As a financial advisor, I get to take clients on a journey and see how I’m helping them over time. This is why I decided to work in financial advice. I want to sit down and talk to people and help them understand how they can achieve their goals. Being an advisor is less about picking an investment and relying on its performance, and more about assisting people with longer-term strategic advice based on their lives and aspirations.
As an associate advisor, I sat in hundreds of client meetings and assisted advisors to help their clients.
What happens in our initial client meetings
Our initial client meetings help us get an intimate understanding of what our client’s financial needs and requirements are. We go through an extended process – we might conduct up to five or more meetings with a client, depending on their circumstances, to get a sense of what’s important to them. We then continue to have these meetings annually, to help us assess how the client’s finances are tracking in relation to their goals.
At the first client meeting, we try to get to know the client a little bit better. It’s a fact-finding mission – a discovery process. But many clients start off thinking they’re going to be sold a product, which means they’re often slightly defensive.
In the meeting we start a process to understand their family position, their assets and their liabilities and most importantly, their ‘blue-sky vision’ of life. This is called our whiteboard process and it helps us align their current financial position against their blue-sky vision. Do they need to take additional risk? Are they taking too much risk? Why are they taking too much risk?
During the meeting we identify a raft of action items to work on following the meeting.
After the meeting, the work begins
As an associate advisor, there’s a lot of work involved following the initial client meeting. I will send a summary of our discussion to the client by email within 48 hours and document the action items.
As part of the action items, I may review the client’s superannuation, conduct some base-case modelling and structuring to assess the client’s situation, and make recommendations to help them achieve their financial goals. The base-case modelling demonstrates where a client’s finances are projected to end up if they do nothing different. If the modelling shows they’re going to achieve their goals then we consider whether there is a benefit to them doing anything new.
It can also show them the gaps, based on their own aspirations. If a client says they want to live off a certain amount per annum in retirement, we can show them, based on their current situation, how and where they will fall short.
We may also make a referral to an accountant or lawyer to help with estate planning or structuring. The client may need some help to structure their financial affairs beneficially. Really it’s about making sure that if something were to happen to the client their financial structure protects them.
At the next meeting, we present any research we’ve conducted. For example, we may have reviewed their superannuation or insurance and done some base case modelling that identifies a shortfall or indicates they’re on track.
By going through the base case and recommended scenarios, it gives clients some control to help them choose where they want to end up. The research might paint a very different picture to what the client had in mind. This may lead us to have a discussion with them about their goals. Does the client want a passive or active investment approach? In the case of insurance, are they aware of the cover that they’ve currently got? What are they looking to protect? This leads to our advice discussion about the investments, structures and insurance that will work best for them.
By this time, we’ve generally identified several actions and a way forward. If we’ve identified a few things we can improve on, we would move to the statement of advice – this is where we make our formal recommendations. Once the client consents to the statement of advice, we can then start implementing it.
If a client doesn’t wish to proceed to the advice stage, we leave it there. We are a fee-for-service business – any fees that clients are going to pay will be documented in a statement of advice. If the client gets to that point and says this isn’t for them or they want to leave, we just thank them for their time.
This whole process allows us to build a trusted relationship with our clients. We get to know them over several meetings and gain a strong understanding of their structures and their needs. Understanding what drives a client helps us to assist them in making the often-emotional decisions that will really improve their financial future.
Mitchell Burger is a Financial Advisor at Viridian Advisory
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