The financial planning process is at the core of successful adviser/client relationships, and collaboration plays a key part in building that success.

The industry is trending toward advice-driven business models built around relationships and a rich planning experience.

“Advisers who prioritize collaboration and engage clients as active participants in the retirement planning process are positioned to evolve with this trend and make clients feel more comfortable and confident about their retirement,” says Matthew Schulte, senior vice president of financial planning at eMoney Advisor, a software firm in Radnor, Pa., that provides interactive financial technology services to advisers.

John Gajkowski, co-founder of Money Managers Financial Group in Oak Brook, Ill., agrees.

Having a good, collaborative relationship with clients already in or approaching retirement is essential to make it work, he says.

“We act as a roadmap to check their progress along the way,” Gajkowski says.

“We’re like a financial coach,” he says. “Our responsibility is to help look at what-if scenarios, pointing out things they have thought of and things they haven’t thought about retirement.”
Gajkowski explains the process: “We try to look at the world through their eyes, and bring our financial expertise to help solve potential problems. When done properly, we end up with three sets of eyes looking at a particular program all coming at it from a slightly different angle.

He adds: “It’s like a financial GPS. It allows us to come up with the most beneficial answer.”

To Gregory Hammer, president of Hammer Financial Group in Schererville, Ind., the collaborative approach means getting down into the trenches with clients and coming up with specifics “rather than taking a cookie-cutter” approach.

“I need to find out what they want from retirement, what are their income needs, and identify the gaps and mitigate the risks,” says Hammer, who practices a coordinated, holistic approach to financial planning.

For instance, “If a client wants to travel the world, I will find out how much they want to spend and try to create a plan that can make that happen,” he says.

With most investors mobile and social-media savvy, Scott E. Couto, president of Fidelity Institutional Asset Management, recommends that advisers get up to speed on technology, which can enhance the collaborative process.

“While successful advisers are often skilled at building face-to-face trusted relationships, technology can play a role in enhancing the client experience and even fostering higher levels of trust, even if it may never fully replace the value of human interaction,” he says.

Adds eMoney’s Schulte: “Leveraging technology like a client portal to share updates about their savings and investments certainly produces collaboration, and strong relationships form as a result.”

This story is part of a 30-30 series on tools and strategies for retirement.