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Practice Planning

What Type of Relationship Do You Want with Clients & COIs?

Affluent clients rate their financial advisor higher in every key metric when the relationship is expanded to include a social element

Washington, D.C.:  “I’ve had a purely business relationship with many of my clients for nearly 20 years,” stated Joel in nearly a whisper before asking, “How do you all of a sudden develop a social relationship?”

What a heart-felt question.  I could see trepidation written all over Joel’s face as it was obvious that he wasn’t comfortable socializing with his clients.  I reminded him that over the past four years, our research has told us that affluent clients rate their financial advisor higher in every key metric (below) when the relationship is expanded to include a social element.  


14 Affluent Commandments


1. Meeting investment performance expectations                      

2. Protecting them from downside risk                                       

3. Making them fully aware of fees                                 

4. Creating a financial plan and keeping it current

5. Using current technology                                         

6. Coordinating and organizing financial documents         

7. Providing insurance solutions

8. Listening and understanding their family’s needs                  

9. Trustworthy and best interests at heart                        

10. Breadth and depth of industry knowledge                      

11. Being a problem solver                                            

12. Providing personal, not mechanical communication      

13. Overseeing family's financial affairs, not marketing        

14. High-level personal service

*According to 2015 Oechsli Institute research, affluent investors with a business/social relationship with their advisor, ranked their advisor 13 points higher (on average) for all of the criteria above.  They are also twice as likely to refer, compared to those with business-only relationships.  


Prompted by Joel, I challenged this group of financial advisors with this simple question: What type of relationship do you want to have with your clients and COIs in 2015?

After some discussion, I got my point across -- this is counterintuitive. The less you focus on revenue per client, or referrals from COIs, the more attention you give to developing genuine personal relationships, and the more revenue you will generate.  In other words, as a direct result of deepening relationships, you will uncover additional assets, identify service gaps and corresponding solutions, and get introduced to your clients’ friends and colleagues. 

When asked what type of client/advisor relationship we recommended, I shared   our 3-part process for coaching advisors to develop social relationships with their clients. 


1. Create a simple spreadsheet with the following columns.  Complete as many columns as possible for your top 25 clients & your COIs.

  • Last social contact
  • Spouse involvement
  • Hobbies
  • Favorite restaurants
  • Pets
  • Charitable involvement
  • Surprise & delight gift


2. Create a Relationship Builder Process

  • Review each client and COI on your list.  Identify specific areas in need of attention.  Develop a specific action plan for each client; non-business lunch, personal phone call, surprise and delight gift, etc. Schedule 2-3 non-business interactions throughout the year for each affluent client and COI.
  • Engage everyone on your team to help uncover personal information for affluent clients and COIs
  • Empower support personnel to expand conversations with affluent clients, “How’s (insert child’s name) coming along in his new job?”  “Is (insert grandchild’s name) walking yet?” 
  • Host monthly or bi-monthly intimate social event (clients, COIs, prospects).
  • Find one opportunity to be a giver for each person on your list.  This can consist of sending them a small gift or helping one of their children with networking after college, etc.


3. Conduct a Quarterly Relationship Builder Check-Up

  • Review each affluent client & COI relationship
  • Determine the strength of the relationship; both business and social.
  • Determine next point of contact and by whom; telephone, surprise & delight gift, face-to-face.
  • Assess the current quality of the relationship – is it the relationship you want?


As I explained to Joel and his colleagues, none of this is complex.  Human beings are a species dependent upon relationships.  Rarely do we hear of an affluent client or COI resisting.  As for the counterintuitive aspect, time and again we witness increases in revenue as a direct by-product of this relationship building process.  



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


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