Creating a Firm Culture That Puts Your Clients First

Creating a Firm Culture That Puts Your Clients First

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  • Were the product structure, features, and associated fees (and any other material information) clearly disclosed?
  • Were any applicable conflicts of interest clearly disclosed?
  • Were all applicable disclosure documents delivered (e.g., prospectus, offering memorandum)?
  • Do file notes account for additional conversations warranted based on the client’s age, investment experience, or risk tolerance?
  • In cases where a client has excess concentrations in a particular product or strategy, do your notes clearly articulate why?
  • Are unique or short-term strategies supported (e.g., buy-and-hold strategy)?
  • Were alternative or comparable product options or strategies presented?
  • Were account restrictions discussed or imposed?
  • Do meeting agendas, notes, or follow-up letters present a clear picture of the relationship (e.g., timeline of meetings, reason for actions taken, behavioral patterns, preferred method of contact, client’s lifestyle changes)?
  • Were any actions that conflicted with the stated account objectives clearly explained?
  • Have you documented any of your concerns or actions taken for unresponsive clients, inactive fee-based accounts, or clients not following your guidance?
  • Aside from documenting the standard course of events during your client relationship, there’s also a high probability that an impactful life event (e.g., divorce, death, unanticipated debt, loss of employment) could considerably alter the client’s immediate or future financial situation. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a culture of communication. Here, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following: 

    • Have you set the expectation with clients of when and how to notify you of life events, and have you defined such events? In addition, have you set expectations for the actions you will take if you’re indirectly notified of a life event (e.g., you hear about it through a friend or social media)?
    • Have your clients, regardless of current age or health, provided you with trusted contacts for your records? If so, are their roles defined (e.g., will you be limited to sharing information with them, or are they specifically appointed with authorization to act on the account)?
    • In the case of a divorce or separation, could one party present a perceived conflict of interest based on your relationship? Have you set expectations regarding how you would handle conflicting or new transaction requests for jointly held accounts?

    Moreover, remain mindful of red flags related to changes in client transactional or behavioral patterns that may signal issues related to elder financial abuse, diminished capacity, or falling victim to a cyber scam. In these cases, your notes, supporting documentation, and communication can save your client from a harmful situation, including the loss of life savings.

    In any client relationship, you serve not only as your clients’ financial professional but as their advocate, protector, and friend. You are the conduit through which they fulfill their financial goals and dreams, so make the extra effort to ensure that your client files and records reflect that to independent reviewers, regulators, and clients’ financial heirs. By doing so, your firm will embody a culture of responsibility, transparency, and communication that puts your clients first.

    How do you create a firm culture that puts your clients first? Do you use a CRM to maintain client notes? Please share your thoughts with us below!

     Commonwealth Financial Network is the nation’s largest privately held independent broker/dealer-RIA. This post originally appeared on Commonwealth Independent Advisor, the firm’s corporate blog.

    Copyright © Commonwealth Financial Network

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