by Katherine Fleischmann, Russell Investments
If there is one experience common to us all during the global pandemic, it is that the spread of COVID-19 around the world caused everyone—young or old, rich or poor, male or female—to reassess our priorities. There is nothing quite like being confined to your home for weeks at a time with only your closest family members (or perhaps just a pet) for company, to realize what you really value.
And for each of us, what we value—what we prioritize in our lives—is different. We all have our own problems to solve. Each of us has our own set of goals, our own preferences, and each of our circumstances is different. Depending on our experience through the pandemic, those goals, and preferences and circumstances may have changed.
That’s why we revised our Value of an Advisor study this year. While our tried-and-true formula remains the same – A+B+C+P+T – we have changed the value of C from cost of investment management to focus on the customized client experience and planning that advisors now provide.
In our earlier blogs on our Value of an Advisor study, we discussed the value of actively rebalancing a portfolio, and the behavioral mistakes that advisors steer their clients away from making during volatile times.
By changing the value of C, not only do we want to acknowledge the uniqueness of each investor, but we also want to acknowledge the expanding role of advisors to providing holistic wealth management for entire families.
At one time, an advisor was essentially a broker—selecting investments for clients. In short, advisors used to play the role that a robo-advisor does. That role is still necessary: services such as asset allocation, security selection and portfolio construction remain the building blocks of any successful investment strategy. All three are critical for hitting a client’s financial goals.
We also recognize that robo-advisors are making these three building blocks more accessible and affordable than ever. But here’s the thing: Investments are only one component of a comprehensive financial strategy. Wealth managers do so much more these days. Recent research has shown that in the past three years, there has been a 39% increase in advisors providing comprehensive planning services.
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There are so many aspects to our lives that are hard to prioritize. And as our lives progress, so does the complexity of our financial decisions. Each financial decision that we make—whether it relates to our debts, rates of return, savings, stock tips, or legacy planning—impacts our families. After all, why do people trust you to invest their hard-earned money? Parents want their children to have a good education and the best start to life possible. Couples may want to purchase a home or a recreational property. People with elderly parents are concerned about their care and well-being through the rest of their lives. Most people want to step back from their careers someday and more fully enjoy their favorite activities, or travel. Small business owners may want to pass on a successful legacy.
Clients’ increasing expectations for individualized service and the growing complexities of their needs—what does this mean for the book of business that you manage? How does this impact your time and allocation of resources? The answer often means adapting processes and introducing scale in your practice—in three primary areas: proactive engagement, reactive service and in the investment solutions you provide. The impact of true connection to what clients value most is undeniable. Consider adopting a framework for your conversations such as our discovery process to give structure and consistency to those impactful conversations.
That brings us to the vital role that communication plays. Research has shown that investors prefer to work with an advisor who has a deep understanding of their individual situation and what they are trying to achieve. They also say that personalized and frequent contact would give them more confidence in their financial plan. The same study also found that investors are far more likely to refer an advisor to family and friends if they felt the advisor provided regular and valuable information. Communication is important for your client relationships, and for your opportunities for growing your business.
To help articulate the value of your conversation, consider using the client engagement roadmap to demonstrate next steps and mutual commitments. This also helps to give structure to your meeting cadence, a vital supportive point to your communication strategy and ongoing service model. With respect to focus and time, outsourcing some of your investment strategy often becomes a valuable part of the solution. Consider model strategies for clients who only need core investment management. And you could consider Personalized Managed Accounts—a Separately Managed Account that can be individually customized for high net-worth clients. With each of these points of consideration, the goal is to intentionally shift focus and resources to what clients expect and value from your relationship. We are here to help.
The year 2020 changed everything. You, and probably most of your clients, made a number of major decisions about your family, health, careers or lifestyles during the pandemic. Some of us may have changed locations permanently, some of us may have had adult children return home, others may have had to move their aging parents into —or out of—a nursing home during the lockdowns. All of these kinds of decisions can have a major impact on a financial plan.
We believe the value of an advisor is in the way they help their clients determine their priorities and then create a customized investment plan to help them meet those priorities. And when those priorities change—as many did due to the pandemic—the advisor can ask the right questions and help the investor adapt the plan to their new goals, preferences and circumstances.
Can a robo-advisor do that?
The bottom line
In the formula of advisor value, C is for the customized client experience you provide. This has become crucially important as the pandemic wanes and investors reassess what they most value. You can be at the forefront of helping them develop the financial plan that can take them down their new path.
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