Delivering a Plan That Fully Engages the Client
by Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP®
How a financial planner delivers a client’s financial plan plays a big part in whether or not the client will succeed in achieving their financial goals.
After the planner has an initial meeting with a prospective client, goes through a data gathering process with the client and then does the required analysis, they’ll produce a tailored financial plan with recommendations and actions.
The plan itself is typically a lengthy document, which most planners agree is rarely read by the client after it’s first been presented.
And if the planner produces a one-page summary print-out of the plan, in an attempt to simplify the format, it can appear to the client as though they’ve done little more than software data entry and the printing out of the results.
In both cases, clients don’t get to see the behind-the-scenes work that the planner does to get to that point and can, therefore, struggle to understand why they should use a financial planner at all.
So, what is the best way to deliver a financial plan that not only engages the client to keep them on track with their financial goals, but also demonstrates the real value that the financial planner provides?
Before delivering the plan
The adviser should ask the right open-ended questions at the introductory meeting so that they can glean information about the client’s true motivations, life goals and plans for retirement.
At the second meeting, the adviser should offer the client practical help with data gathering and getting their finances organised. Doing this helps to communicate the added value that a professional planner can bring to the process and offers tangible benefits for the client before the plan itself is formed.
Bringing expert knowledge to life
The delivery of the financial plan usually takes place during the third meeting with the client. American financial planning guru, Michael Kitces, believes that one way to establish trust and credibility is to move away from, or minimise, the physical plan and actually show the client how the analysis was done.
Providing the planner has a sound knowledge of their financial planning software, they can walk the client through their analysis, making the giving of advice more of a collaborative discussion and interactive process between both parties.
The adviser can explain how financial planning is a highly integrated, yet focused activity, and how retirement planning, for example, links into the areas of financial management and investment management.
Demonstrating exactly how the planner has reached their recommendations helps validate the advice given – the client receives proof that the advice is accurate. The client can also clearly see how the actions they are about to take (now and in the future) contribute to their overall life goals, and they get the chance to ask questions throughout the demonstration. A simple one-page summary of recommendations and actions could be provided, as a follow-up.
Continuously motivating the client
Delivering the financial plan effectively isn’t just about the knowledge shared and advice given at that particular time; it’s also about ensuring the plan is acted upon so that the client stays on track and motivated.
Leading financial planning coach, George Kinder, teaches (as part of the “EVOKE” life planning methodology) that the adviser should serve as a coach, regularly following up with the client to encourage and congratulate them as the steps in the plan are implemented.
Over time, the client’s motivation may dip, which is where the planner can revisit the client’s life goals and make sure the plan is still fit for purpose. They can amend the plan and subsequent recommendations/actions if need be, and by reconnecting with their client to do this, work towards securing them for life.
Retirement planning: a collaborative process
Financial planning shouldn’t be about product sales. The process should involve working with the client, starting from the very first meeting to ascertain what their key motivations are for living their life to the full, both now and throughout their retirement.
By making sure each meeting with the client is more collaborative and interactive, including the one in which the financial plan is delivered, trust and credibility can be established. Better still, the client is more likely to view the adviser as a professional and realise the value in bringing them on board for the long term to help them with their financial goals.
Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP® is a partner at Holland Hahn & Wills LLP, a financial planning practice based in Kingston upon Thames. He specialises in working with successful professionals age 50+ helping them reduce taxes, invest smarter and retire on their terms.