Growing Your Planning Practice In A Post-Bubble World
How to grow their practice in “a post-bubble world” and what their vision is for their practice five years from now were among the challenges that Lewis J. Walker posed to financial planners here.
Speaking at a session during the Financial Planning Associations Success Forum, Walker, who is president of Walker Capital Management Corp. in Norcross, Ga., said “the drip-torture bear market of 2000-2002″ has eaten into the confidence of both investors and advisors. But, he noted, the resulting dissatisfaction among both groups “is a powerful catalyst for change.”
One of the changes Walker sees coming is that “commission-oriented brokers and advisors have a powerful opportunity to accelerate a transition to an integrated, value-added and fee-based planning-oriented model.”
And for those advisors who are already fee-based or fee-only, Walker predicted a broadening of their business model “to provide an expanded array of networked concierge or financial life planning services.”
Taking a closer look at the post-bubble world of today, Walker encouraged planners that they “can capitalize on the new reality of diminished expectations and lack of trust.”
But a simple transition to fee-based advice is not going to do it, he said. The reason is that “now everyone sells advice,” he said.
“Has advice become a generic product?” he asked.
And because fee-based products and services are no longer unique but have become increasingly commoditized, he said, planners must ask themselves what sets them apart from their competitors, what are they selling and what is “the product.”
The answers to these questions, Walker said, are that “your unique ability sets you apart” and that the product is “your unique ability as reflected by your process.”
The challenge for planners, then, he said, is “how to define and explain their unique process and value proposition” in order to set themselves apart from the competition and give prospective clients a powerful reason to engage their planning services.
Walker briefly outlined his trademarked strategic process called The Investment Coach Program, which he tells clients is “designed to enhance the probability of your achieving your financial goals and objectives.”
The program focuses on two major areas: first, family security and estate planning and, second, investment planning.
With new clients, Walker said “the first place he goes” is a discussion and fact-finding to identify major concerns, which could include areas such as working capital and cash reserves, insurance coverage, and exposure to estate taxes, among others.