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Get an early start: 7 ideas for 2017's strategic planning

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Planning season is upon us, and advisory firms are thinking hard about the future.

Here are seven trends we expect to be at the top of RIA agendas next year. Most firm leaders know that to be successful, you can’t do too many things at once. Fidelity recently hosted a meeting of over 20 RIA firms in Boston, and the consensus was overwhelming: focusing on just a few key action items is the best way to help drive measurable results for your firm.

Read more: Voices 16 for '16: Top RIA Trends'

So prioritize two or three areas when you outline your strategic plan for 2017 and keep the rest of these top of mind as you evaluate and re-evaluate over the course of the next year.

Client Experience - Many advisory firms are focusing on new and collaborative ways to help enhance and evolve the client experience.

Offerings like United Capital’s FinLife Partners and new work around the client discovery process by Jeff Belkora are prominent examples of how advisory firms are seeking to expand how they engage with clients by offering a broader range of services.

Seniors and Older Investors - There continues to be a lot of buzz around the investing habits of millennials. But there will be more focus in 2017 on older investors, including issues around longevity and how to address their needs, as well as how best to protect aging clients.

Regulation - All firms, irrespective of their business model, will be devoting a lot of time and effort to address and comply with the fiduciary rule. Best practices for implementing compliance policies and procedures will be front and center next year.

Succession Planning - Fidelity's benchmarking studies show that nearly two-thirds of independent investment advisory firms have yet to craft and implement a succession plan. But demographics and the SEC's new proposed business continuity regulation will be catalysts for advisory firms to address this pressing issue.

Still a Seller’s Market - It’s a seller’s market for your practice. However, be prepared to fully understand the process, due diligence, valuation methodology and deal terms.

Gamification - Pokemon Go for wealth management? Look for a new cutting-edge app that helps to gamify and make financial services fun. Gamification may serve as a client acquisition tool and result in more client and prospect engagement — or not.

Professionalization - Expect further professionalization of the advisory force in 2017. Much attention will be paid to client capacity limits and client segmentation strategies. Firms will need to address these issues in order to more effectively scale their businesses and more efficiently serve clients.

David Canter is executive vice president, Practice Management and Consulting, for Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions.

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