From the October 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Little Things Mean a Lot

Jim Oxley and his team of three partners wrestled with issues similar to those Ross Gott faced in New London, New Hampshire. Eighteen months ago, they came to the startling realization that the lower 50% of their client book generated just 2% of the firm's revenue, yet required a disproportionate amount of service. Today, they've narrowed their focus to serving high-net-worth clients with $1.5 million or more in investable assets.

"It's been a lot of work," says Oxley, who has been an advisor for 25 years and is now a regional director for Raymond James & Associates, covering Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. "We have a large practice, and it's taken a while to turn the ship."

Oxley is using many of the same techniques that Gott uses. "The goal is to deliver 'WOW wealth management,' he says. "When you hear your clients exclaim, 'Wow!' then you know you've achieved the goal."

Sometimes it's the little things that make a big difference. For instance, when Oxley heard that a client hoped to visit Tuscany, he sent them a travel book about Italy. Another client asked for the name of a restaurant in Indianapolis; Oxley sent a gift certificate. "We're doing a lot more client appreciation--not aggressive, just more proactive," Oxley says.

According to Oxley, taking the time to create a Client Engagement Road Map takes the pressure off to contrive reasons for client meetings. "By laying out an agenda, both sides know what they'll be meeting and talking about the next eight quarters."

Like Gott, Oxley and his partners use a big screen with a wireless keyboard and mouse to present the Road Map. Preparation generally takes four to six weeks and is managed by one individual whose primary purpose is to prepare presentations. All four partners use the same template, which speeds presentation and facilitates substitutions. The firm invested in new furniture for the presentation room and frosted the windows to make it more private. Fresh flowers and a crystal serving set complete the atmosphere.

"Going forward in our industry and society, you have to redefine your processes and understand you are more than an investment advisor--you are a wealth manager," notes Jim. "It's a totally different philosophy, but a great one."

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