Senior Market Advisor is proud to announce that Dave Williams is the 2009 SMA Advisor of the Year.
In his role as an advisor, he has developed a customer-focused practice that emphasizes serving the client instead of pushing products. As he tells SMA, “if you truly want to stand out, you must go above and beyond in every level of service that you provide.”
As the leader of Brownsburg, Ind.-based RDW Financial Group, Williams uses his education in finance to mentor his clientele. He says that foundation allows him “to educate my clients and help them develop a strong financial foundation to weather unforeseen financial black swans while meeting their individual needs.”
Following are highlights of our in-depth conversation with him.
Senior Market Advisor: The financial services industry has been hit hard the past year. What life experiences do you fall back on to help you through the tough times?
Williams: I was raised by my parents with the philosophy that there is no substitute for persistent, hard work. My faith has taught me that my life has a value and I will never be abandoned. With that in mind I always go back to the basics.
My wife of 28 years and two daughters have always been strong supporters and encouragers, and during the tough times, have reminded me that no matter what the outcome, I am personally successful with them. This allows me to focus on the task at hand without having to worry about outside distractions.
I am also fortunate that I have developed a strong group of friends and business associates that are willing to help me analyze these situations and work through them to a successful outcome.
I have belonged to a study group since 2003. These are 10 other advisors from across the country and we meet together four times a year. We all share our goals and actual production numbers in the attempt to help each other in the practice. What’s really amazing is that not only the advisors but our spouses have become close friends. If anyone in this group is having a tough time, the others are always there to encourage and help!
SMA: The key to any advisor’s practice is the customer. What’s your philosophy on the advisor/client relationship?
Williams: The overall philosophy in our firm is that nothing is more important to us than creating personal relationships with our clients and delivering unmatched service. Whether a client allows us to manage all or just a portion of their assets, we want to make sure that they are receiving the service and commitment that they expect.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, I think that sometimes there is a big disconnect between what the client wants and what the advisor thinks the client wants. In today’s environment it is not good enough to just meet those expectations, but if you truly want to stand out you must go above and beyond in every level of service that you provide.
SMA: How many clients do you have and how often do you meet with them?
Williams: We have roughly 300 clients. When we first enter into the relationship, I make it clear that they must meet with us at least on an annual basis. We do allow this meeting to be over the phone, but the great majority of these meetings are face to face. Even if they only have a fixed annuity with us, I want the client to know that we are there to assist them and also help them with any needs that arise.
We also have managed accounts and for those folks we talk at least quarterly. The good will and referrals that come from these are priceless. I’m always joking with my staff, telling them that I love advisors that don’t do annual reviews … they are my best source of referrals!
We send out a monthly newsletter along with birthday cards, holiday cards and special event letters. Over
the past year, we have also sent out some informational letters talking about the economy and the stability
of the financial institutions that they have their money invested in. Client reviews are a great way to build your practice and also to reiterate the values and features of the investment.
SMA: Walk us through a typical client meeting. What can a client expect in an initial meeting and in a follow-up meeting?
Williams: We usually are a “three-meeting” close. Our first meeting is a continuance of the seminar or dinner that we have had. At this time, I’ll review with them again my philosophies about our practice and talk about the 3F’s (faith, family and finances). I then ask them to tell me about their goals, dreams and family. One of the things I want to make sure is that we are a good fit. Do we have the same thoughts about returns and expectations? I found out a long time ago that doing business with the wrong person is more expensive than not doing business.
I then ask them what their main concern or problem is. We will review that and ask them if they would like me to look at it and make a recommendation. I want to make sure that they are really committed to identify and correcting problems. Of course, if they have no assets to work with or I see that there are no current problems, I will commend them and their current advisor. I’m always amazed at their reactions when this happens. (As a side note, we have actually gotten referrals from people that we have not done business with because of the way we treated them!)
During the second meeting I will present my findings and show them how their problem(s) can be addressed. I look and listen to make sure that they are in agreement and understand our proposal. At the end of the meeting I will explain the next step and ask for a commitment. If they are in agreement we will schedule a meeting to sign papers and move or place assets.