by Nancy Fahmy, William O'Malley, Russell Investments
Think back to a time when you shared an important personal matter with a friend.
Remember the feeling afterward? How you felt more calm, clear and confident about the direction you were taking? What was it about that conversation that helped you feel this way? What if you could bottle that up as a financial advisor and use it during your next client review?
At Russell Investments, we believe a client review is as much about delivering facts and information as it is about leaving your clients feeling clear and confident in reaching the goals of their financial plan. E.O. Wilson once famously said, “we are drowning in information, while starved for wisdom.” Financial advisors who can be the voice of wisdom and deliver that type of experience consistently to their clients are among the ones who are at the top of the profession and often stay there.
The client review is an integral touch point between financial advisor and client that solidifies the relationship and demonstrates the advisor’s value beyond investment outcomes. We advocate a framework for rethinking the client experience to focus on what matters most: the client and their goals.
The 3 P’s of an effective client review
According to a study by YCharts1, 85% of investors would consider the frequency and style of communication of an advisor when deciding to retain their services. But it’s not uncommon when coaching financial advisors on their practice to hear that a client review is a necessary check the box for compliance or as part of a client service model. We believe that every review meeting you hold affords you the opportunity to calm the client’s nerves, allay their fears and instill confidence in the plan you so carefully crafted. However, a well-executed client review takes planning and a framework that is repeatable and scalable.
The 3 P’s of an effective client review offers such a framework for an organized and engaging meeting to assure your clients that you are knowledgeable, care about them and have a reliable process to help them meet their financial goals. This framework is centered around perspective, process and poise.
Perspective – With the news ticker tape constantly running across smart phones and on the bottom of TV screens reminding viewers about stock market declines, it’s no wonder your clients are nervous. Investors get bombarded with information from news, print and social media. This is your opportunity to help them make sense of what they’re seeing and hearing, and narrow down what matters most to them by providing perspective. Offering your perspective helps to reframe and put context around the relevancy of all that information on their investments. It’s also a great way to start the meeting because you show your clients right away that you’re coming to them with informed insights that will lead to better decision-making. The value of an advisor is to curate the news to what may impact their clients’ goals and circumstances and help them focus on what they can control.
Process – At the top of many clients’ list in terms of what they value most about their financial advisor is the work you do executing on their financial plan. That starts with your process of identifying their goals, needs and circumstances when you first establish their financial plan, and your efforts to ensure that it still makes the most sense going forward. At Russell Investments, we help advisors leverage a wealth wellness wheel—representing the five buckets of a client’s life: family, health, career, lifestyle and community. A review meeting can be a great time to be asking, how are you feeling about these buckets right now? This also sets the stage to remind and revisit why you put the plan in place originally—before markets got turbulent—by reminding them that we planned for this.
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Poise – Client review meetings can be emotional, and maybe irrational for clients, especially if performance is challenged. Be the rock in the face of the storm, and acknowledge that their feelings are normal, listen to them and be empathetic. Come prepared to give comfort and provide personalized insights by leaning into your behavioral coaching skills and remind them that human emotions can get in the way of their plan. After all, it’s not that a bear market derails you, it’s what you do in a bear market that can derail you! Also, avoid financial jargon. Your words matter, so limit your use of technical terms like alpha, beta and standard deviation. After all, that’s not how we sound when talking to friends, right?
The bottom line
Whether it’s equity market volatility, rising interest rates, soaring inflation, geopolitical upheaval, midterm elections or the ongoing pandemic, there’s no question clients have a lot to worry about these days. Using the 3 P’s can help keep the conversation centered on what really matters most to your clients and their plan. Ultimately clients really want to know: Are we going to be okay? Are we making progress? And do I feel confident in both of those things moving forward?
Advisors who use a consistent framework to deliver an effective client review could exceed client expectations and may benefit from higher client retention and the opportunity to gain even more trust for what they’re delivering on beyond just performance!
1 Source: Based on responses of individuals who currently invest >$500k in AUM with financial advisors and wealth managers surveyed in “How can advisors better communicate with their clients”, December 2019 by YCharts. Total sample size represented 650 individuals across the U.S. https://go.ycharts.com/hubfs/YCharts_Client_Communications_Survey.pdf, Accessed Feb 3, 2021.
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