This is Part 2 of a two-part series written by Justin Smith examining the importance for advisors to collaborate amongst industry peers and other planners to keep up with today’s information-rich consumer.
The other evening I was at an event chatting with a friend in his mid-40s. He worked hard as a CFO to build a business that ultimately went public, creating the opportunity for him to leave the rat-race and enjoy participating in his young children’s lives as a retiree.
While we (he) were laughing about me having to get home early in order to be up at dawn to begin work the next morning, I asked him about his experience with planners and financial advisors.
Specifically, I asked him if he had ever been approached by an insurance professional attempting to sell him life insurance. He commented about receiving direct mail, but he had never been approached by anyone.
I asked whether an estate planning attorney had ever approached him about protecting his assets and facilitating a transfer of his wealth to his kids and/or charity. He chuckled and said no, followed by the fact he is young and why would he need an estate planning attorney?
Lastly, I asked him if a CPA had ever approached him. Another no, with the indication he has that part handled (he is a licensed CPA).
I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised. Here’s a bright, successful, high-net-worth man in his 40s who has never been approached by any planners. He was CFO of a public company, which indicates that his fortune was widely known.
This fits well into the picture I painted in a post earlier this year that detailed some of the statistics that demonstrate there is a much broader market of individuals needing planning (whether they think so or not) than what is actually being performed.
a shift in behavior
In a post-ATRA world, where the “new normal” indicates roughly 3,500 estates per year are estimated to be of values requiring estate tax returns, fewer clients are seeking help from professional advisors, and fewer prospects are being approached, it may be time for a shift in behavior among planners.
Edelman Trust Barometer’s 2014 results indicated that Financial Services continues to be the least trusted industry across the globe. More specifically, insurance and financial advisory services were the least trusted within Edelman’s Financial Services category.
Attorneys aren’t viewed much differently, as many clients try to avoid them at all costs. Many potential clients envision nothing more than unnecessary bills when thinking of an attorney. And too many prospects don’t make the distinction between a tax-preparer and the CPA planner.
Listings in the yellow-pages gave way to the internet where a Google search can find anyone and anything. In the world of planners, the most sophisticated website and biggest SEO-spend means very little. While potential clients are searching for useful information, they are not looking and searching for us.
Planning is still a world where face-to-face networking and marketing reigns supreme. It is a world where referrals are immensely valuable and yet, are a lost art for many planners; many have either forgotten or simply never ask for them.
As documented by Edelman, trust has become increasingly rare, and a referral helps plant the seed of trust that cold-calling and broad marketing cannot. But referrals are often given in “2’s or 3’s” to not appear biased, and they are frequently given at arms-length for fear of anything going wrong.
In their 2010 Affluent Investor Study, Oechsli Institute concluded “…that 76% of the “factors” that today’s affluent investor considers most important in selecting a financial advisor refer to the reputation and trust of the individual.” Further, it was noted that 54% made advisor decisions as a result of a personal introduction from a friend, family member, colleague or other professional advisor.
the importance of a planning team
While referrals are precious, the introduction as an independent planning teammate from a trusted advisor is gold.
When an independent, trusted advisor makes an introduction to another independent advisor of a different specialty or discipline as a member of their planning team, there is the immediate development of confidence and trust on the part of the client.
Collaborative, independent planners develop connections based on shared ethos. Like-minded, independent business owners can connect in a way that delivers confidence and value that single firms employing multiple disciplines cannot.
It is too easy and too common for a single firm to unite under a common cause or motivation, which may not be balanced by outside thought.
There is balance in a team of independent, multidisciplinary planners.
Trust and confidence created the opportunity for them to collaborate as a team. As a team of independents, their reputations are linked, creating immediate checks and balances of behavior and conduct. The ability for any member of the team to act out of self-interest is severely limited, giving way to balanced planning. The team presents what is agreed upon as being best for the client.
There is tremendous value to the team-of-independents approach for clients.
grow your practice
The potential to grow a practice through a team approach is tremendous. The independence allows each member of the team to conduct their own business, networking and marketing.
For a newly formed team consisting of a financial planner, CPA, estate attorney and insurance professional, there is the immediate opportunity to introduce clients amongst the team, perhaps growing the list of prospects for each planner by a multiple of at least three.
Beyond what is “on everyone’s desk,” there is the potential for each team member to be in four places at once, growing the networking footprint tremendously. Each time a team member engages a new client, the potential for the other members to gain the same client rises significantly.
The results are well worth the engagement. The key is finding planners that are like-minded and that have skillsets that are complimentary.
Where do you find these planners?
Put yourself out there – go where they are and rub elbows. Get to know folks both inside and outside of your immediate communities.
There are countless events and opportunities to create connections and develop relationships with planners from other disciplines.