Clients have more choices than ever for managing their finances. Discount brokers, roboadvisors and ETF firms all compete for your clients. Many of these alternatives place a focus on advisor fees and some even highlight the impact of advisor fees on total returns. It makes for a compelling read, but it leaves off some critical data. Like the fact that you perform a basket of services that optimize a complete financial plan. Or that you are there to save investors from panicked decisions like exiting the market at the bottom of the 30% Covid drop in 2020... then keeping their “chips off the table” during the momentous market rise that followed.
With the constant messaging from low-fee alternatives, the value proposition from wealth advisors and life agents must be clear and well communicated. Offerings like a detailed financial plan, quarterly portfolio reviews as well as tax and insurance advice can round out the value equation. Life-stage advice including college expense planning and retirement transition assistance can also be important value markers that anchor the relationship. But are we missing a key area of client value?
How involved are your clients in their wealth building?
In a traditional advisor-client relationship, the work is one-sided. The advisor completes an intake survey, inks agreements, understands the client objectives, assesses their risk profile, builds a portfolio, moves funds, crafts a financial plan, invests, rebalances and reports out to the client on a quarterly basis. In addition, they may do some tax and estate planning, insurance strategies and other services. And what is the client doing during all this work? Very likely...nothing. And that can lead to a lopsided relationship where the advisor does the work, and their performance is reviewed by the client. In short, the client is not involved in the relationship.
Involvement breeds commitment
A common leadership approach to build commitment is to get the employees involved in solving a problem. Serve them up the problem to solve, provide the gating parameters and make them a part of the brainstorming. Then, once they craft a solution, get them involved in the implementation and measurement. Inevitably, they become more invested in the problem and more committed to their solution. Morale rises as they implement their own ideas and results improve. They become more committed in the situation because they become more involved in it. Could this approach be applied to the advisor-client relationship?
What if the workload is shared, where the client focuses on optimizing her expenses and freeing up the maximum funds for investment, while the advisor optimizes risk and return in her portfolio? If the client had some tools to minimize expenses and commit more cashflow to regular investment, those incremental contributions could have a powerful effect on building their wealth. The client’s effort on expense reduction
increases their involvement in the relationship. The quarterly review can now include the rate of return, but also the client’s savings rate and the effect of increased monthly contributions that accelerate the wealth building. In addition, the client is often able to free up enough cashflow to effectively make whole life policies free. All the benefits of the policy, but at no cost. How hard are those to sell?!
How material are the results?
Following a seminar I ran for the clients of an investment advisor, I worked with an attendee to optimize their expenses. The 35-year-old client had approximately $350,000 invested with the advisor and was making monthly contributions of $350. By optimizing her expenses, she was able to free up significant cashflow:
- Shopped her car insurance for the family’s 3 vehicles and 3 cars, saved $210.
- Compared term life insurance rates and saved $80
- Reviewed 5 lines of cell phones and freed up $120
- Cleared up some basement space and eliminated a storage locker and ended a $200 monthly expense
- Used a parking app to save on monthly downtown parking freeing up another $100
- Switched her prescriptions to an online pharmacy and saved $100 monthly
In total, this investor was able to free up $810 for incremental monthly contributions or 231% more than their original $350 pre-authorized contribution. At a 7% return, this client would have retired at 65 with $3,267,391. With the incremental monthly contributions, this client could retire instead with $4,255,490. Nearly $1 M more.
The wealth advisor also ran the event as a “bring a friend event”. Each “friend” was able to watch my presentation, get a copy of Cashflow Cookbook and get a free wealth consultation with the advisor. The result? 8 new clients and an incremental $11 M in AUM. The original clients appreciated the value, set to work on freeing up their cashflow and deepened their relationship with the advisor.
Some of my events are targeting the issue of intergenerational wealth transfer. Often advisors have no relationship with the children (heirs) of their clients. As we know, most heirs don’t stay with their parents advisor. By running a “family” session, advisors get to meet and provide value to the client’s family, starting a relationship that will help ensure continuity of the account and the AUM.
Helping clients with expense reduction is an overlooked way of adding value and accelerating their wealth building. It brings several key benefits to both the advisor and the client:
- The advisor provided significant value to the client with minimal cost or effort.
- The client made the changes with minimal effort or sacrifice.
- The client seminar and reference materials provided the ideas and inspiration to free up the cash.
- The advisor was able to help the client build a much more comfortable retirement with no incremental risk.
- The client was more involved with their wealth building which made them more committed to their advisor relationship.
- The advisor enjoyed accelerated growth in AUM from his clients that followed this program
- The “bring a friend” feature is an easy way of immediate increased referrals
- Using a family format provides relationship-building with the next generation of investors, reducing risk of account loss during intergenerational wealth transfer.
- The group nature of an hour-long seminar or webinar with, say 100 clients, can give the advisor 100 hours of customer communication time in just one hour.