From the April 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

April 1, 2008

Seven Steps

In forging a strong interdisciplinary advisory team there are a number of issues to face, including:

Sharing Client Information: This is a big issue from one profession to another. In some cases, it's pretty easy to do. In others, there are formalities and potential liabilities that must be addressed before information can be shared.

Competency: Just because someone has a professional degree or certification, it does not mean they have the specific competencies required for the particular client situation. So you may have varying degrees of competency among the existing advisors.

Required Disclosures: These vary professionally as well as within each company or firm that the advisor represents. There are different beliefs around disclosure.

Existing Relationships: In many cases, a client has professional relationships in place even before they experience a major financial transition. They may have an accountant who prepares their tax returns or an insurance professional who has been helping them with business insurance for decades. If they work for a company with a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, they may have a company-endorsed financial advisor who helps with portfolio allocations and balancing. These existing relationships can feel very safe from the client's point of view, but they might not be the best for addressing the transition-related needs. Sometimes these existing professionals act as gatekeepers and could hinder--or even derail--the collaborative process.

Communication: There may be several different styles of communication at play in face-to-face meetings, written communications, follow-up, and accountability assessments.

Scheduling: Who is going to schedule and organize meetings? Who is going to follow up and make sure everybody attends? Who rules the meeting? Is the client in charge of all this or is it a particular advisor?

Accountability: How are we held accountable, apart from the requirements set forth by our professional organizations? As a team and as a brain trust board member for this client, what's the accountability?

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