How many advisors have something on their website that says, "Every plan is customized and tailored to your needs?"
Let me tell you a secret. That is code for, "We are making it up as we go along!"
Ask any true professional about how they approach a frequently encountered situation and they should be able to tell you their philosophy and approach to solving that challenge for a client.
Does an attorney draft a trust document from scratch every time they get a new client?
Does a CPA let the client decide how much they want to pay in taxes?
No, of course not!
-They are familiar with common issues their clients face.
-They have researched potential solutions.
-They have developed a philosophy that serves as the starting point in the conversation.
It doesn't mean because an attorney has a specific trust template that it is going to apply to every situation exactly, but they can explain the pros and cons of different approaches and are prepared to implement accordingly.
Professionals have a perspective, a philosophy. Tell me about your philosophy!
In truth, you don't have just one philosophy, you have different philosophies to cover how to approach any commonly encountered financial planning situations.
What is your Investment Philosophy? How do you approach risk and asset allocation? What vehicle do you prefer and why? Are you pro active management or passive? Do you use individual securities or funds? Do you manage or a third party vendor? And WHY!?
What is your Life Insurance Philosophy? How do you calculate the need? Is it integrated into the larger plan or a stand alone consideration? Once the need is calculated, how do you approach filling it? What do you do when it's to expensive?
What is your LTC Philosophy? Or your Disability Philosophy? How about your Debt Management Philosophy or your Budgeting Philosophy?
A philosophy is an approach. It is a framework that you can easily explain to a client. It includes they lay of the land in that area, the challenges that a client faces with each potential solution and why you would recommend one over the other in different circumstances.
As Advice-based Advisors, we shouldn't be "selling" our clients anything. We should be sharing our problem solving philosophy and helping our clients make informed decisions that are aligned with their values and their financial plan.
Last week I wrote a blog about how un-Implemented plans are just an expensive thought exercise. In it, I shared the following process for making a recommendation:
-Remind the client of the problem you are solving or the need you are filling. "Remember when we discussed (X) and we determined you need to do (Y)?"
-Outline your philosophy, again. "As I shared with you before, these are the options available and based on these variables, this conceptual solutions is the best fit for your situation."
-Gain consensus on the conceptual solution. "Do you agree that (Z) solution would be the right approach for you?"
-Share your recommendation in a prescriptive manner. "In that case, this is what I recommend you do."
-Ask for confirmation and proceed to implementation. "Do you agree? Great, here is the paperwork."
They key to effective implementation is that you have to actually be operating with defined philosophies. Otherwise you are just pitching a product from scratch when it comes time to implement the plan.
The idea of creating a comprehensive list of philosophies sounds daunting, but it's really not. All that it requires is that you take note about how you solve a specific issue for a client and why you did so. You then codify that approach and use it as baseline for making recommendations for clients in similar situations in the future.
Let's look at the basic philosophy that every advisor has to have, an Investment Philosophy.
How many times have you built a portfolio for a client in their 40's with a moderate aggressive risk tolerance and a long timeline? Shouldn't the vast majority of those clients with similar goals and demographics be invested in the same portfolio? If they aren't, why not?
The problem with truly custom advice is that it isn't scalable. I don't even mean massively scalable. I mean scalable within a practice serving 1-200 clients. If you have 200 clients all invested in different "custom" portfolios, can you actually monitor them? I would suggest you can't. You can pretend to, but in practice you aren't monitoring them the way that the clients think you are.
But if you have portfolio templates built out for each risk tolerance and account size, built with an underlying logic, now you can keep track of the entire practice level portfolio just by looking at client accounts throughout the month or quarter.
If you have those templates, you can review them a couple of times a year and can make tweaks and refinements that you can implement at your next Wealth Management Review. Clients can see that you are proactively managing their portfolios and feel comfort that you are monitoring them on a regular basis.
That is the power of an Investment Philosophy!
If you develop philosophies in every major area of your practice, it will help you lay the ground work for full implementation of financial plans, but also allow you to build a real business. An effective and profitable business is not built on accident, it is build on purpose with intention and discipline.
I hope this has served you! If you would like to deep-dive into this kind of practice management training regularly, I hope you consider join us in the IMPLEMENTATION Monthly Mastermind.
The IMM is for financial advisors who are serious about building a purpose-driven and profitable Advice-based Planning Practices. We meet monthly for a live call where I train on something new and address advisor questions on all things Advice-based Planning. We archive all the calls and you have access to a library of video trainings the moment you join.
If you would like to see if the IMPLEMENTATION Monthly Mastermind is right for you, you can try it risk free. Your first month is on me! Click on the link below for full details.
IMPLEMENTATION Monthly Mastermind