Retaining clients is the most important thing an adviser can focus on, because without clients there is no business. It sounds obvious, but then again advisers and staff can spend so much time on paperwork and the small print that they risk losing focus on the larger picture – demonstrating consistent value to clients and justifying your fees. Automating a lot of those behind-the-scenes admin tasks might be the first step in clearing some room in your calendar and explaining your value.
Here are the four most important ways to keep a loyal client base.
It feels like we’ve come a long way since the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) in 2013, and now charging upfront fees is second nature to most of us. But how transparent advisers are in communicating exactly how much clients are paying and what they are paying for is another question. Whether you tend to charge a flat fee or a percentage of the client’s portfolio, the client may still be unclear as to how much they are parting with, over a month or year. Before a client signs, he/she should be able to see what they are paying for under different subheadings i.e. annual review or one-off pension advice, as well as the amount and the frequency of payment. Laying it all out simply at the start means there are no nasty surprises for either of you.
We all know how frustrating it can be to reach someone’s voicemail or find out our urgent question will have to wait until next week when our adviser is back from holiday. And while advisers are allowed to take a break, they should try to leave some sort of system in place while they are away.
One method is having all client information on an online portal, as it allows clients to have full access to their documents, like their client agreement, payment schedule and risk questionnaire at all times – or at least wherever they have internet connection. The portal can be shared by other staff, who might be able to answer some questions if a client calls and the adviser is away.
And thanks to online tools such as notifications and online messaging, the adviser and client are more connected than ever before, even if they are both on the move.
Simplify cash flow modelling
Clients come to advisers because they know they want professional help with their finances, but they also want to feel confident they know what is happening with their money. Cashflow modelling, done in the right way, can help with that as it lays out the client’s lifestyle choices and goals for the future against their portfolio and income. Advising clients on how much they need to save, spend and invest is never an easy task – especially if it means encouraging a cut-back on luxuries – so being clear and precise with your plan is key.
Of course, there are always certain assumptions involved, and the model is only as good as the information available. Much of that information will come from the client, which is why face to face meetings add so much value. After gathering what you need, it’s a good idea to work online, so both client and adviser can access the information and update it as circumstances change.
If you follow the first three steps, you are already more than halfway there to building a healthy and solid relationship with your client. And we need to get there fast because a survey from the FCA in 2018 found that only 39% of people trust financial advisers. Being transparent, available and able to explain financial jargon in an accessible way – or as much as the client wants to hear it – all add up in the long term.
Another tip to building trust is using an online calendar system to remind you of each client’s monthly or annual reviews, and sending you notifications on client progress during onboarding. This means you know what’s going on with your client without always having to ask, and you are on time when it comes to catching up. But technology doesn’t replace face to face contact, it should simply facilitate more of it.
Trust means the client is more likely to take your advice, is easier to work with and is happy and confident that you are doing the best job possible for the fees you charge. And if the client feels like that, why would they choose to work with anyone else?