You’ve got a lot to manage as an independent financial advisor – your team, your clients – not to mention client portfolios. It’s easy to overlook some common trouble spots for advisory firms that leave you and your practice vulnerable. Make sure you’re not making the following practice management and technology errors:
Several public interest groups, employment unions and the AARP have banded together in a push to gather public support for the DOL’s proposed fiduciary rule for advisors who oversee retirement plans. According to an article at Wealth Management, the coalition has launched a website (SaveOurRetirement.com) to educate investors and gather support. See the article that follows. Meanwhile, retirement plan advisors are increasingly looking for ways to safeguard themselves from fiduciary-related litigation. Clear service agreements are a “first line of defense,” according to an article at LifeHealthPRO. See the link below to read more details.
Many advisors struggle when it comes to being a manager, trying to keep team members motivated and productive. Consultant John J. Bowen Jr. notes that compensation is a “sore spot,” but explains that there are other “foundational” issues that must be addressed as well. He outlines three ways to develop and inspire an effective team: clarify you mission, establish standards, and develop diversity. His article is at Financial Planning. Also, call them “cyborg” advisors or call them “bionic” advisors, but they seem to be the latest iteration of the robo technology trend: that is, “technology-augmented human advisers.” Various tech experts in the financial services industry got together for a roundtable discussion to hash out whether the human-tech “partnership” might be the best way to go. The conversation appears in the Journal of Financial Planning. See the link below.
Business coach Frank Maselli has created a funny text-to-speech animation about referral disasters. And it’s fitting he uses a robotic voice for the advisor. This fictional advisor’s clunky approach straddles the fine line between desperation and mindless persistence.
Sales & Marketing
Skilled laborers can go on to become successful business owners, so advisors would do well to pay attention to them now. “When I think of our wealthiest clients, it’s tradespeople who became business owners,” said Kevin J. Meehan, an advisor quoted in an article at InvestmentNews. The article points out the benefits of pursuing clients who are tradespeople. See the link below. Also, understanding the psychology related to pricing and purchasing decisions may help you work out a better fee structure for your own firm. A Dutch financial planner offers an interesting look at how to set prices for your services. “If you have only one price, you are not making it easy for your potential clients to decide to do business with you,” he notes. Read more in his guest blog post at Nerd’s Eye View, below.
We all benefit from having rules or codes to live by. There’s the always viable Golden Rule … and the mathematically useful Rule of 72. I recently spoke with several technology and practice management experts, and they offered the following best practice “rules” for smart and successful advisory firms in 2015:
SEC examiners this year will be giving extra scrutiny to retirement planning products and advice for retail investors, according to an article at Financial Planning. One of the concerns of the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations is “that brokers and advisors have been chasing yield through complex or risky vehicles such as private funds and structured products,” the article notes. Rollovers are another concern. Read more details below. Also, President Barack Obama signed into law this week legislation that establishes a national insurance licensing clearinghouse, the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers. It helps insurance agents practice in multiple states, according to an InvestmentNews article. Read more below.
Advisors are feeling the pressure: Is it time to re-examine account fees? What about lowering account minimums? In a column at Investment News, Paul West of Peak Advisor Alliance makes the case for establishing minimums — and sticking to them. If you break that rule to increase AUM, West cautions: “It becomes very hard to serve everyone.” Read more below. Also, some advisors are changing their fee structures to better reflect their practice model and the clientele they serve. In a story at Reuters, several advisors explain why they’ve moved to retainer fees or other pricing structures rather than charging clients a percentage of investments they manage for them. A link to the story follows. Plus, RIAs firms are reveling in the growth they’ve experienced over the past several years. But growth can be good and bad. An article at RIABiz looks at FA Insight’s People and Pay Compensation Update for 2014, and checks in with industry experts on what advisors need to watch out for in terms of office staff wages, advisor compensation, advisor recruitment, and more.
Sales & Marketing
Advisors should be updating their websites at least every three years or so, according to a sales and marketing director for a website design firm. Tips on how advisors need to beef up their websites, such as including more dynamic features, are explored in an article at InvestmentNews. Two advisor websites that show “an effective online presence” are highlighted.
Plus, Mike Kaselnak has developed a “motivational interviewing” system that can typically boost an advisor’s income by 257% in the second year, according to a Q&A with Kaselnak in Research Magazine. He has come up with a series of question to ask prospective clients, which often lead those prospects to the conclusion that their current advisor is not serving their best interests. His method has critics, however. Read more below.
Over the holiday break, my family and I visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where we were awed by the accomplishments of the U.S. space program in the last six decades.
In the shadow of NASA’s mission control, we observed the history and progress of space flight – from the first manned sub-orbiter – no bigger than a phone booth – to the International Space Station – as large as a football field, and currently being utilized by at least 11 countries.
Each mission required a leap of faith, and teamwork. Each step forward also demanded resiliency in the face of technological challenges and even devastating tragedy. Few believed America could land a man on the moon when President John Kennedy famously told an audience at Rice University in 1963:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade … not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”
What hard goals are on your agenda for 2015 and beyond? How will you galvanize your energies and skills around a worthy goal? Do you have any “moon landings” in mind for your business?
One of my favorite business coaches, Jim Rohrbach of Success Skill, counsels financial advisors not to waste time on New Year’s resolutions, but instead, to create inspiring Mission Statements, and update them every year.
“What’s the difference between a resolution and a mission?” you might ask. Rohrbach offers the following straightforward insight.
Unlike a resolution that is usually forgotten by February 1st, a Mission Statement is a hand written or typed-out paragraph that is:
• Deadline driven — in this case, December 31st
• Posted where you can see it daily
• Committed to memory
Rohrbach shared one of the mission statements created by a financial advisor using his system.
“My purpose is to express my intelligence, creativity and people skills by continually learning and applying new ideas, by finding unique solutions to my clients’ problems and by building a powerful network of contacts to create 15 new client relationships, a steady flow of referral business, social media savvy and at least $225,000 net income by December 31st this year.”
Notice how this mission statement had a deadline? December 31st – and an overall process for goal accomplishment? Notice also how this advisor reminded herself (or himself) of unique skills that she/he brought to table to accomplish the goals. I think it’s always a good idea when you’re setting goals to marry them with your talents, and your purpose as a person. When you have a good alignment between your purpose, your talents, and your goals – you’re more likely to reach the finish line.
As for the goals themselves in this mission statement … two of them are very concrete … bringing in “15 new clients” and having at least “$225,000 net income”while the other two are vaguer. I would probably want to define what “steady flow of referrals” means as well as being a bit more specific on becoming “social media savvy.”
Perhaps this advisor could set a goal of at least 50% of new clients coming from referrals, and spending at least 20 minutes per day working on social media outreach and skill development.
As Rohrbach sees it, a mission statement calls to mind whom we really are and what we’re trying to accomplish every day. It is a reminder of why we do what we do, and the vital processes, and talents we deploy in achieving our goals.
And when we include a deadline with it, just as Kennedy boldly did with his moon landing goal, it becomes a powerful driver of success.
If you want more help with your mission, give Jim Rohrbach a call for a free consultation.
Also, feel free to use the comment section to share any success stories you’ve experienced using mission statements. And may your business have a very successful lift off in 2015!