PFS Chartered Financial Planner of the Year Natalie Wright offers five tips to make sure your financial advice business is client-centric
Keeping clients at the heart of everything you do seems obvious for any service-driven business. But it can be easier said than done, especially as businesses grow, time becomes more limited and resources are stretched.
Having a client-centric approach places heavy emphasis on satisfying your client’s needs and by serving those needs, you create a loyal client base. Here are five tips on how to make sure you maintain a client-centric approach.
1. Listen to your clients
We all listen… but do we really listen? It is easy to take information at face value and most people are guilty of telling you what they think you want to hear, so it is really important that we not only pay attention to what is being said, but also the way in which it is said and the context.
We have a duty to challenge clients, to have open dialogue and to question them further. Working through difficult conversations can make us feel awkward, but this is how we can create genuine trust and empathy. Sometimes, what a client does not say is the most significant part of a discussion.
2. Give goals-based advice
Working closely with clients to help them identify their goals is so important. For many clients, their goals may not be clear and part of the financial planner’s role is to help them have clarity about where they want to be and ultimately help them map out a plan to get there.
Understanding what challenges and opportunities clients face along the way allows you to be proactive, keep them on track and when they get distracted by the noise of external forces that they cannot control, you can always bring them back to focus on ‘the plan’. By focusing on goals, you create a tangible benefit and clients will be with you for the long term.
3. Make it simple
We are all guilty of knowing and loving our subject – and we spend years getting highly qualified, so we are full of technical knowledge – but it is easy to forget that making the complex simple is a very difficult skill. Simplicity does not diminish the value of the advice, it actually builds trust and confidence.
We are also trained to impart knowledge and this can often be at the cost of not truly listening (back to point 1!). When clients come to see us they expect us to be experts in our field, but part of being an expert is being able to explain things simply so that we can really engage with clients.
Financial planning often involves a number of complex advice elements, however, linking solutions back to a client’s objectives in a clear and comprehensive way means you continue to focus on their needs. Coming back to point 1.
4. Invest in people
It is difficult to attract and retain talent in any profession but with a shortage of financial planners in the UK, this is proving to be a huge issue.
Spending time creating robust training programmes will reap dividends, but it is important to get the right balance between qualifications and good technical skills – which will create a solid foundation – and then being able to use this as a springboard to focus on soft skills.
Understanding how to create trust, demonstrate empathy and instil confidence takes time and practice – and it only comes from good training and networking with others. Ultimately, these skills are the bedrock for managing client relationships and they should not be underestimated.
People buy from people — and creating and retaining the right team is one of the most difficult aspects of managing a business. But investing time to get this right will help build a strong culture, which should ensure clients are always at the heart of what you do.
5. Technology is the prince, not the King
Technology is an enabler – we shouldn’t fear it and instead, should embrace the benefits it can provide. Introducing the right technology means we can become more efficient, which in turn leads to spending more time talking to clients about the things that truly matter to them. Cashflow modelling is a perfect example of this; it has provided a way to demonstrate the value of advice over time in a simple visual format and has empowered the financial planning process.
The superior experience that clients are willing to pay for is a personal relationship with someone who understands them and their goals and who is then able to manage their portfolio in accordance with those goals. In a world where investment solutions are becoming increasingly commoditised, we have an opportunity to demonstrate our true value and create a proposition with the right mix of a personal relationship underpinned
Client-centric can be a buzzword, but it actually encompasses quite a simple concept, which all successful financial planning businesses adopt – putting your clients’ needs first.
Natalie Wright is a director of Mazars Financial Planning