The Ultimate Robo Defense Plan

The Ultimate Robo Defense Plan

Tampa: “It seems that everywhere I turn there’s an article about Robo-Advisors,” moaned Jeffrey with a pained look on his face, then brought it home with, “even your rag (REP) had a photo of somebody who’s supposed to be one of these Robo guys on the cover.  What are your thoughts about all of this?”

Jeffrey was making a valid point.  Within the industry, there is a lot of talk about Robo-Advisors.  In defense of REP, as I explained to Jeffrey (full disclosure, I’ve been a columnist for over 20 years), REP is writing for you, trying to put a dose of reality to all the noise.  As for my thoughts, the old adage, the best offense is a good defense is the ultimate counteragent.

Our latest 2015 research on Elite Advisors and Affluent Investors has enabled us to put together a game plan (sorry non-NFL fans) I’ve labeled The Financial Advisor 5-Point Preventive Defense.        

Prevent Defense Point 1: Conduct a Wealth Management Services Audit

Our research continues to paint a clear picture of today’s affluent investor.  They want a primary financial advisor to oversee the multi-dimensional aspects of their family’s finances.  Using that as your benchmark, you want to determine if you’re truly providing comprehensive wealth management services to all of your affluent  clients.  And if the answer is ‘yes’ – are your clients aware?  Everything counts; from coordinating with outside experts such as estate attorneys, bankers, CPAs and the like, including the children, organizing and helping keep all their (not just your) family’s financial documents current, to making certain their financial plan is current and being followed. 

You get the idea.  Take an honest assessment of the services you’re delivering and craft a game-plan for filling in the gaps for each top client and making sure your affluent clients are fully aware of all the services you’re providing. 

Prevent Defense Point 2: Assess Client Relationship Strength

This goes beyond, but is inclusive of, your service model.  Yes, it’s essential that you have a service model for your affluent clients that’s fashioned after the Ritz Carlton / Fed Ex formula of personalized service and efficiency. 

That said, today’s affluent client wants you to go further.  Every metric we’ve measured over the past three years is ranked higher when an affluent client views the relationship with their financial advisor as some combination of business and social.  As you review the wealth management services you’re providing each client, you’ll want to gauge your level of personal, non-business, interaction with that client.  How frequently do you interact in a non-business manner?  When was the last social face-to-face contact you had with both spouses?  What are the names and ages of the children?  What are their interests and passions? 

A word of caution; close to 80% of financial advisors report that they have both a business and social relationship with their affluent clients, whereas only 29% of affluent clients view their relationship that way.

Prevent Defense Point 3: Conduct a Transformative Business Meeting

Here is where you’re tangibly raising your game.  Whether you’ve set up a meeting with an estate attorney, organized a mortgage refinance, met with your client and their CPA on tax issues, conducted a Family Summit that includes the children, or simply reviewed and updated their financial plan – the objective is to transform your relationship in the mind of the client, from that of a broker who handles their investments, to their family’s primary financial advisor who oversees the totality of their financial affairs.

The more you understand an affluent family’s needs and assists in matters that aren’t necessarily investment related, the more they trust and respect you.

Prevent Defense Point 4: Get Social

The conclusion of your transformative business meeting is the perfect time to suggest a social get-together.  Whether it’s having dinner at the new Italian restaurant in town, going to the theater – the options are limitless – but have your social suggestions planned prior to the business meeting. 

Socializing with clients is the perfect time to uncover more personal information. 

Think in terms of uncovering passion points, vacation plans, children activities, pets, and so on.  This intelligence gathering is what will enable you to surprise and delight them in the future.

Prevent Defense Point 5: Create a Client Relationship Calendar

The idea is to put structure around the social relationship you’re developing with affluent clients in the same manner you take with your quarterly reviews and monthly touch-base calls.  The more you interact with an affluent client socially, the stronger your relationship.  The stronger the relationship, the stronger your Robo-Advisor defense.  Period! 

There are many ways to interact socially; attend a social, a fundraiser or a sporting event together, host an intimate client event where you invite a small group of clients, or have a non-business lunch or dinner.  Whatever the social activities you select, get your team involved and calendar everything in advance; the what, when, how, who, and where.

Obviously, there is no guarantee in any defense plan.  Much depends on your execution.  However our 2015 Q1 Affluent and Elite Advisor Research is very insightful; Elite financial advisors have lost ZERO affluent clients to robo-advisors and 90% of today’s affluent haven’t heard of the firms most frequently that have gotten the most press. 

Remember, today’s 2015 affluent investor wants a primary ‘go-to’ financial advisor – that’s you!



Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.

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