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What Does a Great Advisor Bring to the Table?

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What You Need to Know

  • Top-notch advisors provide value to their clients through the relationship and the plan, not through individual transactions.
  • Focusing only on the highest returns often has investors chasing last year’s winner.
  • Advisors can also make their clients' lives easier through referrals to accountants, lawyers and other professionals if needed.

Do you offer value through a transaction or a relationship? Online shopping has the public focused on transactions, getting the lowest price. If they were building a house, the analogy might be shopping online for the best prices on different lengths of lumber, making a big pile and saying, “Now I’m going to build a house.” In reality, an architect, general contractor and subcontractors would be involved. As an advisor, you are providing similar services.

16 Services Great Advisors Bring to the Relationship

Many investors are focused on getting the lowest price. They don’t realize the relationship involves much more — services they didn’t know they need and might need to pay for by the hour otherwise. The relationship you are offering wraps most of these items up in a neat package.

  1. Live person on the phone. If they call your office during business hours, they usually get you or your assistant. Even if both of you are busy, there’s rollover coverage. Getting through to a licensed person is pretty easy. That person likely knows their name and is happy they called. This doesn’t happen with the phone or power company.
  2. A dynamic financial plan. The relationship starts with a plan. The advisor takes time to understand the client, their goals, dreams and appetite for risk. The plan can adapt to changing circumstances. Some clients lose their jobs. Others win the lottery. Some firms offer online tools that are designed to sell products.
  3. Transparent pricing. You don’t work for nothing. Neither does anyone else the prospect might be considering. A good advisor explains costs up front. Some firms talk about costs built in or “free online trades.”
  4. Retirement planning. If it’s not every client’s primary goal, it should be. Everyone looks forward to the day when going to work is a choice, not a requirement. Good advisors help clients set realistic goals and work toward them. Firms focused on the transaction are looking to make money at that moment.
  5. Progress toward goals. Everyone is interested in performance reporting. Beating the market is tough, for obvious reasons. What clients should really want is to keep on track toward achieving the goals they set for themselves. The anticipated return is often modest. If a client has a few back-to-back good years, they could reduce risk going forward or move their date for financial independence closer! Focusing only on the highest returns often has investors chasing last year’s winner.
  6. College planning. It’s a big expense that’s not likely to go away. Your client needs to start saving for it in a tax-advantaged way. They also need a way to channel financial support from relatives toward that common goal. College savings plans are a good strategy. Many investors wait too long to focus on this need.
  7. Major expense planning. If your client has children, weddings are likely in their future. Unlike college planning, there isn’t an obvious 18-year runup. Children grow up fast. Good advisors point out this future expense and help clients plan how they might address it. Many investors think about what their own wedding cost, unaware of how sharply prices have jumped.
  8. Managing parents’ money. If your client has aging parents living on a fixed income, they might be the family’s trusted advisor. This isn’t their area of expertise. A good advisor asks the right questions and makes suggestions consistent with the parents’ risk tolerance. Without this help, the parents might invest in CDs from the local bank as their only option or buy a product they don’t understand because it was advertised on TV.
  9. Pro bono help for relations. Your client has relatives who don’t meet your client qualifications. They might be hopeless at managing money. They need some general advice. If a client requests help, a good advisor will step in and give general advice. Many online firms operate on a transactional basis. If you aren’t putting up money, they aren’t interested.
  10. Debt refinancing. Everyone with a mortgage has likely refinanced at a lower rate. Interest rates are at a point when they might be rising soon. If a client has a higher-rate mortgage, a good advisor will look at refinancing as part of the financial planning conversation. Some people refinance on their own, not fully aware of the terms or costs of the new mortgage.
  11. Low-interest credit cards. Even successful people carry revolving charge card balances. They get into the habit of making minimum payments, forgetting the cost to carry this debt is often in the double digits. A good advisor will look at balance transfer opportunities available with other cards, possibly at their own firm. Many people just keep servicing the outstanding balance, without thinking about what it’s costing them. 
  12. Accountant referrals. It’s a general rule at most big firms that financial advisors don’t give accounting advice. Your client might have been content with simply filing their own tax returns. Their situation might be getting complex. A good advisor might suggest a few accountants in the area, suggesting clients interview them. Some people don’t know the value a good accountant brings to the table.
  13. Attorney referrals. There are many branches of the law. Your client might have a need in real estate transfer, estate planning or other specialty. A good advisor might offer several business cards of specialized lawyers. Some investors assume they can figure this stuff out on their own.
  14. Insurance agent referrals. As an advisor, you probably have an insurance license. You can help clients in areas like life insurance, annuities and long-term care. You might not be licensed for auto or homeowners insurance. If your client has a need in this area, you might be able to mention a few names, suggesting they check them out. Insurance is a complicated product area. The coverage you get is very important. It’s easy to make a mistake if you focus on the lowest-cost provider.
  15. Refinancing vacation properties. Successful clients often own holiday homes. When they see ads for attractive mortgage rates, if the ad says “primary residence,” they might stop looking. A good advisor with access to lending programs can help clients refinance vacation properties. Some people leave it alone because it looks too complicated.
  16. Refinancing rental property. Clients often diversify into physical real estate. When considering refinancing, words like “owner-occupied properties” might put them off. A good advisor can look at lending programs at their firm, quote rates and guide them through the process. Some clients know it’s an issue but don’t know where to turn for advice.

As you read this list, several points come to mind. “I can do everything on this list” might be one observation. Another might be “My clients have these needs.” You need to find a way to raise both prospect and client awareness of how you can help make their lives less complicated.


Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” is available on Amazon.