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6 ways to grow a practice in times of tumult

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The result of last year’s presidential election seems to have raised a seemingly endless number of questions for clients and their families. The issues in play range from health care law to tax code changes to the impact of trade policy and regulations on corporate profits.

The good news is that this uncertainty can create a huge opportunity for you — if you take steps to walk your clients through this period of remarkable change. When you show you can keep them on track to achieve their most important goals, you position yourself to capture more assets and introductions to prospective clients and provide the advanced planning services beyond investment management that your wealthy clients value.

That doesn’t mean you must have all the answers to clients’ questions. That’s practically impossible, given how little we know about the Trump administration’s intended plans. What it does mean is that you need to show you are aware of the uncertainty and working to help clients navigate developments as they arise.

With that in mind, here are six key actions for serving your clients well and capturing opportunities for your own firm.

It may seem easier to put everything on hold until there is greater certainty, but you would be passing up huge opportunities to grow your business and serve your clients better if you choose that route. In short: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

None of us knows exactly what the tax, regulatory, health care and investment environments will look like a year from now. But you can still move ahead in serving your clients and growing your practice.

This is a good time to set clear, quantifiable business goals to help you gauge your progress and keep yourself accountable. Spell out your goals in each of these areas for 12-month and three-year time frames:

• Assets under management
• Net new organic assets under management
• Number of clients
• Net new ideal clients
• Personal annual net income

Stay as current on developments as possible while changes are in discussion so you are ready to answer client questions. Here are your three best sources:

  • Direct communications. Members of Congress all issue statements, conduct news conferences and post their positions online.

  • News sources. Although one could argue reasonably that there are no unbiased news sources, some are better than others. Select from the range of political persuasions, from liberal to conservative, to get a variety of perspectives and commentary.
    • Think tanks. Nonpartisan think tanks frequently release detailed analyses of policy proposals, though each may have its own ideological leanings. These are generally available for free from their web sites, but also consider subscribing to those you feel are most valuable and informative.

    Don’t get bogged down by the sheer volume of information. Identify no more than 10 sources of information that you trust and then spend no more than 20 minutes a day in perusing those sources.

    Your clients are unsure of what changes will mean for their current planning strategies and, ultimately, for their most important financial goals. Do not wait for them to contact you. And do not wait until all the new laws are settled. This client communication doesn’t have to be complicated.

    • Contact the client and offer to answer any questions they might have about tax reform, health care laws or other issues.
    • Reassure clients that you’re monitoring the potential changes and that you’ll make recommendations about needed adjustments to their planning strategies.
    • Let them know you are watching for any risks and for new opportunities being created by new laws.

    Also be upfront that there will be changes and that challenges usually accompany change, but that you want to keep a long-term focus on issues that impact their wealth.

    Advanced planning solutions are the wealth management services and products that can help your wealthy clients build and protect significant wealth. These offerings encompass such areas as strategic tax planning, estate planning and asset protection.

    Because of their complexity, these advanced solutions — which may include trusts, private placement life insurance and other tools — nearly always require the expertise of specialists. This means you need relationships with specialists — especially tax professionals to help your clients take advantage of opportunities that may be created by changes to the tax code.

    If you don’t already have a network of advisers in place, consider building one. Alternately, you may be able to access advanced planning professionals through mastermind groups for financial professionals.

    But do not attempt to acquire the expertise yourself. One person simply cannot attain the vast scope of technical knowledge across multiple products and services that are required. Your time will be far better spent on building your client relationships and improving your communication and outreach skills.

    Some of your more successful clients probably work with multiple advisers. When you stand out from the others with proactive leadership during this time of uncertainty, you can become their go-to adviser and position yourself to manage more of their assets and provide advanced solutions.

    To execute an “asset capture” process, identify the asset transfer opportunities. You need to know which clients have assets you are not managing. You can gain this understanding during your initial discovery conversation with each client or through a rediscovery process. Next, simply ask for the assets; this is something that most advisers are reluctant to do.

    Ask to do a diagnostic review of the client’s investment accounts to make sure all the parts of your portfolio are working optimally together.

    After completing the review, deliver the results to the client. If it’s appropriate, recommend the transfer of assets to your practice by showing how it would improve the probability that they would meet their goals.

    As with asset capture, times of uncertainty offer great opportunities for bringing in new clients via introductions from existing clients.

    The most effective route for doing so is to offer to provide a free second-opinion service to people they care about. When you meet with their friends, family members or colleagues who want to be sure they are making smart decisions in the current environment, you will:

    • Take them through a discovery process to get very clear on where they are now, where they want to go and what the gaps are.
    • Evaluate whether their current advisers are taking good care of them.
    • If they are being taken care of, you will recommend that they stay with their current advisers.
    • If not, you will evaluate whether you would be the right adviser for them — and point them toward better options than they currently have if you’re not ideally suited to help them.

    This is truly a time when client outreach and having the right resources at the ready can do wonders for your success. But the time to act is now.

    Once there is greater clarity on a number of issues, your efforts to guide clients won’t seem quite as unique or valued-added.

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