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What Comes First—Changing the Tech or the Staff?

Firms are struggling with technology adoption because they believe their executives or staff can’t change or learn new methods of operating. So they stop implementing the tech (aka the change) and instead start interviewing potential hires to replace their current staff who appear unwilling to change and learn. This stoppage and hiring effort creates a dark cloud over the mood of the staff. It sends a message that the firm isn’t prepared to improve nor invest in change management. Rock star-quality staff take this stoppage as a sign and ultimately stop recommending improvements and cease their championing of change. If the stoppages happen often, your best staff might even start interviewing at other firms or start their own firm.

How do I know if my staff are able to learn new systems?
The easiest way to test the team’s ability to learn is to sell the change before implementing it. As the firm owner, you must believe in the change, know the benefits, and persistently encourage productive feedback. Remember that the administrative person might care about reducing data entry work, while the adviser will want this change to help them onboard a new client more efficiently. Staff that can’t adopt the change will stand out immediately. If they are your key team members, have your executive team talk with them and explore why they are resistant to the changes. Then, and only then, will you know if it is time to search through the resumes and start to recalibrate the staff with a new hire.

Do I lay off a loyal staff person when they can’t learn?
We all know it is very expensive (money, energy, time) to lay off and hire someone new. Any new hire requires you to use energy and time to train them on your firm’s method of operating, philosophy regarding client service and expectations. It is best to NOT lay off those who seemingly can’t embrace change and instead invest in training and change management first. Training can be in the form of scheduled weekly webinars, paying an outside expert or software provider to provide customized training, or having a staff person train his/her peer. Change management comes from the top. If you are not sure you are managing change properly, you can hire a coach to learn how to do this effectively now and in the future.

While you invest in training and management, you should also be scouring the earth for potential hires. A great employee, successor, or partner hire won’t fall into your lap the minute you decide you want to re-calibrate your team. It is never too soon to start networking and doing informational interviews and building your pipeline of candidates. If the training and change management does not produce the results you want, you know you can call upon a pool of qualified candidates.

Change isn’t easy—if it were, everyone would be doing it! Remember that any meaningful technology change—even implementing a new software program—takes more than 66 business days to adopt. Give your staff time to embrace the new tech and provide continuous training, positive reinforcement and examples of the long-term benefits. Most importantly, be sure to give yourself time to lead the troops with a positive attitude and realistic change management goals. Progress may be slow but as long as you’re seeing change transpire, rest well knowing your firm is on the right track.

Jennifer Goldman

 

Jennifer Goldman
Founder
My Virtual COO
Boston, MA

Editor’s Note: FPA members receive a $500 member discount on a My Virtual COO consulting engagement. You can find more information here


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Are You in Retirement Without Even Knowing It?

Advisers deal with pre-retirees every day. Some of these clients are anxious to quit working, but many more say they’d like to work in some capacity once they retire. The 2015 Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations study, conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, found that 7 in 10 pre-retirees want to work in retirement. In fact, it’s becoming so common that people now talk about “Retirement 1,” “Retirement 2,” and “Retirement 3,” with each stage representing a reduced schedule and set of responsibilities.

For advisers, this is easy to understand: “dying with your boots on” is an industry norm. Work in retirement may be different or happen at a different pace, with many tenured advisers putting in fewer hours and taking more time off, including sabbaticals. In any case, there’s a clear trend of advisers staying in the business longer—or not leaving at all.

The problem is when you slip into retirement mode without even realizing it.

Maintaining a Viable Lifestyle Practice
Many advisers are comfortable with the idea of running a lifestyle practice but bristle at the suggestion that they’ve entered “Retirement 1.” Whatever you call it—Retirement 1 or a lifestyle practice—there are several key points to consider if you want to keep your business healthy.

  • Am I still growing? By definition, healthy businesses are growing businesses. In our industry, that’s generally measured by assets under management or overall production. At a certain point in an adviser’s career, it becomes difficult to recruit new clients. Existing clients pass away or move into the distribution phase. Attracting new business to replace lost AUM becomes challenging as clients seek an adviser who will outlast them. When AUM starts shrinking, the business owner needs to assess whether the practice has begun to die on the vine, making it less attractive to potential buyers.
  • Am I keeping up with industry developments? Regulatory requirements, new technology, marketing strategies, emerging products that deliver answers to complex client issues—staying on top of all the developments in our industry requires a certain amount of time and commitment. Downshifting to a lifestyle practice shouldn’t mean letting your focus slip or becoming nonchalant about certain aspects of the business.
  • Do I have a documented continuity plan? No matter what kind of practice you have, going without one borders on unethical. The need for a continuity plan is well known, but unfortunately, many advisers still don’t take this essential step to provide for their firm’s (and their clients’) future.

A Personal Choice (But it’s Not Right for Everyone)
Mid-career advisers may observe the attractive lifestyle of more tenured advisers and think, I want that, too! For their part, millennial advisers entering the industry may look around and assume a lifestyle practice is the norm. But if significant growth is on your agenda (and for many younger advisers, it is), the activities that will get you there generally require putting in some evening, weekend and summer work.

Of course, how you balance work and life is ultimately a personal choice. In the independent world, as long as you’re compliant and your clients are protected, it’s no one’s business but yours. Just be sure you’re making the decision deliberately rather than simply falling into it.

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


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You Cannot Do This Alone

Dr. Daniel Crosby is a behavioral finance expert, frequent FPA speaker and President of Nocturne Capital. In his new book, The Laws of Wealth, Crosby touches on ten laws for managing investor behavior and also sets forth a new paradigm for asset management known as rule-based behavioral investing or RBI. An excerpt of the second chapter of The Laws of Wealth is included below. 

Laws of Wealth

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Law #2 – You Cannot Do This Alone

In an era of seven-dollar trades and fee compression, some have been quick to dismiss the traditional advisory relationship as a relic of a bygone era. Years ago, brokers and advisers were the guardians of financial data, the keepers of the stock quote. Today, investors need only an iPhone and a free online brokerage account to do what just 30 years ago was the exclusive purview of Wall Street. It is worth asking in such an age, “Is my adviser really earning her fee?” An appeal to the research shows that the answer is a resounding “yes,” albeit not for the reasons you might have supposed.

In a seminal paper titled, “Advisor’s Alpha,” the famously fee-sensitive folks at Vanguard estimate that the value added by working with a competent financial adviser is roughly 3 percent per year. The paper is quick to point out that the 3 percent delta will not be achieved in a smooth, linear fashion. Rather, the benefits of working with an adviser will be lumpy” and most concentrated during times of profound fear and greed. This uneven distribution of adviser value presages a second truth that we will discuss shortly; that the highest and best use of a financial adviser is as a behavioral coach rather than an asset manager.

Further evidence of adviser efficacy is added by Morningstar in their whitepaper, “Alpha, Beta, and Now… Gamma.” “Gamma” is Morningstar’s shorthand for “the extra income an investor can earn by making better financial decisions” and they cast improving decision-making as the primary benefit of working with a financial adviser. In their attempt at quantifying Gamma, Morningstar arrived at a figure of 1.82 percent per year outperformance for those receiving advice aimed at improving their financial choices. Again, it would seem that advisers are more than earning their fee and that improving decision-making is the primary means by which they improve clients’ investment outcomes.

Research conducted by Aon Hewitt and managed accounts provider Financial Engines also supports the idea that help pays big dividends. Their initial research was conducted from 2006 to 2008 and compared those receiving help in the form of online advice, guidance through target date funds or managed accounts to those who did it themselves. Their finding during this time was that those who received help outperformed those who did not by 1.86 percent per annum, net of fees.

Seeking to examine the impact of help during times of volatility, they subsequently performed a similar analysis of help versus no-help groups that included the uncertain days of 2009 and 2010. They found that the impact of decision-making assistance was heightened during times of volatility and that the outperformance of the group receiving assistance grew to 2.92 percent annually, net of fees. Just as was suggested by Vanguard from the outset, the benefits of advice are disproportionately experienced during times when rational decision-making becomes most difficult.

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Daniel Crosby speaking at FPA Retreat 2016

We have now established that financial guidance tends to pay off somewhere in the ballpark of 2 percent to 3 percent a year. Although those numbers may seem small at first blush, anyone familiar with the marvel of compounding understands the enormous power of such outperformance. If financial advice really does work, the effect of following good advice over time should be substantial. Indeed, the research suggests that very thing.

In their 2012 ‘Value of Advice Report’ the Investment Funds Institute of Canada found that investors who purchase financial advice are more than one and a half times more likely to stick with their long-term investment plan than those who do not. Because of this commitment to a game plan, the wealth discrepancies between families that receive advice and those who do not grow over time. For those who receive four to six years of advice, the multiple attributable to advice is 1.58. Those receiving 7 to 14 years of advice nearly double up (1.99x) their no-advice peers and those receiving 15 or more years of advice clocked in at an overwhelming 2.73x multiple. Good financial advice pays in the short run, but the multiplication of those gains over an investing lifetime is truly staggering.

Hopefully at this point, there is little doubt in your mind that the cumulative effects of receiving sound investment counsel are financially impressive. But as we look beyond dollars and cents, it is worth considering whether there are quality of life benefits to be enjoyed by working with a financial professional.

After all, many people perfectly capable of mowing a lawn, cleaning a home or painting a room hire those jobs out. While you may have lawn mowing skill equal to that of the person you hire, you may still enjoy peace of mind and increased time with loved ones as a result of your delegation. The research suggests that in addition to the financial rewards that may accrue to those working with an adviser, it also provides increases in confidence and security that are no less valuable.

The Canadian ‘Value of Advice Report’ found that those paying for financial advice reported a greater sense of confidence, and more certainty about their ability to retire comfortably and having higher levels of funds for an emergency. A separate study performed by the Financial Planning Standards Council found that 61 percent of those paying for financial advice answered affirmatively to, “I have peace of mind” compared to only 36 percent of their “no plan” peers. The majority (54 percent) of those with a plan felt prepared in the event of an emergency, versus only 22 percent of those without a plan. Finally, 51 percent of respondents with a plan felt prepared for retirement against a frightening 18 percent of those not receiving advice.

Receiving good financial advice pays a dividend that builds both wealth and confidence. The research is unequivocal that a competent financial guide can help you achieve the returns necessary to arrive at your financial destination while simultaneously improving the quality of your journey.

So, do financial advisers add value?

The research strongly supports that they do, both in terms of improving means and quality of life. But they only add value when we know what to look for when selecting the appropriate wealth management partner. Our natural tendencies will be toward excess complexity and flashy marketing, seeking out those who lead with bold claims of esoteric knowledge. What will add much greater richness is a partner who balances deep knowledge with deep rapport. Someone we will listen to when we are scared and who will save us from ourselves; a simple solution to a complex problem.

Daniel CrosbyDaniel Crosby
Executive Vice President, The Center for Outcomes
President, Nocturne Capital
Atlanta, Ga.


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Persuading through Themes

Effective advertising centers on repetition. Only after a certain level of exposure will the target audience gain familiarity with the message and visuals. And, only with familiarity will persuasive messages motivate the audience to purchase. This core tenet is nothing more than how humans naturally learn.

The typical advisory firm is a small business with a limited budget for marketing outreach. The good news is the resource for persuasion today—marketing through digital means—is readily available and low cost (if not free of hard-dollar costs).

Thematic Repetition
There are many resources available to guide advisers in establishing an effective digital and social media presence; that’s not the focus here. This post emphasizes persuasion through using strategic marketing themes merchandised through various digital outlets.

A theme can be reflected in content on an adviser’s home page, detailed in a blog, merchandised in an email blast or newsletter, summarized via Twitter, captured visually in a Facebook feed and tailored in an email message. To an adviser’s relationships, the theme—and the benefits it delivers—is internalized through exposure to these different communication channels.

The WIIFM Reality
WIIFM—an acronym for “what’s in it for me”—in many ways determines the willingness for a message recipient to be moved persuasively.

While we like to think that simply imparting our wisdom and advice should be enough, the market wants the benefits clearly presented and immediate. It’s essential to understand that WIIFM isn’t just the benefits at the final sale, but at every desired interaction.

Another WIIFM marketing aspect is the trust building from successfully delivering a string of benefits, even small ones within the larger theme itself. The more a recipient experiences valuable interactions, the more likely he or she will be to engage in intensive communication indicative of meetings deeper in the sales process.

Themes Linked to Business Strategies
Think of a theme as a story. The story tells a reader what the problem is, who is involved and the outcome. The same story can be told with gripping character details in a lengthy book, as a picture book or a simple two-sentence synopsis.

A marketing theme supports a strategic service. A lot of marketing money is wasted because an adviser’s service solution, and its associated benefits, don’t explicitly demonstrate how a market’s needs are satisfied.

A Thematic Delivery Hierarchy
A properly executed theme produces persuasive content in different forms and scope. At the top level in the hierarchy, the theme is explained in its fullest form while at the bottom the theme is tailored to particular client/prospect circumstances.

Marketing Content Hierarchy“Explain” Level: In many ways, this level is the most formative since the theme is fully presented and detailed. From here, each other level can be traced.

  • Delivery Method: White papers and presentations
  • Marketing Role: During the writing process, the theme shows itself as a prototype. As ideas are described and linked, any logic, persuasion or process weaknesses are exposed before the theme becomes operationally active. Once finalized, the document—attractively presented and written persuasively—becomes a guidebook illustrating the theme’s full benefit inventory to the client/prospect audience.

“Segment” Level: A marketing theme is actually comprised of key segments (i.e. features or functions) and each has associated benefits. Think of a segment as a subplot or episode in a larger story.

  • Delivery Method: Blogs, e-newsletters and website content
  • Marketing Role: Presenting focused segments one by one results in a content calendar. A segment has its own benefits, and these are spotlighted (and especially meaningful for those clients/prospects needing one set of benefits more than others).

“Point” Level: This level emphasizes specific WIIFM benefits.

  • Delivery Method: Email blasts, Facebook feeds and website visuals/photographs
  • Marketing Role: A single, key benefit is presented to motivate recipients to learn more (through the two higher levels).

“Fit” Level: This engagement level answers a client/prospect’s questions through the theme itself. Some people call this “staying on message,” but it’s more accurate to view it as retelling the theme directly through the client/prospect’s circumstances.

  • Delivery Method: Email replies, phone calls, face-to-face meetings and Facebook posts.

Persuasion Culminates in Conversion
Today, people have many defenses to persuasion. People want to take in information on their own time and under their control. Yet, persuasion happens every day when a mind is opened because a message hits a need and a solution’s benefits are there to fulfill it. A strategic marketing theme persuades through delivered benefits.

Kirk Loury

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


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Step Up Cybersecurity

As planners incorporate more technology into their offerings to clients, it’s imperative they stay on top of their cybersecurity measures.

“Cybersecurity is a major issue for financial planners in today’s highly technical, digital world,” writes Ben Lewis, FPA’s public relations team leader on an FPA Connect post calling for participants for a cybersecurity assessment that has since ended.

Anthony Stitch explains in the forthcoming August issue of the Journal of Financial Planning that planners who don’t provide the technology clients want these days may lose those clients to firms they like less but that offer the technology they prefer. This, he writes, is called digital attrition. Members, you’ll get to read the full article when it comes out. And if you’re not yet a member, maybe now is the time. Learn more here.

“As you incorporate more technology into the running of your firm, it’s important that you stay educated on best practices for cybersecurity,” Blane Warren, an industry leader in financial services marketing, compliance, and technology, writes on XY Planning Network’s website.

But planners this move toward providing more technology options means planners need to step up their cybersecurity game in order to keep their clients and themselves safe. Something they’re not currently doing very well, according to a report from External IT titled “Financial Services Firms Face Further Scrutiny of Their Cybersecurity Practices: Is Your Frim Ready?”

InvestmentNews reports that that report found three key areas were lacking in terms of financial cybersecurity: security policy, firms failing to audit their IT security; accountability when moving data, moving data to personal and home devices without tracking measures; and disaster recovery, not having emergency business continuity plans.

This isn’t to say that planners don’t want to address cybersecurity issues, rather they don’t know where to go to get their information, Brian Edelman, chief executive of Financial Computer Services told InvestmentNews.

Edelman recommends using a cybersecurity firm that understands financial services.

In a recent article, ThinkAdvisor recommended planners check out the following resources: National Institute of Standards and Technology (nist.gov) and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (fsisac.com).

AnaHeadshot

 

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


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In Praise of Good Financial Advisers (You Know Who You Are)

Ours is an industry that gets a hefty dose of negative publicity. True, there are scoundrels perpetrating Ponzi schemes and conducting other nefarious activities—and they cast a pall over the public’s perception of the well-meaning and competent financial professionals out there.

The good news is, these bad guys are few and far between. The bad news is, with our heavily regulated industry, sometimes the good guys may feel they are being micromanaged as a result. Still, there are so many financial advisers out there who are doing excellent work for their clients.

The Well-Adjusted Retiree
I recently had the opportunity to see this excellent work firsthand when I attended a client event hosted by an ensemble practice. At the event, a panel of recently retired individuals and couples answered questions from an audience of pre-retirees. The questions varied from cash flow, social security, Medicare and investment performance to how to align a couple’s “vision” of retirement, which included things like whether to downsize their home and how to stay connected and social with friends and family.

I was especially curious how the panel would respond when an audience member asked if the peaks and valleys of the market affected the panel’s daily decisions about drawing down on their nest egg. This question was especially timely, as the market had just dropped more than 870 points in the prior week due to the Brexit vote. The response? Daily markets weren’t a showstopper. In general, the panelists said:

  • They had their goals.
  • They had their nest egg.
  • They didn’t pay much attention to the markets unless their advisers said they should.

One couple talked about how they met with their financial adviser, estate attorney and CPA for an annual meeting. That meeting gave them the confidence that not only were their investments on solid ground despite market volatility, but that tax efficiency and an integrated estate plan were being managed by a team of professionals working together to help them achieve their retirement goals.

Helping Clients Not Sweat the Small Stuff
Financial advisers enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with their clients. Sometimes they garner appreciation and recognition for what they do. But just in case you haven’t gotten a dose of it lately, as one of the good guys in the industry, know that because of your competence and caring, your clients don’t need to sweat the small stuff like daily market volatility. Instead, they can focus on enjoying the retirement lifestyle you helped them achieve.

Thank you for all you do, financial advisers!

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

 

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


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Framing the Conversation: What to Say in the First 60 Seconds

During individual coaching sessions, I typically assume that if an adviser has been working with me for any length of time that they are utilizing some of the fundamental tools that we have been discussing. Unfortunately, sometimes that assumption is incorrect.

Take for instance, my client John T., a financial adviser with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. During our recent coaching session, I asked John what he thought was the biggest clog in his pipeline. He replied, “I guess it’s just getting new prospects and former clients to be interested in meeting with me.”

This is the first of many possible clogs because if you cannot connect during an initial conversation, then a prospect (or former client in John’s case) never actually gets funneled into the pipeline. Knowing that John had learned from me how to frame the conversation, which is a process for what to say in the first 60 seconds of your initial call, I was confused about why he was having this challenge. “John, let’s role play what you say when you call someone,” I suggested, and so we began.

Within the first minute of role play I realized that John had no structure or framework for his calls. He was saying whatever came to mind at the time! So I coached John to do the following:

Frame the Conversation

  • Introduction: State your name, the company you are with and its location. This is important to establish with the prospect so that they know right upfront who you are and with whom you work for.
  1. Reason: Next, you incorporate “The reason I am calling” statement, which is designed to help busy prospects know the reason you are contacting them and for them to then determine whether or not they may feel your products and services can bring value to them.
  1. Benefits: Then comes, “The benefit” statements, which are designed to establish credibility and to help a prospect relate to what value you have brought to others that have had similar challenges.
  1. Close: The close is designed to elicit a desired response, such as setting up an appointment. 

Creating a Compelling Conversation
It didn’t take John long to fully understand and apply the process during a future role play coaching session. Then in our next conversation he explained that he was finding success.

“So, why do you think this tool has been helping you?” I asked.

“It’s because I now have structure to my conversations and I’m giving prospects or former clients a reason to want to speak with me by explaining the benefits of what I do,” he said. “I used to just try and make small talk and hope that they would like me and want to meet with me. With this new framework, I create a compelling enough conversation so they understand how I can actually help them! I only wish I would have started with this “tool” thirty years ago!”

If you read this article and would like helpful techniques about how to customize your own ways to frame the conversation, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

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

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