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Most financial planners enter the industry with honest intentions and the desire to help clients manage and understand their finances. They often begin working in wirehouses, and eventually might decide to start their own business. Soon, they realize it can get lonely out there.

It’s tough making decisions alone when running your own business — from the firm name and logo to deciding if the next piece of office equipment is going to be leased or purchased. There is a lot of time spent thinking and managing trivial tasks that do not have major effects on clients. Instead, it’s important for you to focus your time on the outcomes that have a direct impact.

Retainer-based planning is a unique approach to financial advising that provides distinct values and insights for clients, as well as marks off all of the checkboxes that clients seek in an experienced advisor. Not only can retainer-based planning benefit your clients, but it will help you, the advisor, accomplish your long-term goals by creating an easier method to managing work/life balance while continuing to grow your practice.

The Life of a Financial Advisor Can Be a Challenging One

A wise man once told me, “The easy answer is rarely the right one and the right answer is rarely the easy one.” There was a time when financial advising mainly revolved around asset collection and sales practice. Advisors used to be the source of investment information, but with the digital age further advancing in the professional world, many advisors have taken a step back from providing their own investment knowledge.

One of the biggest challenge’s advisors face is selling themselves to new clients. Offering superior services and insights to prospects will help an advisor stand out from the crowd. It’s vital for advisors to market themselves accordingly and provide prospects with information they may not be receiving from their current advisor. Above all, advisors must market what makes them different in a crowded industry.

However, while all advisors want to be different, compliance demands the containment of financial professionals. This limits solutions and encourages financial advisors to stick with “traditional planning” and standard investments. Differentiation is difficult when all planners appear exactly the same.

The truth is, the more money a prospect has, the more likely they won’t take a chance on an independent firm or team. The risk of losing the game is too monumental, which prevents many firms from branching out to nontraditional models. Because of this, older firms with recognition are hired. In order to compete, you need to provide a value to clients that cannot be found through the traditional model.

Value Your Firm and Be Valued by Others

It is possible to create a profitable business that adds real value to clients’ lives without stretching yourself too thin.

Imagine you are a high-net-worth prospect. What do you want? At a basic level, you want comprehensive advice to help make smart financial decisions. You want to work with someone who does not provide answers that are tied to a commissioned product. You want to be able to leverage low-cost platforms, but still have an advisor to talk to. Most importantly, you want value.

Implementing a retainer-based model allows advisors to charge a fee that better reflects the skills and services advisors provide their clients. Choosing a fee-only advisor with a retainer fee is a wise decision for prospects, as they can be confident their advisors are working in their best interest rather than making commission off sold investments.

Retainer-based planning adds value to clients seeking customized and comprehensive advice. This financial planning model benefits clients who want an allocation to alternatives, but also want to keep the bulk of assets at a low-cost provider. Retainer-based advisors provide insight in reviewing current and recommended insurance policies. This value differentiates retainer-based planning from traditional models, as many clients are looking for this level of understanding and intuition.

Make The Switch To Retainer-Based Planning

Retainer-based financial planning consists of ongoing fixed fees as the form of payment for advisors. These fees may be subject to change, as they are based on the complexity of the financial planning, which may increase or decrease over time. This distinct model is on the rise, as the structure benefits both the advisor and client.

Transitioning to a retainer-based planning model is smart way to add value to clients and increase profits all while allowing more work/life balance for advisors. After making the transition to perform as an advice-driven firm, a process with repetition must be implemented to service clients with knowledgeable guidance in times of need. Create the process once, but use it often. Retainer-based planning can be scalable.

There’s no specific set time frame between deciding to be retainer-based and implementing it. The process cannot be rushed and if it happens to be hurried along, it simply won’t work. The switch can be made whenever you want — just don’t miss the boat.

The bottom line: It’s never the wrong time to shape your practice into one that provides untraditional advice and helps clients in the way you think will benefit them most. The results will make all of the difference in how successfully your firm operates and interacts with clients.


Fred Hubler (Mr. Retainer) is a financial advisor with more than 25 years of professional experience in the financial services and technology industry. He is the Founder of Retainer-Based Academy, located in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. To learn more about Retainer-based Academy, please visit www.retainerbasedacademy.com.