Are we overcomplicating a simple issue or do we need to completely reinvent our industry? Does your business help clients look through the ‘windscreen’ or in the ‘rear view mirror’?
As another new year rolls around, we read the usual discussions about key industry issues from the year just gone, and expectations of key issues for the year ahead. Topics understandably getting solid air play include technology and disruption, licensing, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s new rules, and legislation.
If you ask financial advisers what their key issues are, the top-ranking topics will typically include systemising workflow processes, improving profitability, recruiting and hiring qualified employees, and managing compliance and regulatory changes. But dig a bit deeper, and their number one concern will typically come back to one thing – growth (or lack of). How do I expand my business by attracting and retaining more great clients?
If you want to achieve growth, or your own goals and dreams, first you must help others achieve theirs.
Surveys of clients of financial advice firms can help show how to do this. When potential clients initially contact their prospective adviser, investments returns is usually their highest-ranked reason for seeking advice. But that’s because most don’t understand what advisers do. People’s primary concern usually shifts dramatically once they become clients of an advice firm. The main reasons people give for remaining with an adviser are: a sense of security and peace of mind; knowledge of their personal financial situation; progress towards their goals; then investment returns.
Value propositions – past and future
In my three decades of either advising or dealing with advisers and advice businesses, I am going to summarise what I see as the old value proposition – which needs to change and quickly. Then, more importantly, I will outline what the new value proposition looks like; deliver on this, and I promise you will be hugely successful.
Yesterday’s value proposition:
I’ll be brief here, as I am far more concerned about expanding on tomorrow’s value proposition than yesterdays. In short, yesterday’s value proposition is ‘below the line’ and all about product and money. Advisers had strong technical skills. My co-author for The Life-First Advisor, psychologist Barry LaValley, talks about left-brain thinking (as compared with right brain). The focus is on money, product, investment, and getting clients a better return (whether that’s achievable and sustainable is another matter). As a result of yesterday’s value proposition, regular client meetings were called reviews – looking in the rear-vision mirror, considering how performance has been.
When financial planners meet at industry conferences, the first question I hear them ask is, ‘What’s your AUM?’ Industry surveys rank the top wealth management and planning firms by their assets under management. All product related.
This value proposition is called yesterday’s for good reason. It’s of limited value, not sustainable, easy to outsource, and therefore open to disruption.
The future value proposition:
So here it is. I am going to lay it out in clear terms, based on all I have witnessed. It is straightforward (but not easy to implement).
The new value proposition needs to move from product to people, from money to meaning, from below the line to above the line.
In the quotes below is what your future clients want. Identifying these points is one thing – delivering and demonstrating them is another.
“I really want you to know me, know my family, understand me, help me, simplify me, de-clutter me, reduce me anxiety.”
- “Am I OK?”
- “Can I live the life that I want?”
- “Get me on track and keep me on track.”
You need to know your clients and their thinking better than anyone else. You need to explain to your clients that their life is full of tough choices and trade-offs. They can have anything they want, but they can’t have everything. What trade-offs will they accept?
Would they prefer to make a lot of money or to spend more time with their family?
Would they rather have more holidays or be able to send their kids to private school?
Would they rather work in a major city with more prospects or make a seachange or tree change that makes them happier?
Would they be prepared to put off retirement in order to buy a beach house?
Is it more important to provide for their kids’ education or for the children to make their own way?
Would they prefer to leave their kids an inheritance or help them make a deposit on a home now?
Would they rather travel business class every five years or go economy every two years?
Would they rather live a rich life or die rich – is it important to spend their money now and enjoy it or to save it for a rainy day?
They need someone like you to help them make wise, informed decisions.
The future value proposition is about advisers having soft skills, something that, frankly, isn’t taught in many places. It’s difficult to outsource or disrupt and it focuses on client cash flow in lifelong models to see if they are on track or if there are any early warning signs.
Keywords that come to mind in this new value proposition are peace of mind, trust, co-ordination, empathy, macro-understanding, client-centric, and lifelong not transactional.
Regular meetings will be ‘progress meetings’ (forward-looking) rather than review meetings that look at historical numbers.
You will provide your clients with clarity, insight and partnership, truth, understanding, and discipline. You will change their lives immeasurably.
Whilst clearly the new value proposition is not just about portfolio management, in cases where this service is required, portfolios will cost less and be evidence based. The proposition has changed here as well.
Most importantly, the new value proposition is about value.
Not only will the value proposition change, but the delivery method will change. Clients understandably are looking for non-conflicted advice (perceived or actual). You are either a product manufacturer or seller, or you’re an advice provider – you can’t be both.
This all sounds straightforward, but it’s not easy. In many cases, advisers will need to completely re-engineer their businesses, or as the saying goes, ‘re-build the plane, whilst flying it’.
When doing this, all aspects need to be considered. You can’t just articulate the new proposition, you need to be able to demonstrate and deliver on it.
Tools for running client advice and tools for running the business will need to be separated. You need to implement best-practice advice tools and best-practice business management tools that talk to each other.
Compare your new value proposition with the points above in this article and make sure it checks the boxes.
Your top 10 clients may be on someone else’s top 10 prospect list. Are you delivering what they need? Just as importantly, what are you doing to appeal to the 90 per cent of people who are yet to take advice because what they think you do is invest money and manage portfolios, and they don’t know what you can do to help them?
Make sure your value proposition is looking through the windscreen, not the rear-view mirror.