Year-end is a busy time for advisors, with pressing business activities, annual gifting to clients and partners, and supporting client needs all on the list of time-sensitive exercises. From a client-support standpoint, important considerations can include tax management, beneficiary updates, charitable giving and maximizing savings contributions. While the client-facing annual checklist is well documented, the year-end moves advisors should take for themselves and their practices are sometimes less clear.
For advisors with an eye toward growth, it is essential to dedicate time annually to reviewing your book, monitoring industry best practices and proactively advancing your team and business. To be most successful in these activities, you need to think outside the box. Here are six sometimes-overlooked steps you can take to review your business and set yourself up for success in the new year:
1. Assess your value-add on a client-by-client basis.
One of the most important things you can do at the end of the year is to assess whether every client in your book was effectively touched and whether you added true value to your relationship with them throughout the year.
Remember: “Value” is defined in a number of ways — be it advancing the personal relationship, supporting the achievement of a financial goal or even just lending an ear during a difficult time — but it is vital to the health of your practice. Consider whether you are servicing all of your clients effectively or if they might be better supported by another advisor in your practice. Or, if they are a client you’d like to keep on board, think about how you can deepen your relationship with them next year. This retrospective analysis can yield incredible insight into how you will spend your time in 2022.
2. Seek opportunities to simplify your approach.
It may seem like the financial advice business always calls for bigger, better and more: bigger technology, better solutions and more resources. While these are all worthwhile investments, sometimes it is more impactful to pull back and simplify.
This is most readily seen in how we interact with clients — specifically, the ways we present information and relay our ideas. Importantly, simplifying your approach does not mean omitting essential deliverables or features, but it does entail catering the experience to the individual. Seeking opportunities or client situations that would benefit from a different approach can go a long way in solidifying your relationship with the client
3. Consider which clients are your biggest advocates.
A client referral is one of the biggest compliments we can receive in this business. Understanding how your effort to help a particular client compelled them to share your name and impact with friends and family is a truly unmatched key to growing your business. Take a look back on the year and determine which clients were most willing to speak on your behalf. Dissect what you did to help them, add value and personalize the relationship. These lessons can help you replicate the experience for other clients, deepening your relationships across the board and stimulating organic growth.
4. Conduct a pipeline review.
An annual review of your pipeline will help you determine what is next for your business and where to focus efforts for the short term. This can be done in a variety of ways, including determining a particular niche within your book and creating a plan to garner a larger market share, or identifying which clients hold assets outside of your work with them and devising a strategy that brings more of those assets into your book. These inherent features of your business can propel growth in the short and long term.
Another important aspect to consider is the age of your client base. For instance, if you have a number of boomer-aged clients who are retiring and pulling assets, you will need to replenish those assets at the same burn rate to avoid a decline in practice profitability. The growth rate will be different for every advisor, but spending the time to determine this number will make a significant difference in the overall health of your business.
5. Review technological assets and ensure they are working correctly.
As the financial advice industry becomes increasingly technology oriented, advisors find themselves needing to keep up with the latest trends and offerings. But continuing to add to your tech stack without taking the time to appropriately assess what you have and ensure it is working properly can lead to (at best) underutilized assets and (at worst) significant headaches for your team. The technological assessment should be completed at both client and internal levels to encourage optimal operations.
6. Ensure your team is well positioned to succeed.
Take a look at every team member — from the front of the house to the back office — and ensure they are provided with the right tools and resources to succeed. If your employees are not able to perform their jobs efficiently, or they do not feel well positioned to advance their careers, it quickly creates challenges across the business.
When it comes to managing a successful advisory firm, clients always come first. But dedicating time to review your practice is vital. Regardless of what drives you as an advisor and business owner, all advisors share a common commitment to their practice and clients.
For growth-oriented advisors, taking the time to review processes and best practices will likely lead to greater longevity for your business, while enhancing the experience your clients enjoy with you. Integrating a forward-looking approach is pivotal to achieving new levels of growth and success in the years to come.
Zac Beckerley, CFP, is a wealth manager for Merit Financial Advisors who focuses on investment growth and income strategies through comprehensive financial planning. He enjoys helping clients build and pursue their financial goals for a comfortable and exciting retirement. Zac received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech University. He has always enjoyed numbers, so it was a good fit for him to earn a degree in financial planning. Zac likes to play and listen to music, as well as spend time with his wife and three children.