Leave a comment

Connecting with Clients Who Aren’t Tech Savvy

Many of us tend to stereotype clients of a certain age as “too old” to be tech savvy. After all, the average age in terms of tech savviness gets younger every day. But what if you take a different perspective? Perhaps clients are never too old. Indeed, maybe they would even welcome the opportunity to step up their use of technology!

Let’s start with this scenario: You want your clients to be knowledgeable and comfortable using technology for a review meeting. That way, if they relocate to a warmer climate or are no longer physically able to come to the office, for example, you can still stay connected. Plus, you may believe (as some planners do) that technology-based review meetings are not only more concise but also higher quality. So, what does it take to prepare clients who may not seem tech savvy for a technology-based review meeting?

Beta Best Practices

A good place to start is with a beta approach. Here, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. First, brainstorm a list of two to five clients who you think would be good candidates for a beta test. Reach out to them, explaining to each one the value of conducting a remote review meeting using technology. Then, simply ask them if they would like to participate. If no, end of story. If yes, it’s time to get started.

For this example, we’ll use the iPad as our technology of choice, although there are certainly other options that could work. You’ll need to set up your iPads using the appropriate links so they provide a secure connection. Remember, less is more. The goal is to make it easy for clients by having only the essentials available on the iPad.

Once the iPads have everything they need for clients to connect to a meeting, send them to beta users for the sole purpose of the review meeting. To help familiarize clients with how to use it, include easy-to-understand instructions either with the iPad or directly on it. You might also schedule a phone call to provide a short training session. Now, it’s time to put it to the test.

Try the iPads for one meeting shortly after the training—maybe even the next day. Ask for feedback! If your clients like it, plan on using the iPad for the next review meeting. If not? Simply have them return the iPads to you.

Hidden Benefits and Risks

Of course, there are some clients who don’t even own a computer. You might find that these individuals are the ones who may ask you to talk with their tech-savvy kids. That’s a good thing—and a great opportunity. The kids may see you as taking a novel approach to supporting their parents. On the other hand, what if this strategy is so wildly successful that clients start contacting you 10 times a day? As mentioned above, be sure to establish that the iPad is for review meetings only. Any communication in between meetings can be handled the traditional way—a phone call.

Finally, what if your clients talk to others about how they have reviews with their planner via iPad and from the comfort of their own homes? Positive word of mouth is always a good thing. Plus, innovation presents your firm as young and vital.

Technology Supports Human Connection

Individuals born with technology in hand will be more sophisticated than those who adopt it in their 40s. But millennials are actually the ones who have the most to gain from ideas like this. Who knows where the concept of providing an iPad could lead? What would it mean for clients who adopt this idea to be reminded of you with a beautiful photo, a joke of the day or an inspirational quote? These simple reminders can support the human connection if the foundation is properly laid—in this case—by using an iPad as an enhancement to human relationships.

Now, I know this particular approach won’t be for everyone. If not, what novel idea can you try that can help you stay connected to—and show how much you care about—your clients?

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.


1 Comment

The Science of Service

In our industry, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of the primary purpose of our business, which is to service the financial needs of our clients. Personal, professional and even corporate goals may lead some of the best financial planners to occasionally place their focus in a direction that isn’t in the client’s best interest but in theirs. When this happens, it goes against the “science of service.”

In the short-term, this shift of focus may help the planner accomplish a goal but typically in the long-run it can only be counterproductive because it goes against what should be all about a planner’s integrity. Once this “line” is crossed it is that much easier to cross it again because a planner’s definition of what that “line” is becomes blurred by excuses.

Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I believe this is very true. However, that begs the question of, “What constitutes service?”

Understanding the Science of Service

Most planners and agents think that the definition of service is to answer incoming client calls, hear what they need, drop everything and attend to their requests. However, that is a very reactive client servicing system. And, while this type of servicing is obviously necessary at times, it isn’t the only thing that clients need.

Step 1: Have a High Level of Integrity

Over twenty years ago, I asked John M., the most seasoned financial planner in the office a simple question, “Can you run a financial advisory practice with integrity and still make a great living?” He simply smiled and said, “You will make more money than you could ever imagine as long as you continue to do the right thing.”

Unfortunately, we have all met prospects who owned products that were inappropriate for them. Instead, the planner who sold them these types of products probably did so because they were thinking of their own best interests.

Ironically, the science of servicing begins even before a prospect becomes a client because recommending an inappropriate product(s) is doing the prospect and yourself a disservice.

A level of impeccable integrity must continue when they do become a client.

Step 2: Have a High Level of Product and Market Knowledge

Clients entrust their hard-earned money to you because they believe you not only have their best interest at heart but that you fully understand the right investment strategies for them. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to keep abreast of your product and market knowledge.

An example of this is Paul C., a financial planner client of mine who spends at least 30 minutes each morning reading something related to the stock market, the economy and/or various products that he recommends to his clients. He says that by doing so he feels well-versed to answer any questions that his clients or prospects have.

Step 3: Have a Proactive Client Servicing System

Most financial planners want to service their clients in the best way possible, but many fail to understand how to service clients effectively because they don’t understand what great service means.

David P., another client of mine, was putting out fires all day long which made him feel exhausted more often than not. That is until we designed a proactive client servicing system by segmenting his book, clearly defining his client servicing levels, systematizing his client servicing activities and delegating many of the day-to-day interruptions to his staff. It didn’t take long before David felt back in control of his day.

Why Servicing is Not an Art

Hopefully by now you can relate to the planners in each one of the examples and realize that what they’re doing is not subjective. To John M., integrity is the cornerstone of service; to Paul C., knowledge is imperative to keeping his clients informed and having the right investments; and to David P., having a proactive client servicing system gives his clients and himself peace of mind. To these planners, their activities are not open to interpretation. Instead, they have adopted a “science of service” mindset.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.


1 Comment

Learning the Language of the Layman

It’s been said that people won’t buy what they don’t understand. Most confused prospects and clients won’t admit that they’re befuddled. Why? Because they don’t want to look foolish.

Planners who like to dazzle prospects and clients using industry specific terminology may be creating a real disconnect with them.

For these planners, learning the “language of the layman” isn’t so much about dumbing down their recommendations as it is about simplifying the message. Let’s take a look at some simple ways to make the translation.

The following is a step-by-step process to help you make a great connection.

Step 1: Help them Understand Why to Buy

Most planners want to begin an appointment by selling their recommendations because they are so adamant about what they are recommending. Unfortunately, people hate to be sold to but they love to buy. For them to want to buy, they have to understand why they need what you’re recommending. To get them to that place, you must first ask questions.

Some examples of questions that I’ve used while prospecting are around taking too much risk: Do you know what percentage of your portfolio is in stocks? Why do you have so much money in just a few companies? If the market pulls back, what happens to your portfolio? Since you are already retired, what do you think is the best course of action for you?

The natural rebuttal is, “We shouldn’t be taking that much risk.”

Step 2: Find out What They Know

In the aforementioned example, it doesn’t take a prospect very long to start understanding that there is a challenge. In this case, that they have a large percentage of their portfolio in just a few stocks and that they need to diversify. The next step is to find out what they know. The following are just a few examples of questions that I have used to find out what prospects know about mutual funds:

“Have you ever owned mutual funds? How long have you owned them? Has anyone ever explained to you what mutual funds are?”

I asked these questions of a couple in their late sixties. Although he knew what mutual funds were, she informed me that they have owned mutual funds for over 40 years and nobody has ever fully explained them to her.

Step 3: Tell Them a Story

The final step to speak layman’s language is to tell or share a story. Clients and prospects alike connect with a great story because they understand your products and services better when they can relate it to something that is familiar to them. The following illustrates my point:

A mutual fund portfolio is like a grocery bag. When you go to the grocery store, you buy products that you know that are made by companies that you are familiar with such as Coca- Cola, Kellogg’s and General Electric. If you bought a piece of these companies you would be buying a stock.

When you go to check out of the grocery store, the bagger puts your products into a grocery bag. A mutual fund portfolio is grocery bag of stocks and/or bonds.

What I have done is created the grocery cart or a portfolio of six mutual funds that complement each other and are right for someone who is retired. Each grocery bag, or mutual fund, will have two hundred or more positions.

Can you see why having a portfolio of six mutual funds made up of over 1,200 positions will reduce your risk?

Connection, Not Correction

After I told the preceding story, my client thanked me for taking the time to explain and both saw the value in reducing their risk. The reason why they bought my recommendations was because I did not try and correct them, rather I tried to connect with them to help them do what was in their best interests.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

.

 


Leave a comment

Wealth Transfer: Family Philanthropy as a Conversation

Your clients have a dream.

Longtime clients Jack and Sheri are also longtime animal lovers. Over the years, they’ve shared with you their dream of starting a dog rescue for senior canine citizens. As you’ve guided Jack and Sheri in making important decisions about their investment portfolio, you’ve also discussed how a portion of their wealth could be directed toward realizing their lifelong desire to help homeless older dogs.

But are Jack and Sheri’s children, Alex and Alyssa, clued in to their parents’ animal aspirations? And—just as important—do they support them?

Maybe. But more likely, maybe not. That’s because conversations about family wealth and its disposition following a triggering life event can be, well, uncomfortable.

Here’s your opportunity to demonstrate your concern—and your expertise. By bringing Jack and Sheri’s kids into the family conversation about philanthropic giving, you not only enhance your value in the eyes of the parents but also set the stage for developing a relationship with Alex and Alyssa, which could eventually lead them to sign on as clients as well. Considering that most heirs switch advisers after their parents pass, connecting early and often with potential second-generation clients could be the lifeblood of your practice.

A Conversation Starter

As a trusted adviser to a family, you can highlight the true value of your relationship by helping them prepare for the challenging decisions surrounding wealth transfer. While discussions about family wealth can be fraught with emotion, using philanthropy to start the dialogue may help diffuse tension and open the door to a meaningful exchange.

An annual family meeting offers an ideal opportunity to broach the subject of philanthropic giving. Prior to your inaugural meeting, which should include your couple clients and their children only, you should:

  • Educate families on the importance of legacy conversations in ensuring a successful wealth transfer to the next generation. Your goal is to help them articulate their individual and shared goals for their wealth, as unique as those goals may be.
  • Have each partner complete a questionnaire that probes for answers about family success stories, the family’s values and views about philanthropy and family giving.
  • Discuss the couple’s responses in a follow-up meeting and use them as a basis for developing an agenda for the initial family meeting.

Aligning Family Values with Giving

This first meeting provides a forum for parents to communicate information to the next generation—and for the next generation to ask questions about this information. You’ll want to facilitate family dialogue by encouraging the parents to share their success stories, which will highlight their family values. In turn, those family values will naturally lead to a conversation about how they can express their beliefs through philanthropic giving.

Discussing family philanthropy introduces the subject of wealth transfer in a way that will make talking about money more comfortable. It’s also a great tool for children to learn about finance and investing. To further engage their children, the parents may want to task them with identifying and researching some charitable organizations to consider supporting. At the next family meeting, family members can continue this conversation and decide where they may want to gift a small donation provided by the parents.

To read more, visit Janus Henderson’s Wealth Management resources.

Matt Sommer

Matt Sommer is Vice President and leads the Defined Contribution and Wealth Advisor Services team at Janus Henderson. In this role, he provides advice and consultation to financial advisers surrounding some of today’s most complex retirement issues. His expertise covers a number of areas including regulatory and legislative trends, practitioner best practices and financial and retirement planning strategies for high-net-worth clients. 


Leave a comment

What Messages Your Billing Practices Send to Clients

We work and live in the era of the client experience. For financial planners, the top two measurements of success are wealth growth and client satisfaction. Each interaction you have with your boss (because that’s who your clients are) matters.

Have you ever stopped to consider what message you are sending to your clients when it comes to your billing practices?

Here are five things to consider when it’s time to bill your clients:

  • How timely are you billing for your services? If you are billing too late it is an indication that your back-office operations are not iron clad. Evidence of back-office operational weakness tends to lead clients to believe that you might not have your act together.
  • How accurate are your statements or invoices? Many investors have questioned the credibility and professionalism of their financial planner based on a simple billing snafu. Many are forgiving when such an occurrence happens the first time, but a recurrence happens and the doubts resurface and they may be open to “just listening” to another financial planner’s pitch.
  • How visually appealing are your statements or invoices? When it comes to the aesthetic appeal of your statement of fees or invoices, you have an opportunity to impress your clients. Don’t let the presentation of your fees take away from that holistic experience of professionalism and polish.
  • How flexible are the billing capabilities of your portfolio management platform? You should realize that your financial advisory practice is only as nimble as the technology solutions you use. Don’t get stuck without the ability to offer new products or services because your current billing capabilities are rigid and force you to jump through hoops to deliver professional results.
  • What fee disclosure regulations are applicable to your practice? With the recent buzz coming from the Department of Labor, the reality is that fee disclosure is best practice for the financial services industry. Professionally presenting your clients with the details of their fees is a must.

Editor’s Note: If you think you might need help with your billing operations, FPA members have access to discounts that can help, specifically BillFin from Redi2 Technologies, Inc. FPA members get one month free on their first year of BillFin subscription and all renewals. Also, members receive 20 percent off when they pay for the year up front. For more information, visit this link.

Seth

Seth Johnson is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Redi2 Technologies, Inc., where he oversees the strategic development of the firm and has been instrumental in driving consistent revenue growth and customer partnerships. He graduated cum laude from the University of Utah.


1 Comment

Anxious Clients Neglect Advice

Seeking financial advice puts a person in a vulnerable position.

Ted Klontz, associate professor and founder of Financial Psychology Institute at Creighton University, told FPA Annual Conference attendees during his education session, “Gifts from Neuroscience: Building Robust Resilient Client Relationships,” that clients are probably already stressed out when they come to your office and it’s up to you—and the environment you create in your office—to calm them down.

“Our challenge as experts is to keep that anxiety level down,” Klontz said.

Keeping those stress levels down is vital to having clients follow your advice, said Ryan Sullivan, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, of MoneyGuidePro, who in his Annual Conference presentation, “Measuring and Managing Stress in the Financial Planning Process,” addressed results from research by Sonya Britt-Lutter, Derek Lawson, and Camila Haselwood published in the December 2016 issue of the Journal.

“When clients are stressed they make bad decisions or don’t stick with decisions they’ve already made,” Sullivan said.

Britt-Lutter, Lawson, and Haselwood monitored the heart rates, skin conductance (sweat levels), and skin temperatures of clients working with an adviser for the first time. Essentially, they found when clients were more relaxed, they were more likely to follow your advice.

The research Sullivan presented noted stress levels decrease as the planning process progresses—peaking in the beginning and during discussions on how to improve finances while leveling out during the other phases. However, stress levels were higher for clients doing in-person meetings. Those clients started the process at high levels before leveling out to moderate levels. Stress levels among clients working with a planner virtually started out moderate and dropped to low levels or no stress at all. This may speak to the need to for planning firms to adopt virtual meeting technology or robo-solutions.

Other key findings included: women were more stressed than men going through the research process; and advisers (who were also monitored like the clients) also had high levels of stress prior to the meetings, though it leveled off further down the process.

Because clients are more stressed when meeting in person, do what you can to make your office, your demeanor, and your information-gathering process welcoming. Plus, try to keep your stress levels down; doing so will help keep your clients’ stress levels down, too.

If you missed FPA’s Annual Conference this year, register for next year’s event in Chicago, Ill., from Oct. 3-5, 2018.

Ana Headshot

Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


Leave a comment

The 6 Personality Traits of Successful People

Money is what makes all your clients’ priorities possible, Jean Chatzky, financial editor for the Today Show, told FPA Annual Conference attendees earlier this month.

And if they’re constantly worried and stressed about it, they’re probably going to stumble upon what seems like more than their fair share of problems. Though this might sound a little like wishful thinking Chatzky claims it’s true: more happiness will lead to more money for your clients.

Chatzky outlined the six traits of successful and wealthy people that she identified through her research. Chatzky conducted a study of 5,000 people and found that personality traits are just as important as good financial habits.

Here are the six factors Chatzky found were key to success:

Happiness or optimism. Happiness is key to success—just not too much of it. Among Chatzky’s study participants, those who were too happy (a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being blissed out) weren’t as successful as those who were an eight. The eights were better problem solvers, they lived longer, were more successful, earned more money, had higher amounts of emergency savings and received greater evaluations from their colleagues. If your clients are too happy, perhaps find a way to make them a little more cognizant of reality; but if your clients are miserable, figure out how they can make themselves happier.

Resilience. Thomas Edison “failed” hundreds of times when inventing the lightbulb, but he didn’t see it that way. He said he succeeded in proving that hundreds of ways didn’t work. People who have resilience can overcome problems in their work, personal and financial lives more readily than people who aren’t resilient.

“The best news about resilience is that you don’t have to be born with it,” Chatzky said.

Connectedness. People who had built up a good amount of social capital—connecting with people—were more successful than people who did not have good connections. These people made time to connect with people despite their “busy” schedules. Successful people not only made time to connect with friends and family but also to forge new relationships.

Passion. Having passion about a career is what moves people from a life of financial struggle to one of financial success. The people who have passion just want it more than others. These people are not just pursing a job or even a career, they are living and doing what is their calling. Figure out what your calling is and live your passion.

Financial Habits. Successful people are habitual savers, have appropriate debt, are able to level emotions and have a long-term plan, Chatzky said. Chances are your clients have better financial habits than the average American (most of whom are terrible savers), but it’s never a bad idea to reinforce their good habits.

Gratitude. You always want more if you’re not grateful for what you already have. Chatzky said gratitude is key among successful people and as a result of them being more grateful, they are also more generous (giving to people and charitable causes), less depressed and healthier.

anaheadshot

Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.