The Most Vital Yet Under-Appreciated Solution You Offer Clients

Communication: The Under-Appreciated, Most Important Solution You Offer Your Clients

Years ago, when I was in charge of bringing in Orion’s new business, I got a firsthand view of the wide variety of ways that firms charged their clients and comped their advisors.

For me, it was one thing to read ADVs and a wholly different thing to see the outcome of those agreements in advisory firm’s billing, custodial fee files, and advisor payouts.

The firms that always piqued my curiosity were those who charged some level of success fee or high watermark-based fee.

When I was early in my career, I thought this model made the most sense. After all, the primary measures that our software presented were the investment returns and change in value, and demonstrating that information was everything.

That was nearly 20 years ago, and financial planning was a skeleton of what it is today.

The Modern Era of Advice

In this modern era of advice, it has never been more apparent that investment alpha is only a portion of the value an advisor adds.

And while planning has become a staple to modern wealth management, I’ve routinely observed that much of planning is only relevant at the onset of a client relationship.

It makes sense since planning software is most beneficial for framing the relationship, providing an efficient way to gather details and create an initial game plan.

However, once ACATs are filed and assets have transferred, clients may not necessarily feel the same level of value. Retail clients often may not see or interact with a financial plan until the next annual meeting.

Advisors move on to servicing, and planning gets relegated to as-needed or by appointment only.

The stickiest advisors go beyond planning and investment alpha and speak to tax and behavioral alpha—both of which create new dynamics and contact points that require advisors to reinvent their posture.

Gimmick or Guide

Are the tools we have used over the years to frame conversations with investors true guides or something of a gimmick that we use once and never return to?

I want to be clear that this issue is not necessarily about the tool itself. In fact, I can assure you that the teams that design and build these tools are very much focused on their continued relevance to your client experience, analysis, and advisor toolset. No one wants to build gimmicks.

When designing your client experience, get clear about the tools you’re using, the goal and whether it is long-term or simply part of the initial process.

Sometimes, this takes experimentation.

Experimentation takes execution.

Execution can become operationalized.

Every solution you implement into your process should intentionally add value to the client.

To increase your alpha focus and delivery, consider tax analysis software to understand asset location. I’ve seen firms integrate or buy CPA practices to provide ongoing value-added tax analysis for their clients with great success.

While behavioral finance software is primarily still in the development and category maturity phase, there are early implementations in your planning software that are worth exploring.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

In all of the choices we can have to add deeper value, the largest area for improvement appears to be simple communication.

YCharts conducted a study of 800 advisors that was released earlier this year. The findings are something that every advisor should staple to the proverbial office water cooler.

Three in four advised clients left or [considered] leaving their advisor in 2023 and nearly 80% expressed a desire to be contacted at least every three months,” according to Kara Hughes, Vice President of Marketing at YCharts.

What is interesting from YCharts Study and the time you spend with investors who join your firm from another shop — its very rare that clients are running from a lack of services, they are generally running to a more dedicated, understanding guide who can actually help them.

YCharts Advisor Survey

When I talk with advisors about talking to their clients more - it’s often an eye roll. “My clients don’t want to hear more from me.” “What will I talk about that is unique from the last time we talked?” I get it. It can be really difficult to do the relational work.

Here are some simple suggestions on how to attack your communication with your clients and possibly start checking the boxes on how you can add more value.

  1. Diversify Your Content - Less Financial, More Experiential The communication that people appreciate is content that connects with their interests. Most clients are interested in travel, health, family, and legacy.
  2. Make Your Communication Portable and Enjoyable The team at Turncast provides a really interesting service. They help advisors turn their (possibly boring) client newsletter into a done-for-you podcast and video show that can be sent exclusively to their clients. Advisors set their own time and record online. The content is edited, shared with compliance, and turned into high-definition audio and video with detailed show notes that can quickly become your email newsletter with very little effort from you.
  3. Choose a Framework, Deepen Your Relationships One of the best ways to scale your client communication is to build your client communication into a very teachable framework that helps you continually learn more about your client, add value to them, and build a deeper sense of who they are with each interaction. There are dozens of frameworks that you can choose from. From Honest Conversations to Table Topics, there are lots of options to pick from. Like anything, it's about execution. Find one that works and use it to go deeper.
  4. Call with No Agenda One of my favorite things from my time with Carson was seeing the impact of simply reaching out to your clients and seeing how they are doing. Don't have an agenda; just say hello and see how they are. Most people in the US are lonely. Relationships matter. You are your clients’ trusted guide, and your relationship to them matters. If you try this once a week, you will be amazed at the impact it can make.

How are you investing in improving your communication and value this Summer?

Related: The Rise of the Data Refinery