By Bill Snyder
Many financial advisors reason that their high net worth clients prefer meeting only one or two times a year because the advisors have difficulty scheduling more frequent meetings with them. They are busy people, but in many cases, the reason for the reluctance is that the clients are not experiencing valuable results for the time expended.
As financial advisors, it is our responsibility not only to understand clients’ goals, analyze their current situations and make sound recommendations on how to accomplish these goals, but it’s also our mission to help them make the right decisions. To make the right choices for the long term, you first need to understand the emotions involved and then, in the right timeframe, focus on the relevant decisions assigned to that period or “season.”
In 1861, neurosurgeon Pierre Paul Brosca discovered that the left and right hemispheres of the brain have separate functions. The right-brain functions include such activities as creativity, imagination, intuition, etc., while the left-brain functions include the activities of analytic thought, logic, reasoning, number skills, etc. It is said that we all naturally lean toward either right-brain or left-brain dominant thinking. Some of us are more creative, while others are more logical. In actuality, both types of thinking are simply imbued with a slight preference to one mode or another.
A seasonal planning approach to servicing clients should take into account how the brain functions and how individuals make decisions. The specific organization and sequencing of the seasons is intended to provide a variety in content, and focus and engage all clients regardless of whether they are right-brain or left-brain dominant. Within the goal-tracking season, the discussions around goals, aspirations and dreams challenge the client to use his or her imagination — a right-brain function. In the asset allocation season, the discussion around portfolio construction and the resulting expected rates of return is geared toward the analytical desires of the left-brain individual. The family, security and cash flow seasons again challenge the individual’s imagination as the client considers the impact of unplanned risk within his or her life that could affect intended plans. Lastly, the tax-planning season focuses on strategies that could reduce taxes.
Because the interaction with the client is focused primarily on the accomplishment of goals that he or she identified as important — not on the performance of his or her investments — the client should be less emotionally impacted by the fluctuation of the stock market.
Each season is focused on a specific area of financial planning, which means the client will be more prepared to discuss the topic and open to being educated on financial items that could impact or help him or her. In addition, because each season is focused, the financial advisor becomes more skilled at discussing the topics, which should increase the implementation rate of recommendations and the likelihood of the client accomplishing his or her goals.
The service provides clear differentiation between financial planning service costs and investment management service costs, allowing the value the advisor brings to be easily visible and better defined.
Because the service is providing a comprehensive financial planning solution — which, by definition, encompasses every element of the client’s financial life — more opportunities to help the client are uncovered. The result is an increase in the value provided to the client and an increase in the value of the wealth management practice.
The meeting experience is unique, and the discussions are more meaningful than what is provided by the traditional financial advisor. This should make the client more apt to talk with friends and colleagues around it, and ultimately be more receptive to referring the advisor — which then results in higher client acquisition.
The seasonal service model is one that benefits both advisors and clients alike, and one that advisors should consider as they continue to seek ways to improve upon service to their clients.
Bill Snyder is a practice consultant for the Business Management Services (BMS) model at 1st Global, where he provides business support for large ensemble CPA firms. He specializes in business succession planning and business valuation and consistently helps advisors improve upon the daily operations of their practices.