The inefficiency of the client-advisor relationship

April 24, 2017 by Nathan Lukow

A advisor and client discuss their working relationship

about the author:

Nathan Lukow

Account executive

Nathan is an account executive at Advicent, the financial planning technology provider of choice for nearly 100,000 financial professionals.

In my role as an account executive at Advicent, I have spent a great deal of time meeting with advisors to determine how our planning technology fits with their firms. Whether I am working with a trust department at a bank or an RIA with a $5 million minimum, I always start the conversation by trying to get an understanding of where new prospects come from and what steps are taken to convert those prospects into profitable clients.

This is a conversation I have had hundreds of times over the past two years and it can go a lot of different directions. Some advisors work only with referrals, some actively cold-call and some have websites with incredibly effective lead-generation components.

Upon bringing a new prospect in for a meeting, some advisors will ask for a pile of financial statements, some will do a bit of discovery to identify needs before determining a path forward, and yet others will push hard for an annuity sale almost as soon as a client sits down.

Even with all these variables, one thing that has consistently stood out to me is the lapse of time between an advisor’s first meeting with a prospect and the delivery of something with tangible value to that prospect. Generally, the process goes something like this:

Pre-meeting/discovery

Get a basic understanding of prospect’s current financial situation and needs. Ask for some statements, possibly even get some.

Initial meeting

A more in depth conversation about goals. Lay out next steps for getting a plan put together. Determine a path forward.

Homework

“Homework” applies to both the client and the advisor. It can take a lot of coordination to put together a good financial plan. Rarely does the client provide all the necessary information right away. The back-and-forth communication required to complete a traditional fact-finder can take weeks.

Deliver value

A plan is delivered. The plan itself may be where the value is. Conversely, it may be a product or recommendation within the plan that solves a particular problem. 

Ongoing relationship

Ideally, the relationship does not end with the delivery of a plan; it is only the start. While some advisors focus solely on planning, many use plans as a way to obtain, and grow, AUM. The ongoing relationship requires plans to be revisited and revised from time-to-time. On a smaller scale, the previous four steps are usually repeated every year without a lot of contact in between.

 

While the process I have outlined above can be time-consuming, tedious, and frustrating for both sides, it is often the accepted status quo. In trying to be thorough, advisors often lose sight of the catalyst that compelled a prospect to seek financial advice in the first place. When a prospect first completes an online request form or an existing client refers a friend, they do so because, at that moment, there is a financial problem or question that is top of mind.

To the frustration of many financial advisors, things like retirement planning and college funding are, to most laypeople, abstract concepts. Consequently, the importance of which is often lost in the bustle of daily life. For this reason, it is incredibly important that advisors are able get the information they need and deliver value before the sense of urgency that prompted the initial contact dissipates.

Technology is allowing advisors to do exactly that. By utilizing tools such as electronic fact finders, advisors are able to streamline discovery and data-gathering to deliver value more quickly and effectively. Other tools, like online portals and account aggregators, allow advisors to passively demonstrate value between meetings, ensuring that financial goals and the value of good investment advice stay top of mind all year.

Contact Advicent to learn how our tools help facilitate your client relationships.