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5 Keys to Becoming a High-Performing Planning Firm

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Financial planning firms outperform when they plan well for themselves, according to a benchmarking study by a Fidelity Investments unit.

“It may sound self-evident, but it isn’t,” said Mike Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. “Firms have to commit to planning. The firms on a path to high performance are on a fast course to planning.”

The survey, which polled 308 firms last spring, identified these five attributes to a successful firm:

The five attributes are:

1. Explore business model options to evolve

Advisors need to continually evolve their business model to maintain a competitive edge. The lines between different business models are rapidly blurring. Competitors are becoming partners. Acquisitions are adding new competencies. And changing investor expectations are calling for a different way of doing business. Most advisors explore two to three business models before going independent. Existing advisors have a range of choices when it comes to expanding or changing their practice to stay competitive.

2. Commit to a plan to achieve goals

Only 30% of firms have a written marketing plan and only 25% have succession plans. Achieving meaningful gains in growth or efficiency requires discipline: a plan, commitment, resources, communication and measurement.

3. Harness technology to improve the client experience

“There are 1,000 different bells and whistles available out there for an RIA,” Durbin said, adding that firms must ask, “How does it actually help me to improve the client experience?"

4. Focus on attracting the right clients

“Crudely, this isn’t a white Anglo-Saxon marketplace anymore,” Durbin said. “Segmentation around generations, geographies [and other client categories] needs to be very methodical and plan-ful … to engage the right clients.” Top performing firms often serve tightly defined client segments exclusively. Maintaining this focus can be very lucrative but requires great discipline that most firms are not capable of.

5.  Build strong teams inside – and outside – of your firm

It takes a village of partners to create and evolve firm. The best firms invest heavily in finding the right people not just to hire but to partner with in offering broader suites of holistic planning services to clients.

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