Over the years, the term ‘financial planning quarterback’ has become a bit clichéd, but with the new Department of Labor fiduciary regulations, not to mention clients’ rising need for comprehensive financial planning, I think stepping into the quarterback role is more relevant than ever.
Being a team quarterback can help you remain a trusted and reassuring presence for your clients. Consider the value that advisors provide: you are the central point for clients’ financial planning picture; you help identify, plan, execute, and coordinate financial decisions; you keep other tax and legal professionals informed. These activities help demonstrate your value, support asset retention, and can even help build intergenerational wealth management.
Manage the Team
One of the most important roles an advisor can play is to coordinate with the other professionals who are part of each client’s financial team. For example, a client may have engaged an attorney to help navigate estate planning, business planning, or other legal needs and a tax advisor to help with tax planning. Who but you is most qualified to ensure that your client’s goals are clearly communicated among these parties?
For example, how often has a client come to you with an estate plan that includes an unfunded trust? Or have you recently learned that a client hasn’t reviewed her beneficiary designations to ensure that they line up with her estate plan? Perhaps one of the worst things that can happen is to discover that a surviving spouse needs help dealing with unexpected tax consequences or transfers to the wrong individuals that resulted from a poorly executed financial plan. Missteps like these can lead to unwanted administration, tax, or legal costs.
By becoming more familiar with the full scope of your clients’ planning and serving as the quarterback of the team, you can help ensure that issues such as these are addressed before they lead to unintended consequences.
Build the Relationship
Relationship building is twofold. First, there are the relationships you build with other professionals working in a client’s circle of experts, such as tax and legal advisors. When it comes to these individuals, you can differentiate yourself and gain their trust by demonstrating your knowledge of the client’s full personal and financial picture, leading the conversation in various planning considerations, and ensuring that details are finalized and followed up on. Showing off your superior planning skills and your interest in ensuring that your client’s plan is in tip-top shape are great ways to increase your referral base.
Second, you have to foster your relationships with your clients. This requires listening and understanding their goals, as well as becoming their confidant. Estate planning and retirement planning discussions, in particular, are ideal for building trusting relationships because clients’ desired outcomes often lead them to reveal personal beliefs and feelings. To whom do they want to leave money and why? How do they plan for contingencies that are difficult to confront, such as death or incapacity? Those are daunting questions. The process of getting to the answers can create a greater sense of intimacy between you and your clients, which can, in turn, open the door to new assets.
Plan for the Future
Although you cannot predict the future, your clients will expect you to help them plan for it. And as your clients’ financial situation changes over the years, you will face new concerns that can lead you to add to your arsenal of knowledge to help them.
Saving for retirement, education and personal financial goals in the early years and then transitioning to balancing retirement dreams with health care costs and other retirement income planning challenges are competing objectives where you can help clients organize and prioritize. You can also play a vital role in overcoming misconceptions surrounding social security strategies, tax strategies, and health care coverage that clients often get from family, friends, and cookie-cutter planning operations.
Keep in Touch
Start and maintain a routine review process for each client’s financial plan to keep your client up to date on the status of goals and any potential shortfalls. The review process should include ongoing conversations with the client’s other professional advisors to keep everyone on the same page and to be sure that all details have been thought out and completed.
Your ability to step into the quarterback role will add value by allowing you to better direct and control the client’s plan, ensure that long-term goals are met, and coordinate the efforts of all team players. It’s a demanding role, but it can build client confidence, trust, and respect, and it could very well increase the referrals you receive as well.