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Transparency and communication key to keeping wealth management clients

By Randy Southerland

As clients of wealth managers grow increasingly affluent, their needs can change — and advisors who don’t keep up with those changes risk losing those clients to competitors who do.

Clients leave their advisors for a variety of reasons, including underperforming investments, high fees, data breaches, lack of communication and regulatory sanctions, according to a study by the CFA Institute, a global association of chartered financial analysts (CFAs).

In the study, advisors cited proactive communications and transparency as the primary behaviors that keep clients satisfied. But keeping in touch is not just telling clients how they’re doing financially, but ensuring that changes in finances and life circumstances are being addressed to allow for new opportunities.  

“We become part of our clients’ lives and look at areas that others might have ignored,” said Emily Sanders, managing director of United Capital Financial Life Management

Clients can grow dissatisfied if they conclude their wealth advisor “is not evolving or growing with them,” said John Inhouse, managing director and market executive in the Buckhead office of Merrill Lynch

“You can think about wealth from a very primal perspective. It’s survival and then it’s security and then it’s legacy,” he said. “When our clients think about legacy, we need to be there with a plan. We need to make sure we’re constantly in touch with them around the primary intent for their wealth.”

Advisors work with clients on more than retirement, said Sanders. “The wealthiest clients want to know that advisors don’t only ask them about their money, but make sure their money goals are aligned with their life goals,” she added. “We call that financial life management. That’s really what the client’s value.” 

They also value relationships, she said. “It makes the [clients] grateful when we develop a relationship with their adult children and help them through transitions such as marriage, birth of a child, purchasing a first home,” Sanders added.

Clients stick with advisors who see them as people, said Jonathan Parris, an Atlanta-based private client advisor for U.S. Trust.

“EQ – emotional intelligence – is just as important as IQ. It’s having an ability to advise every aspect of their balance sheet as well as every aspect of their family life,” he said. “Have a strong pulse on what’s driving the emotions of clients and understanding what their passions are.” 

To keep clients, advisors need to reiterate the value of their services, said Jacqueline Schadeck, a financial advisor with Tailored Wealth Management.

“That value proposition can be hard to convey to someone, especially when you’re working with intangibles,” she said, adding that creating an easy-to-read, one-sheet document on the many services advisors can provide can be helpful.

Consistent communication also is essential, said Parris. Along with regular meetings, advisors should touch base when a client has a significant life event or if there are changes in legislation that may affect their portfolios. 

Advisors can also help clients with difficult conversations with family, said Inhouse. For example, spouses may have different views on how and when wealth should be transferred to family members. “Some people are uncomfortable doing that, but it’s a very important to talk about it,” he said. 

Clients also may move on for personal reasons, said Schadeck. One client wanted to leave her firm after acquiring a large windfall, she said. The entrepreneur wanted to open an account with the firm that had served his father.  

“We talked through some things,” she said about the client, who decided to keep his relationship with her firm after all.

Keys to Retention

Tips on how to retain your wealthiest clients

1. Communicate frequently, not just to report financial data to clients but to check in about future plans.

2. Be transparent, letting clients see dollar by dollar where their money is so there are no secrets.

3. Stay aware of clients’ needs, such as children’s and/or grandchildren’s education and inheritance.

4. Be a “financial life manager” rather than just a financial manager.

5. Remind clients about the importance of wealth management services.

6. Be proactive, checking in when a client has a major life event such as a divorce or death, or if new legislation impacts their portfolio.

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle: