From the November 2013 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

October 28, 2013

5 Creative Ways to Find Retirement Clients

Powerful techniques to gain visibility and trust

Illustrations by Enrico Varrasso Illustrations by Enrico Varrasso

Have you noticed? The baby boom kids, a.k.a. the “me generation,” have aged into Botox-shot sexagenarians with bad backs and bum knees.

But to most boomers, chronological age is just a number and retirement is strictly for the elderly, a life stage with which they do not yet identify.

So what's a retirement planning advisor to do?

Seek out these potential clients because they need all the financial advice they can get. Myriad challenges and questions face older adults when it comes to the reality of retirement—even if that now means working part-time, developing a second career or volunteering for the Peace Corps.

To be sure, seniors are postponing retirement—largely because of the slow economy and lower investment earnings—and are fearful their money won’t last through old age. Advisors need to help boomers with decisions like when to begin claiming Social Security benefits, when to stop working and the best investments to meet their goals.

How to prospect for retirement accounts? Read how five smart financial advisors are using powerful techniques to acquire new clients they're guiding to comfortable retirements.

The Networker

Bill Krebs, senior vice president-investments and branch manager; Piedmont Wealth Advisors of Raymond James; Greensboro, N.C.; practice's AUM: about $160 million

“You need to come out of the rain! There are other ways to grow your book,” Bill Krebs recently told a young wirehouse FA making 500 cold calls a day.

Krebs was alluding to LinkedIn—and he has become a grand master at leveraging it. The advisor, 60, is so passionate about LinkedIn that he even coaches clients and center-of-influence CPAs and attorneys on how to use the social media service to maximum effect.

“It's a gift to advisors. If you're not doing anything on LinkedIn, you're missing the boat,” says Krebs, who left Merrill Lynch two years ago to join Raymond James.

Four years into using the service, the FA, who has about 600 connections, generates a third of new clients via LinkedIn.

“It acts as a relationship accelerator and creates a bridge of trust,” he says.

Krebs searches primarily for prospects with whom he shares a common background, such as “military officer,” “Eagle Scout” or “business owner.” With a premium feature, he's alerted whenever a new executive joins a large local company. Such folks, in transition, present a prime opportunity.

One prospect-turned-client, for instance, was invested in three different 401(k) plans. “He’d been at multiple companies and needed to consolidate to get his act together before retiring,” Krebs recalls.

Once armed with information collected on LinkedIn, the advisor connects with people—either directly or through a mutual LinkedIn contact—that he perceives to be close to retirement. “Invariably,” he says, “I’ll get a face-to-face meeting.”

Coaching accountant and attorney colleagues has brought significant referrals. Recently Krebs sent a copy of LinkedIn for Dummies to a lawyer client who’d been laid off. Then he showed him, one-on-one, how to use the service. “I’m helping people expand their business,” Krebs says. “They see me as a trusted advisor.”

The Presenter

Lisa Kent, senior vice president-investments, wealth management advisor; The Kent Team; Bank of America-Merrill Lynch; Princeton, N.J.; AUM: $250 million ($277 million, team total)

Though she insists the way to a prospect's heart is not through his or her stomach, Lisa Kent always serves a luscious chocolate fondue at her small prospecting events. In the center of the table, the communal dessert—with fruit and cake for dipping—is a conversational touchstone.

“It's not about the food—we're selling knowledge. But fondue is fun. That's when we have a Q&A and people let their hair down. It fosters communication and the best opportunity for sharing,” the retirement specialist says.

Kent, 55, has been conducting seminars all of her 32 years with Merrill Lynch, as long as she's been an advisor. For the last five, retirement events have been her main source of new clients. She holds six large seminars annually, which are open to the public, and eight small gatherings for existing clients and their guests.

At a time when many advisors have lost faith in the seminar approach, Kent is clearly proving it can work. She owes her success partly to running numerous events each year and a finely tuned process.

The FA puts major emphasis on follow-up, especially a “Seminar Response Sheet” on which attendees pose investment questions. Contact information and all the rest go into her database; out go invites to future seminars and her quarterly newsletter.

Right after each seminar, the team follows up with a phone call. “You can’t expect [attendees] to call you,” Kent says. “That's maybe why some folks have less success with seminars. I tell people, ‘Please expect to hear from us within the next 48 hours to set up a mutually convenient meeting.’ So I go in with the assumption that if they come and I’ve bought them dinner, they’ll sit down with me. If they don’t become clients, at least they’ll have a warm, fuzzy feeling about Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.”

A person-to-person tack works best for engaging retirement clients, she says. “My experience has been that with baby boomers, making eye contact is very important.”

The Writer

Dana Anspach, principal; Sensible Money; Scottsdale, Ariz.; AUM: about $55 million; hourly fee $100-$200

Dana Anspach's prospecting strategy is two-pronged: passive and aggressive.

Aggressively approaching online publications is what the retirement specialist, 42, did to land a pair of notable writing perches: “RetireMentor” on the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch and “Money Over 55” guide on About.com.

The passive part: Prospects reach out to Anspach after reading her articles.

“MarketWatch has been the best free marketing I’ve ever done,” she says, noting that in a week, “hundreds of thousands” read her stories, prompting a minimum of 15-30 inquiries.

Five years ago, surfing the internet about retirement issues, the fee-only FA discovered that About.com was looking for a retirement expert to address baby boomers. Six weeks of writing auditions later, she was named the site's guide for that ripe market segment.

Then, this past spring Anspach offered her pointed observation to a MarketWatch writer that only three of the site's 38 RetireMentors were female, a puny 9% representation, she said; women constitute 50% of the population. By June, the editor offered her a RetireMentor spot.

Anspach entices readers with articles like “10 Ways to Wipe Out Your Retirement Savings” (MarketWatch) and “10 Things Your Financial Advisor Might Not Be Telling You” (About.com).

Heading her Top 10 prospecting to-do list for advisors: Develop an expertise. “When someone hears about you, they're likely to put your name into Google. You need to have things that show, ‘Yes, I’m an expert and am working with people like you.’ Create a niche in the retirement market,” she says. “Learn all the ins and outs so that you become the go-to expert in your area.”

On Twitter, she tweets articles by other experts, in addition to her own. “You have to share content,” Anspach says. “It shows that you're out there diving into your specialty.”

The key value of social media? “It's another way,” she stresses, “to verify you're legitimate and an expert, and that other people like you—silly as that sounds.”

The Politician

Craig Adamson, president; Adamson Financial Planning; Marion, Iowa; broker-dealer: LPL Financial; AUM: $25 million

Every one of his assistants has told Craig Adamson: “If you can get in front of somebody, there is no way they're not going to become a client unless they're a jerk,” the FA says.

A retirement specialist, Adamson, 40, has been up to the task for 13 years now, having gone independent after four years with Wells Fargo. As a bank broker, there was little need—and no time—to prospect clients beyond the firm.

These days, prospecting comes with the territory for this City Council member, running for re-election in Marion, Iowa. The FA is out there meeting, greeting and helping residents solve problems.

Then there's his extensive involvement with the local alumni association of Iowa State University, from which he graduated in 1996.

“I have a decent amount of name recognition, and that gets me into conversations,” he says. “They open the door to getting a first appointment.”

Typically, the scenario begins with connecting with fellow University alumni. They then learn that Adamson sits on the City Council. He talks investments in neither role; but when people learn he's an FA, they often introduce themselves to seek help.

One man, for example, wanted him to make sure his advisor was recommending appropriate investments.

“He was getting some pretty bad advice. I told him [what] wasn’t right—and suddenly I had half-a-million dollars in new assets,” the advisor recalls.

As a City Council member, Adamson mails welcome letters to new residents. He follows that with his quarterly newsletter.

One new prospect in town, receiving the newsletter for about 18 months, emailed: “It seems like you really know what you're doing. I’ve been investing on my own. But I’m getting closer to retirement and want to find out how to turn the money into income. Can my wife and I sit down with you?” Adamson recalls.

He is now the process of bringing in that million-dollar-plus client. “I’ve gotten five clients in the last 12-14 months just by sending out paper newsletters to new residents. People aren’t used to being paid attention. In a lot of cases,” he says, “wirehouses just herd them through like cattle.”

The Party Thrower

Andrew Kowitski, senior vice president-financial advisor; MKM Group; Morgan Stanley; Morristown, N.J.; AUM: about $300 millionHappy Birthday, dear client! Happy Birthday to you!

Andrew Kowitski throws birthday parties for his clients. They're a cause for celebration for him too, especially when the client's friends—invited as surprise guests by the wife or husband—turn out to be hot prospects.

Over the years, parties have been a wellspring of new assets for Kowitski, 44.

But “I don’t talk about investing, even if they ask me,” says the FA, whose niche is high-net-worth retirees and retiring business owners.

Social media is “a cold way to network,” he maintains. “Face-to-face contact is very important—otherwise you're a commodity. If you can’t look into someone's eyes and trust them, then why would you give them your money?”

At one client birthday luncheon, Kowitski met a successful manufacturer of metal buckets, who mentioned that he was considering selling the business but was unsure if he’d realize enough money to retire. Kowitski ultimately created a comprehensive plan for the entrepreneur, which showed how he could earn more in retirement than if he continued to work.

To get to know their families and friends, the advisor sometimes hosts social gatherings at clients’ homes. He also has parties for select clients at his own home.

“A lot of clients have become friends over the years,” Kowitski says. “Eighty percent of my book knows my wife Jennifer.”

Yet the advisor is well aware that “clients are living assets and as such, will pass on. Eventually, your whole book will die. I still have another 30 years before I retire. By then,” he says, “most of my clients will be dead. That's why you always need to keep prospecting—and to get to know your clients’ heirs.”

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