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4 Rules for Better Communication With Clients

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LAS VEGAS -- Tax strategy and investment management are important, but communicating with clients is one of the most critical aspects of any financial planner's practice, argued pioneering planner Harold Evensky.

"It's really about presenting to our [prospective clients] what we believe in," the president of Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial told attendees at the 2015 AICPA Personal Financial Planning Conference. "The more that [you] are clear and upfront with what [you] believe, the more likely it is you'll keep the client."

When he communicates with clients, Evensky said he focuses on three things: Philosophy, process and people. He says he aims to establish transparency with his clients regarding his philosophy and his process. He also focuses on educating them about the decisions he makes on their behalf.

Here are four key takeaways from Evensky's approach.


Many of Evensky's communication techniques are specific to the outset of a client-advisor relationship. 

He suggested inviting prospective clients in and simply asking: "Tell me about yourself." 

Don't dive into the nitty-gritty until after you've talked for a while, he said. "Once we get to the point where they've made a commitment and want to be a client, get to the data gathering stage," he said.


"When I first saw [this strategy], I kind of made fun of it," he admitted, before suggesting that advisors make flash cards of potential spending goals. Possible candidates could include funding a grandchild's college education, paying for a child's wedding, or acquiring a new car or yacht. 

Advisors should ask clients to put the cards in different piles, Evensky said -- with one representing ideas that resonate with them, and one stack including those expenditures they don't want to prioritize.

No matter your approach, sitting down with a client and helping them align their priorities is a great place to start, Evensky said: "It's a very powerful way of capturing important information you need to start developing a plan for clients." 


Evensky stressed the importance of reminding clients what your investment and planning philosophies are. 

If you're agnostic about active and passive management strategies, for example, don't let your clients be surprised to see you use both, he said.

It's important to establish reasonable assumptions with your clients, he added.

"We spend a lot of time communicating with clients on an ongoing basis what our value is," he said. This can be particularly important in times where markets are especially volatile. 


While it may be instinctual to avoid clients when things go amiss, it's when you should be communicating most actively, Evensky said.

"Our goal is to call the client before they call us, particularly when things are bleak or bad," said Evensky.  "Merely that phone call, merely the fact that we're there for them, is extraordinarily powerful."

He also suggests reinforcing support for clients by frequently communicating with them overall.

Ask clients what medium they'd prefer to be contacted through and update them often. He offered one caveat, however -- "Don't contact them so much that it becomes noise," Evensky said.

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