting a health history, finding out what your clients’ health care mindset is and discussing advance directive planning. McClanahan offers the following tips to apply to discussing health with your clients:

The health history: start with open-ended questions. To get a better sense of your client’s health history, ask them an open-ended question. A good one is, “Tell me what you do to take care of your health.”

With that question, McClanahan said, people will tell you all you need to know. If your clients are overweight or they smoke, you can encourage them to get a little healthier before they start shopping for insurance and taking physicals. The cost-savings of doing so are “astronomical,” she said.

A basic health history includes the client’s body mass index, height, weight, smoking status, their exercise habits, whether they use drugs or alcohol, what medical problems they may have and their family history.

The health care mindset: figure out their attitude. Do they go to the doctor for everything? Do they go to the doctor only if they’re really sick? Figure these things out then figure out what it their projected cost of care will be over time based on these habits. Also encourage healthy clients to keep working.

Encourage all your clients, no matter their age, to have advanced directives. Simply having an advance directive can save your clients money. Have them map out their medical decisions now that they are healthy and ensure they have been shared with family members and health care professionals.

To see the slides from McClanahan’s FPA BE 2016 presentation, click here.



Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.