In his latest guest blog for us, Chris Budd, Chair of the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing, considers why it’s important that clients develop a close relationship with your firm, not just an individual adviser.
Over to Chris…
It is in the interests of both the firm and the client that the financial advice relationship is not just with individual advisers.
A relationship where the client only deals with their adviser is typified by the expression, ‘my client’. The ‘my client’ mentality is where advisers believe that clients will only speak to them. In my experience, this is almost always something that is in the mind of the adviser, far more than it is of the client.
What is wrong with the “my client” mentality?
There are many issues with clients only seeing their relationship with the individual adviser. Firstly, for the firm:
- If the adviser leaves the firm, so does the client
- This means that if the business is sold to a third party, the amount paid will be significantly reduced
- This applies to owners too. If the business is sold (for example to an Employee Ownership Trust), and the owner leaves, then the clients of that owner may well leave as well.
But it’s also not great for the client:
- The client only receives the wisdom of the one adviser
- One of the five pillars for financial wellbeing is clarity and security for those that we leave behind; having a relationship with the firm, not the individual adviser, gives the client a feeling of continuity and security
- What adviser can honestly say they are an expert in every aspect of financial planning? Perhaps one adviser is a pension expert, another an expert in trusts.
The objective, therefore, is for the client to feel that they are being serviced by a firm that they trust, made up of individuals that they like and can relate to. This will make the clients ‘stickier’ and thereby strengthen the business.
Here, then, are a bunch of ways that you can market your business so that the client can feel they are a client of the firm and not an individual.
Marketing the employees
If I were to ask one of your clients who was your financial adviser, would they answer with a name (presumably yours) or with the firm name?
The aim here is to create a kind of club, to which your clients feel they are members. They want to feel part of your family, and this means they should get to know as many of the employees as possible.
The most commonly visited page on IFA websites (after the home page) is the ‘About Us’ page. Make these as engaging as possible – for example, why not include cartoon drawings of the employees, as well as a bio which was fun and light hearted. Employee’s pets are also commonly seen on web sites.
Your newsletter might give personal information about the employees e.g., when they have passed an exam, or maybe have done something particularly interesting. Send the newsletter from ‘the team’, rather than from individuals.
The more specific this can be, the better. If one of your team has a special interest in collecting spoons or plays in a gamelan orchestra, get them to write about it. This will not only be interesting for clients to read and put across the humanity of the team, but any client who also happens to collect spoons or play the metallophone will immediately be on the phone!
Give your clients as many opportunities as possible to meet your team. Hold events at which as many employees as possible are encouraged to attend. These could be wine and cheese evenings, rum tasting, or perhaps invite speakers – who are specifically not financial speakers. Perhaps get one of your clients to talk about their hobby, or (if budget allows) maybe pay a professional speaker.
These events could include invitations to local professionals and introducers as well as clients. At Ovation I used to introduce these by announcing that networking was not allowed! Indeed, I even admonished a yellow card to an accountant and solicitor who insisted on talking work! When they continued, I split them up and introduced them to clients.
Multiple touch points
As well as opportunities to meet the clients, as many of the team as possible should have a chance to be involved in the advice process.
Here are many different ways that clients can communicate with your firm; is it possible that you could have a different person for each touch point?
- Initial telephone call
- Arranging meetings
- In the meeting
- Post meet letter/email confirming what happens next
- General enquiries emails and telephone calls
- The advice letters
- Administration queries.
You may well have more touchpoints than this. Each of these represents an opportunity for a client to form a relationship with different members of your team.
A client who feels that they are part of your family is not only more likely to stick around – they are also more likely to refer their friends and colleagues. And, as we all know, a referral from an existing client is always the best type of referral.
Chris Budd is Chair of the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing (IFW). He also works with financial advice firms who are looking to last beyond the current owners. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org