Our first meetings at Viridian are very important. It provides the opportunity for our clients to understand us and for us to understand our clients.
In this meeting we have what we call a whiteboard process. This is a process I love doing with clients and something that they love getting involved with as well because it’s an opportunity for them to tell their story and for us to draw it up on the board. There are three steps to the whiteboard process.
The first step in the whiteboard process is to draw up the client’s family tree. What does the family look like? How do they engage? How do they get on? We talk about estate planning and this prompts clients to think about their current situation and their legacy for the next generation.
The next step is looking at a client’s assets and liabilities and assessing their group structure. This includes not just their assets and liabilities, but also if they have a family trust, a self-managed super fund or other structures in place. So we understand their financial position and also what is their income and living expenses, life insurance. Drawing this up on the board helps us build a picture that we wouldn’t get if our clients just filled out a form. As a client looks at it, they can actually ask themselves, is that me? Is that my situation?
It gives clients, and us as advisors, a different level of understanding of their situation. It can also be very interesting when there’s more than one client in the room. Many families have a key person that looks after the family finances. While other members of the family may have seen a balance sheet, seeing their situation up on the board gives them a different perspective which can really open up the conversation.
The final part of the whiteboard process is looking at a client’s aspirations and mapping out where they want to be at a certain point in time. This might be planning for retirement or thinking about life after their children finish school. What is their life going to look like? Will they be travelling? What legacy do they want to leave? What’s the key pivotal point that we need to work towards? The aim is to take people to that space in time so that they can be more present through the process of building that out. So in ten years time, we’re sitting there with a glass of champagne – what does their life look like?
One of my clients calls it his fantasy board. While another has called the whiteboard process therapy. That’s because it really helps bring out things people are worried about and their hopes and dreams.
Out of this comes a to-do list that forms the foundation of how we work together. It gives us a path to work towards. This list will have things that I, as the advisor, needs to do. It will also have things that the client may need to do and projects that we need to work on together. Seeing this tends to give people comfort because they can see what their financial future will look like, and that’s exciting.
Planning for the future never really ends, so I usually go through this process with clients every few years. This means we can look at whether their circumstances have changed or if there’s something else that they want to consider. Every time we do this process I learn something about my client and our relationship gets deeper and deeper.
Virginnia Hottes is an Executive Advisor at Viridian Advisory
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