The right tools leverage the skill of a craftsman. The right financial planning tools help the wealth manager improve the engagement with clients, drive consistency of services provided and help refine the business results of a wealth management practice. The list below is not comprehensive, but each tool has been selected for the importance of its intended impact.
An effective case study provides evidence of how you add value as an advisor. The challenge for clients seeking the assistance of financial advisors is to determine if the advisor is skilled, experienced, trustworthy and has worked with clients with similar needs. A good case study illustrates your process, providing insight into your approach – in effect a test drive of what it would be like to be your client. Shared with prospective clients, the case study is a great take-away from an initial meeting that reinforces points made during your interview. Case studies enhance your professionalism by revealing not just the clarity of your problem solving process, but also your willingness to be compared to competitors. Case studies should be given to and reviewed with all of your referral sources and centers of influence as reminders of your added value.
After more than 20 years of working with financial advisory practices, I've reached the conclusion that the key to success among top advisors vs. their less successful peers is the CONSISTENCY of their advisory solutions across the practice. In other words, most good advisors deliver a valuable and compelling service to their clients, but the very best solutions and highest quality service are typically provided to only a select handful of each advisor's clients. The most successful advisors are able to deliver their best work to a longer list of clients through more consistently applied processes and service models.
The Top 20 Client Analysis was first developed during the formation of a global wealth management strategy for an international advisory firm and investment bank. The top advisors, 184 from around the world, each employed the analysis to quickly and visually determine:
evaluate the consistency of their current practice and see clearly what clients see about the practice
opportunities to further develop client relationships among their top clients
As a result of the Top 20 Client Analysis by each member of the global team, the advisors realized too much reliance on investment solutions, especially among their top clients, and a tendency to allow their best and most complete solutions to break down after the seventh or eighth household. Assuming an 80/20 rule of practice profitability, improving the productivity of just this list of clients can boost overall practice revenues by 20% or more.
The Wealth Management Lifecycle
The Lifecycle was developed to provide both advisors and their clients an objective view of a family's financial progression. The four phases depicted in the chart refer to stages of financial activity -- from simple investing to the ultimate succession and transfer of family assets. Note that there is a "top" and a "bottom" to the chart, in which the changing needs of the client household are contrasted with the corresponding role of the family's advisor in each phase. For example, in Phase I, Investing, the family is probably just beginning its journey into the world of financial advice and likely requires only access to simple accumulation vehicles like mutual funds. The role of the advisor here is minimal, given that the savings and investing process is early stage -- likely also through an employer sponsored retirement plan -- and therefore requires little attention from an advisor (or no advisor at all). By contrast, later stages are directed more by a qualified advisor, who can facilitate more structure to investing - as in Phase II, and even more complex strategies for tax planning and asset transfer (Phases III and IV).
Use the Lifecycle with clients and prospects for a number of clarifying purposes:
determine where the household is now in relation to the lifecycle it will travel
explain more clearly your role as an advisor in each phase of the lifecycle
reinforce that your relationship and duties as advisor and client will change over time and become more complex
place yourself more specifically in relation to competitors and other providers
that the household may have today or has contemplated
For more on the use of the Lifecycle, see Chapters 1 and 7 in Advisor for Life and Chapter 7 of The Managed Account Handbook.
Wealth Planning Overview - The Risk Audit
The WPO is my favorite financial planning tool. The beauty is in the simplicity of the single page. With prospects, the WPO provides immediate clarity of complex and varied financial needs so you can focus on areas of greatest concern. With a couple, each person has the chance to circle areas of need or worry, and then compare "answers" with their partner and you. The WPO is also terrific to use with clients at every review meeting to quickly survey each household's current situation and test for areas of new concern. One of my great advisor friends says that his job is to help insulate clients from "the family problem", the area of greatest vulnerability to the family, and that the WPO is his favorite tool for identifying that challenge.
For more information about the Wealth Planning Overview and how to use it with clients and prospects, please see Chapters 1 and 5 in Advisor for Life, and Chapter 6 of The Managed Account Handbook.
Timing Evaluation Worksheet
The Timing Evaluation Worksheet is a model of the future. Its intent is to provide a snapshot of life for your client's family as children and parents age. I've used it for many years to give advisors and their clients a way to see the future in an objective format so that they can draw their own conclusions about the implications of the age dynamics. Created originally by a minister friend of mine who used it for pre-marital counseling, the Timing Evaluation Worksheet is another simple tool to help understand prospective clients and to update existing relationships for areas of growing sensitivity.