Written by: Nick Covyeau | Swell Financial Partners
During college, I worked as a waiter at a 5 Star Resort along the California Coast and while I knew this job would be merely a stepping stone until graduation, little did I know that the training I received would stay with me more than a decade later and impact the way I think, act, and serve as a professional within the Financial Planning space.
Little things like saying “My pleasure” to guests rather than “No problem” or walking a guest to the location they requested help in finding were just small examples of how I was trained at this high-end resort to go above and beyond and wow guests to help create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What this training taught me was that all of these little things go a long way and begin to condition you to learn how to anticipate the guest’s needs … often before guests even knew they had those needs.
Seriously, how important can a signature scent all throughout the hotel or a welcome note with a small box of chocolates waiting for you on your bed be?
Meeting these unanticipated needs makes it difficult for someone to ever want to go anywhere else once they’ve experienced an environment that makes them feel special and seen.
In fact, … and this is a conversation for a later time, but price rarely is a factor when you bundle all of those value adds together.
Because of the experience and the feeling you create.
This same thing should apply to our financial planning practices and to the way we care for our clients.
In my opinion, good, timely, and friendly service are table stakes. They are not differentiators of what makes our practices stand out from our competitors.
Meeting one to two times a year with our clients – Table stakes
Providing comprehensive financial planning and access to financial planning software – Table stakes
A diversified, risk-adjusted, appropriate portfolio – again, table stakes
So how do we stand out?
Introducing Value Adds
A proven way to remain top of mind with your clients more often, deliver more value, and avoid burnout.
In his book, Delivering Massive Value, Matthew Jarvis defines a value add as “any personalized document or report that helps the client better understand their financial situation.”
Why are these important?
First, value adds demonstrate your value and expertise to your clients and more importantly, they help make your clients’ life easier. Not to mention, it’s doubtful other advisors (i.e.: your competition) is taking the time to provide any of these.
So why not stand out and wow your clients?
Secondly, value adds allow us to continue to be seen by our clients, even when we’re not meeting face-to-face with them.
Think about it, at most, in a given year, you may meet with your client(s) for 60-90 minutes 3-4 times per year. Add in a few phone calls or email exchanges and that’s 6-8+ hours of facetime per year each of your clients is getting.
Are you providing enough value in those short 8 hours to ensure that all of your client’s needs are met and that they absolutely feel confident about you and their finances?
What if instead of just running the standard meetings with the same boilerplate follow-up email, you began to implement value adds that were unique to your clients and their situation?
How powerful could that be?
Here are a few examples of value adds I’ve seen from other great advisors:
Beneficiary Review – A breakdown of each of the client’s accounts with two columns – One with the beneficiaries’ names listed and the other column being the dollar amount of their potential inheritance. By creating this, we intentionally list dollars over percentages, because seeing actual dollars helps assign meaning and value as opposed to percentages which can be vague and arbitrary.
Tax Letters – Ahead of tax season try proactively sending your client and their CPA a document that lists out what tax forms your firm and custodian will be responsible for, such as a 1099, 5498, etc. This helps keep track of distributions and more importantly, communicates timelines of when the client can expect those forms to be delivered. Last, delivering a document like this to a CPA makes you look great and helps them do their job better.
Income Guardrails – Wouldn’t it be helpful if there were a report that helped inform your clients of how much they could comfortably afford to spend and ensure they do not run out of money? Especially during times of market volatility. This value add helps place boundary sets on your client’s accounts and communicates annual and monthly income, which can be helpful for your clients that are approaching or already in retirement.
Tax Loss harvesting report – What is your firm’s annual strategy when it comes to tax loss harvesting and more importantly communicating it? Are you communicating this strategy with your clients and their CPAs to be on the same page and maximize value/options? It can be helpful to have a report reflecting your annual moves and the value you created. Furthermore, it’s something worth bringing up and discussing at year-end meetings.
One-Page Financial Plan – What are the most important items that you can condense down to one page and summarize your client’s finances? Is it categories like Net Worth over time, Asset Location, Marginal/Effective Tax Brackets, Action Items, and ST/LT Goals? Whatever it is, it’s helpful to provide clients with a consolidated version of their financial plan and update it frequently to provide for them. Furthermore, this one-page plan can be included in meetings and be used to track the progress of each goal from meeting to meeting and a notepad for notes.
Quarterly Webinars – What are you and your firm doing in the in-between months of meeting with clients? Webinars, whether topical like Estate Planning or Tax Planning, or webinars on Market Outlooks are a helpful way to stay in front of your clients at scale.
Pro Tip: Whichever value adds you begin to introduce into your firm, make sure it’s helpful and specific to your clients and is automated and systematized. It’s not a value add if it’s taking you hours to create and implement for each of your clients. You must find a value to deliver massive value at scale.
Once you’ve collected the value adds you think would be the best fit for your firm and your clients, it’s time to begin planning out when you want to run your value adds. Grab a calendar and start planning months in advance for when you anticipate your value adds to be delivered.
For example, our firm begins preparing tax letters the first week of January after year-end balances have been recorded and send them out in late January or early February each year.
Here’s to adding more value and creating happier clients!
Nick Covyeau, CFP®
Related: Raise Your Hand if You Are an Ethical Financial Planner