Attracting multimillion-dollar clients is valuable because they can help advisors decrease their client count while increasing their income at the same time.

One of the best ways to build a high-net-worth client roster is by forming a strategic alliance, which can entice valuable clients and help trigger considerable growth in a practice.

I have seen advisors who master this strategy double their net income and triple their assets under management.

Most advisors get their top clients as the result of referrals from other professionals, but strong strategic alliances take persistence and a well-organized process.

Here are six key steps in empowering advisors to build alliances that can generate results.

1. Have a well-defined client experience in place. Advisors must demonstrate to potential partners

that they have a systematic, replicable process that allows the delivery of great service to clients on a consistent basis.

Professionals such as accountants and attorneys are often reluctant to work with advisors or send referrals their way. One big reason is that they worry that they are sending their top clients into a lion’s den of uncertainty.

But by having a carefully crafted, well-defined process for working with affluent clients, advisors will be able to show these professionals exactly what their clients will experience.

2. Know potential alliance partners. Good potential partners are those who work with affluent clients

in a target market; those who are in a position to build trusted and long-term relationships with those clients; and those who want to build their businesses.

That provides plenty of options to consider.

Accountants and attorneys are the obvious first professionals with whom to consider forming alliances because they work with clients on key financial issues that relate to the role of an advisor. In particular, private-client lawyers who specialize in trusts, estates and asset protection can be great resources.

There are many other types of professionals who fit the bill, including life insurance specialists, association executives, business brokers, investment bankers, consultants, CEO groups, property casualty agents and media outlets.

3. Identify ideal partners to pursue. Don’t feel overwhelmed by all the options. Winnow down the list

of potential allies quickly by creating a profile of the ideal strategic alliance partners who will guide search efforts.

This profile should include traits that an advisor would like to see in a potential partner, as well as non-negotiable attributes.

Armed with an ideal profile, create a master list of candidates.

The first step should be to ask the wealthiest, most ideal existing clients. The CPA Directory is a great source for finding accountants, as is the local or state CPA Society.

For attorneys, there is the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

At this point, it is time to make calls and reach out to potential partners. Advisors should tell them they would like to discuss joint opportunities during an exploratory meeting.

This is a tough call for many advisors to make because it can feel a bit like cold calling. But advisors may be shocked by how many “yes, let’s meet” responses they receive.

The reason is simple: These professionals often need help with business development and building their practices, too.

4. Begin the consultative strategic alliance process. This is a series of meetings to have with potential

partners that will ensure that all stakeholders are clear about expectations and goals. It is designed to maximize success for those who choose to move forward with a partner, as well as to help recognize when it is best to move on and look elsewhere.

The first step is the aforementioned exploratory meeting, during which an advisor interviews the candidate about issues such as the key services their clients want, what their ideal clients look like, what the professional does to differentiate the firm from the competition and some of their biggest marketing successes to date.

If the process proceeds, the next step is to meet with any other key decision makers within the firm to assess their openness to working collaboratively on behalf of shared clients. This is also an ideal situation in which to discuss the systematic approach an advisor uses with his or her clients to ensure great experiences.

5. Create and present an action plan. From there, move on to develop a strategic action plan that can

be used to create a roadmap for a successful relationship. This plan should include a description of the challenges and opportunities facing the potential alliance partner, the benefits to the other professional of entering into an alliance, and a series of steps to take together to serve mutual clients and build both businesses.

For example, advisors should consider launching a pilot program in which they first take the firm’s partners through their investment process. Then offer services to the firm’s 10 top clients.

Once advisors have proved themselves to partners and top clients, they can extend their service offering to the rest of the client base.

The plan also needs to include some sort of economic glue that will keep the alliance together for the long term. Economic glue can include a revenue-sharing arrangement, but it also can be created by helping the other firm build its business and address its challenges.

Develop the plan in partnership with the key professional at the other firm who is working on this. By collaborating, an advisor won’t miss any important points and will increase the chance of getting the crucial buy-in from any other partners.

When presenting the plan to stakeholders, highlight all the reasons why an alliance makes sense, for both firms and for the clients being served. Listen for pushback and adjust accordingly, if it makes sense to do so.

Ultimately, reach an agreement to form an alliance and move ahead.

6. Communicate and track progress regularly. Once everyone is on board, implement the strategy to work together and set up a series of check-in meetings to track progress.


Executing well on these steps isn’t an easy or fast proposition. But there is no denying the power that well-crafted strategic alliances can have on a business.

John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and chief executive of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors in San Martin, Calif.

This story is part of a 30-day series on smart ways to grow your practice. It was originally published on March 1, 2016.