The results are in
I’ve always made it a point to be transparent with clients, and this transition is no exception. As we convert to a joint-account status, we’re seeing the positive consequences of this approach.
First, the 10-year lead time makes clients feel important, comforted and mitigates any concerns. By setting the stage properly, and explaining what I’m doing and when, I’m showing them the respect they deserve for their long-term loyalty. Second, I now have even more time for them. While Colin is cultivating relationships, he’s also doing some necessary and important functions that I was doing myself, like detailed fund analysis, allowing me to refocus my energy into where it belongs – client service.
Last, we articulate that we can provide a more comprehensive offering as a team – and have the capacity to take on business. That’s led to an explosion of referrals. In fact, if this continues, we’ll be on track to double our book over the next five years. While I’m grateful for the introductions I receive to higher-net-worth individuals from my existing clientele, with Colin on board, we’re also able to help smaller clients in the earlier stages of building their nest egg.
A repeatable process
I want my clients to count on consistency after I retire, and so I’m passing values along through training. At the top of the list is an understanding of what true financial planning is and what it’s not – namely, being a product salesman.
At initial meetings, for example, I require new clients to bring in their tax returns, so I can get a better handle on their situation. Similarly, I review their wills, powers of attorney, mortgages, cash flow and any other documentation that gives me an informed picture. Looking at debt, for example, allows me to make some immediate value-added suggestions, like using a line of credit to pay off a higher-interest car loan – or paying off a line of credit with money that’s sitting in a low-interest savings account.
I also demonstrate a standard of communication. I clearly explain my practice, my investment approach and my fee structure, so that there are no secrets. I also talk about time management – both mine and theirs. Clients are in control of how often we get together; their preference is either booked on the spot, or my assistant calls promptly to set up the next meeting. I have appointments in the calendar a year out. We’re proactive – no one goes without a face-to-face during the year. I’m not that rep you never hear from.
Continuous improvement also plays a critical role in my practice. My drive to differentiate myself, and add value, led me to take law and accounting classes. Colin has followed suit – supplementing his multiple degrees with courses in taxation and contract law. The most important thing I can model, however, is simply to help. Everyone needs a plan and everyone needs guidance to stay on track. Even today I make my retirement presentations public, and give seminars and ideas to people who may – or may not – become clients. I’m here to give advice. Full stop.
Our plan is that, within three to five years, we’ll hire another person who will be entrenched by the time I retire, and we’ll have put a repeatable transition process in place. And what my successor is seeing is that my approach – centred on the client experience – has resulted in a 20%-per-year growth rate in our practice. So why would he do it any other way?