Make clients feel like it's their financial plan, not yours
For many years, comprehensive wealth advisers have been providing financial plans for clients. While each adviser has their own process they walk clients through, the specific processes are likely a bit similar.
We begin by understanding who the client is, what their goals are and what their current financial situation looks like, and then we provide a financial plan with strategies to improve their situation and reach their goals. As we continue to work with the client, we review and monitor their plan to ensure it continues to synch with their goals and objectives. Sound about right?
In terms of the traditional method for building a financial plan, most advisers will collect the client’s financial information, review the data, construct a plan and present the financial plan to the client. There is nothing wrong with this process; it is not broken. The industry has utilized the before mentioned process for years. My question for advisers is, whose plan is it?
The data is not that of the adviser’s, but he or she did construct the plan and proposed strategies to help the client accomplish their goals, all while sitting behind the scenes at their desk. Finally, when the adviser is ready to present the plan, they are pitching a plan consisting of their ideas and strategies in the hopes the client will agree to implement.
The problem with this approach is, in the mind of the client, they may not have bought into the fact that this is really their plan and not the adviser’s.
There is alternative method that is more collaborative with the client. This could be done shoulder-to-shoulder in the adviser’s office or by leveraging screen sharing technology. What if the adviser set up the very basic inputs for the client, but otherwise used the meeting to work together to build the client’s plan?
In the past, advisers have argued that they didn’t want to enter all the client’s financial accounts into the system with the client in the office. It could take over an hour to simply accomplish that one task.
While that may have been the case years ago, now an adviser can capture the client’s investment holdings in just a few minutes using data aggregation technology. As a result, once the adviser has the basic client data and all of the client’s investment holdings, the rest of the meeting can be spent on modeling planning scenarios specific to the client’s goals and objectives.
As the adviser builds the plan together with the client, the client is no longer just along for the ride. They are an active participant in designing the current strategy and understanding what they need to do to accomplish their goals.
As an example, if a client is not saving enough to retire at their preferred age, the adviser and the client can manipulate a savings number to determine what amount might be appropriate to reach their age-based goal. With the client playing a role in determining the strategy, it makes delivering the message to the client that much easier and actionable. Isn't that what we want? To be able to provide our clients advice and have them take action?
Please understand, I am not simply providing a small tip on how to deliver financial plans. I truly believe we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the way advisers provide advice to clients.
More often, clients want to be involved in the planning process, and technology is enabling a lot of this change. In fact, several financial planning programs have this technology today and are designing their platforms with this process in mind.
For example, eMoney and MoneyGuidePro are in the process of releasing user interfaces designed to engage the client directly in creating their financial plan with the adviser’s guidance. In addition, Advizr, a relatively new financial planning program, takes the client plan creation concept a step further. Advizr allows the client to create and enter their own financial plan and then have the plan reviewed by their adviser after it’s been completed by the client.
Whenever we are talking about making a change to a process or technology, we need to understand that our clients are unique and may want to take varying approaches. This collaborative approach to building plans may not be right for everyone, but as a firm that has been implementing this process over the last several years, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in the engagement of our clients.
We’re confident that as firms begin testing this new philosophy of plan co-creation, it will become a more common way of building client engagement and communication.