More and more clients are looking for life solutions these days. As their financial advisor, you are someone they are inclined to trust for suggestions and referrals. To deepen your relationship with them, consider making creative collaboration with outside experts part of your practice.
As I discussed in last month’s column, “When Your Advisory Skills Aren’t Enough,” there are a variety of ways to begin building networks of support (see sidebar, “Get Organized to Provide Help,” Investment Advisor, May 2012) Here are some experts you may not have thought of partnering with, along with my suggestions on how these collaborations can help you increase your value to your clients.
Partnering with therapists, coaches and counselors is an excellent way to help clients with psychological needs. Some advisors already invite these practitioners into client meetings to help them deal efficiently with these issues.
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Christine Moriarty, president of MoneyPeace in Bristol, Vt., has been collaborating informally with mental health professionals for some time. A CFP who is also a life planner, speaker and author with 20 years of advisory experience, Moriarty thinks the loaded emotional component of money often goes unrecognized. On her website, EnlightenedFinanceforCouples.com, she points out, “We go to therapists for relationships issues. We use wedding planners for the big day. We even go to sex therapists to have better sex. But money? We think we should just know how to do it.”
Moriarty also tries to educate financial planners about issues related to money and memory. “What’s our responsibility around memory loss of older clients? How do we recognize these limitations and work with them?”
I agree wholeheartedly, and see a huge opportunity for creative collaboration with mental health professionals who specialize in working with clients struggling with dementia. In the D.C. area, one such therapist’s recovery from a stroke allows her to help clients deal with mental or physical debility.
Moriarty has a “short list” of therapists to whom she has referred clients, but she cautions against recommending someone you aren’t familiar with: “You have to know something about their work and how comfortable they are dealing with money issues.” The complicating factor when collaborating with mental health professionals, as I’ve mentioned before, is that many of them are money avoiders. You may want to conduct face-to-face interviews in order to find therapy professionals who can collaborate effectively with you.
Once you find a therapist or coach, there are many opportunities for creative collaboration. Client appreciation events are one example; as a “money therapist,” I’ve spoken to clients about money personality types, couples and gender differences, stress management in turbulent times and issues related to retirement.
Barry Kohler, senior vice president and director of trusts and wealth management at Androscoggin Bank, a community bank headquartered in Lewiston, Me., thinks wealth advisors working solo may be missing the boat. “The reality is that planning for a financially successful individual or family takes a team—typically, at least a legal advisor, a tax advisor and a financial planner,” he told me. “The key is to find professionals who are willing to work collaboratively. Unfortunately,” says Kohler, “many lawyers (and CPAs) don’t like to be part of a team; they need to be the smartest person at the table.”
He usually begins by asking whether he may contact a client’s lawyer and CPA to coordinate their efforts. With the client’s approval, he then invites the other advisors to meet with him individually to “share with you what I’m thinking to see if it meshes with your work.”
It must be understood that each team member will respect the others’ expertise (no one-upmanship in front of the client), and the mutual goal should be a well-crafted plan that all three experts believe is in the client’s best interest. There may still be disagreements presented to the client, but none of the advisors should hear a different view for the first time in the client’s presence.
Such a collaborative approach, with one designated leader, provides far more value to the client than a single advisor can.