In the world of financial advising, success hinges on more than just investment strategies and market insights. What truly matters is the client-advisor relationship, a dynamic built upon the pillars of service, trust, performance, and communication. Fall short in any of these areas, and your clients may start exploring other options.
It's vital to share your value proposition right from the outset of the relationship to ensure both you and your clients are aligned in your goals.
So, what do clients want from their financial advisor?
This blog delves into the critical elements of a transformational client service model and why it's the linchpin to a prosperous advisory practice. Let's dive in and discover why providing an exceptional client experience is non-negotiable in today's competitive landscape.
The client-advisor relationship is built upon service, trust, performance and communication.
Clients today want to feel heard and valued. People typically turn to advisors to find someone they can trust during both prosperous and challenging times. Your clients are looking for more than just a financial manager to provide numbers on a spreadsheet—they want an advisor who cares about their unique goals and dreams.
If you don't offer the communication and reliability they want, the client may search for another advisor who will provide that support.
The client experience differentiates your practice from the competition. Financial advisors are entrusted with their clients’ financial future and often are an integral provider of other wealth management services, including estate and tax planning and protection services.
A consistent and positive client experience is the foundation of client retention. A financial advisory practice that is unable to provide its clients with a “referrable” experience is one that will lose clients to other advisors who have a better service model.
Over the past few decades, the number of wealth management products, services and business models have continued to expand. This, combined with a new generation of clients with better access to information and higher expectations, has led to increased competition in every area.
Younger clients demand personalized service, innovative technologies, 24/7 account access, and more. Additionally, they are more focused on ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) adoption: A recent study shows that more than 80% of millennials believe ESG is an integral part of their investment strategy and are willing to sacrifice returns by holding ESG-rated investments.
No doubt, most financial advisors believe their client engagement skills are good. It’s difficult to be objective about how good you are at doing your job. But there are questions you can ask yourself that, as long as you are honest about the answers, will reveal important information about your client service model and its effectiveness:
The best indication that your clients are happy is their willingness to refer you to others. If your clients are not sending business your way, it’s a sign that you need to step up your client engagement game.
It’s been said that the majority of clients who leave their financial advisors do so because of a lack of communication. In fact, 39% of retail investors participating in a recent study consider it extremely important that their advisor maintains an appropriate amount of contact with them.1
1 Cerulli Edge, U.S. Advisor Edition, Cerulli Associates, 3Q 2022 (76), 2022.
Are you letting your client know you are grateful they’ve decided to work with you? It’s important for clients to feel appreciated. Hosting client appreciation events or educational webinars is a great way to engage clients and show that you value them.
Whether it’s an annual (or semi-annual) survey, a “comments” section on your website, or interactive social media accounts, do you have a way to gauge client sentiment? Clients appreciate advisors who care about their opinions. Importantly, do you have mechanisms in place to respond to client comments?
For financial advisors, a client service model is the structured framework that guides how they interact with clients, manage relationships, and deliver services. It serves as a blueprint for understanding client needs, setting expectations, and ensuring consistent and high-quality service delivery.
A client service model typically outlines the entire client journey—from the initial meeting, where expectations are established, to the ongoing support provided. This model should include details on how often advisors will meet with clients, the mediums of communication (in-person, phone, email, or video calls), and the specific services offered at each stage of the relationship. You can also incorporate how you plan to handle client emergencies or unexpected events, ensuring a well-rounded approach to client care.
A well-structured client service model helps build stronger relationships and ensure that clients receive consistent, personalized, and effective financial advice. By clearly defining the steps and touchpoints in the client journey, advisors can tailor their services to meet individual client needs, enhancing satisfaction, loyalty, and the overall client experience.
Have a formal document for each client that outlines what services you’ll provide them, products, all fees, meeting schedules, etc. Revisit and update the matrix as needed. For staff, written procedures and responsibilities can ensure smooth business operations and better customer service.
2. Define your desired outcomes and methods for measuring success
Models can differ between – and within – businesses. However, components of each client service model should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). A SMART client service model allows you to define how you will determine success, making it possible to adjust your service model if it doesn’t support your overall goals for client satisfaction.
Communication is central to your service offering. It reminds clients they are top of mind for you and assures them you are looking out for their interests. Share your value proposition with clients at the beginning of the relationship to ensure you and your client are on the same page. Reach out regularly and communicate proactively so your clients aren’t left only seeking you out when they are feeling frustrated or concerned.
Connect with the entire family and find out how to best support them. This could include financial literacy courses, college savings accounts, or special interest investing. Engaging the whole family helps you get a broader overview of your client’s life. Not only is it a wise business-building tool to gather new next-gen clients, but it also helps you retain assets when your client passes down their estate.
Difficult times are when a client relationship either flounders or strengthens. In times of uncertainty, clients are anxious. Proactively reassure them and answer all of their questions.
Be invested in your clients’ knowledge. It not only benefits their financial literacy; it helps you to set expectations and encourages clients’ engagement with their planning.
Often, when a life event occurs, clients don’t realize the impact it could have on their financial planning. Or, they do realize it but don’t have the time or ability to reach out to you. So, reach out to them. Financial advisors uncover impending life events during account reviews. Make a note of it and follow up. Clients appreciate you being proactive, and it’s an opportunity to earn more business.
Time is your most valuable commodity. Having the time to build and maintain strong client relationships is the single most important thing you can do to optimize each client’s experience with your advisory firm. Below are three ways you can optimize your time:
Though time-consuming, portfolio management is not the differentiator it once was. Outsourcing the management of client assets not only allows you to leverage the skills of research and investment experts but it has also been shown to increase client satisfaction.
Staying in front of your clients can be a challenge, especially as your book of business grows. Leveraging a marketing platform that can integrate with your CRM to create email campaigns and outreach programs. Complement this technology with the personalized support of a consultant who can help drive productivity and results.
Each of your clients has unique needs. Segmentation allows you to separate clients into smaller, more manageable groups so you can create a tiered service model framework that equips you to deliver the right service to each client.
In the ever-evolving landscape of financial advising, one thing remains constant: the paramount importance of the client-advisor relationship. Putting clients first and ensuring their satisfaction are the cornerstones of a thriving advisory practice.
So, whether you're fine-tuning your service model, enhancing communication, or considering outsourcing to optimize your time and provide more value, remember that your dedication to client service can set you apart in this competitive arena. Your commitment to their financial well-being will foster long-term relationships and fuel the growth and success of your financial advisory practice.
Would you benefit from outsourcing asset management or other elements of your practice? Find out how a TAMP can help you provide a better client experience that supports your service model.
AssetMark is a leading provider of extensive wealth management and technology solutions that help financial advisors meet the ever-changing needs of their clients and businesses.
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