Every Monday, at my firms weekly planner meeting, we spend several hours discussing financial planning theory, individual cases, investment strategy and other important issues for our business. These meetings have been in place since early in the firm's 30-year history, but as our firm structure has evolved, we've also adapted this team approach to use in day-to-day operations.
Our planning sessions are now structured so that our advisors team up with a second CFP to deliver more robust advice. I believe that clients are receiving better advice because of the second and third opinions generated by the idea sharing in these more robust planning teams -- and I think that my firm benefits as well, for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of them.
1. Familiarity can result in blind spots.
If youre like most planners, youre looking to work with clients for the long term. But over time, you may become less inquisitive about a client's circumstances; eventually, you may no longer know what you thought you did.
We have found that adding a newer team member can bring perspective and discovery that would not be possible. Want specific examples? In our firm, that second team member has uncovered estate planning opportunities, suggested novel Social Security claiming methods, uncovered unknown client goals, and generally expanded the advice relationship.
2. Teamwork drives creativity.
Gone are the days that clients are simply looking for a straight-line retirement analysis -- after all, most clients can probably get that online. Because you need more creative approaches, adding an extra planner to the mix can foster brainstorming.
When done right, your team should expand each others ideas, playing devil's advocate or pursuing topics that might be off the beaten path. In one Monday session, for instance, our planners debated the pros and cons for one client of a Roth conversion vs. Affordable Care Act subsidies in a low-income year early in retirement. During the resulting conversation with the clients, we recommended that they pursue ACA subsidies for the year -- and the clients appreciated the nuances of a recommendation born from a healthy team debate.
3. A team approach trains newer planners.
As advisors who are in different stages of their career team up, younger planners get a fertile training ground in which to hone their skills. Seasoned planners can get the benefits and perspective of a reverse mentor, and can give younger peers immediate feedback on the ways that they interact with clients.
Earlier in my career, I received essential constructive criticism from one of my firms founders after a joint client meeting. A client had become uncomfortable discussing a sensitive subject, and my immediate reaction had included nervous laughter. Afterward, my mentor corrected me, showing the value of space, silence and active listening to acknowledge my clients deep concern on the topic.
Ive held that advice close to my heart ever since and look for opportunities to pass it on to our next gen today.
Melissa Joy, CFP, is partner and director of wealth management at Center for Financial Planning, an independent Raymond James firm in Southfield, Mich.
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