Hang on. Where is the market going to? Will the Dow be 5000 in the next few months by June 2009 or 22000 in 6 years? Who knows. They are interesting questions. I have placed my own personal wager on the markets reaching these levels in those time frames with some friends. I have often talked about this with friends and clients since 1999. Japan could still get messy for the world yet as it has many unresolved issues. These problems coming down the pipeline have been a big part of my move into the human behavior business.
However, this whole discussion does call into question what is our role in advising clients? Is our role to help them manage their behavior or to get the highest maximum performance?
I have always said that financial planning risks are the sum of human behavioral risks (client and advisor) and market risks. Our whole Financial DNA program for investors and advisors has been predicated on this. Whilst the market itself cannot be managed by a client their reaction to it can be which comes back to human behavior management. There is university research which shows that 5% of a person’s wealth comes from their investments and 95% from their behavior.
I do believe 75% or more of our role is to save clients from themselves by helping manage their behavior. This involves educating, guiding, coaching and empowering them. What we call “Wealth Mentoring”. By adopting this approach you will be helping your clients obtain superior returns which far out weigh any level of fees that you can charge. The reality is that the key to successful investment is managing behavior.
Wealth Mentoring Transforms the Client Experience and Enhances Value
For the Wealth Mentoring approach to be successful the advisor must transform the client experience they provide. The client needs to experience the feeling that their life is more than money, their money has been humanized, a sense of improved relationships, discovery of life purpose and meaning, and finally a tailored portfolio built from the inside out. Then there must be an ongoing development experience involving wise counsel with the client knowing they have an improved quality life. Understanding their behavioral style and preferences is fundamental to all of this. Behavior shapes life decisions which in turn influence financial decisions. The linkage is very close.
Importantly, the value proposition to the client needs to be communicated. There are many tangible and intangible benefits of this approach. Research shows average mutual fund investors will over a 20 year period do themselves out of nearly 60% of the return produced by the average equity mutual fund. This means the average investor will significantly underperform the market and his own investments. So, if the average mutual fund return over the last 20 years is 10.81% and the average equity fund investor has averaged 4.48% then there is a 6.33% difference which represents the cost of not having a good planner. Hence a financial planner charging fees of 1% per annum and/or a retainer is very good value.
What is great is that now we have turbulent times lots of other leading commentators are coming out of the woodwork and giving this message loud and clear. We are at the start of a cultural revolution in the role of advisors in financial planning and the investors attitude to it. A revolution that is client centered and one from which everyone who plays the right game of managing behavior will be big winners. The philosophy of Understanding People before Numbers is here to stay.
The Advisors Value Proposition of a Wealth Mentoring Approach
Our last Whitepaper summarizes research that we have recently performed of 100 advisors with AUM over $50m. The conclusion is that far more client discovery could be performed and there is plenty of scope to introduce more fee based services which address the life of the client.
In my view what is ever good for the client will generally be good for the advisor in the long run. Lets look at why a behavioral “wealth mentoring” approach is good for the advisor’s bottom line let alone the credibility of their financial planning process and business.
The ROI for an advisor of adopting a systemized behavioral approach is driven by the ability to aid advisors in:
1. increasing client acquisition rates
2. increasing walletshare among existing clients
3. providing the justification for higher advice fees
4. increasing client retention rates
5. improving advisor productivity
6. increasing the business value.
Advisors who integrate a behavioral system into their practices find that they achieve these ROI goals by:
1. Establishing trust more rapidly with prospective clients through anticipating their communication, investment, and lifestyle needs
2. Gathering more assets from existing clients by positioning themselves as the client’s trusted advisor. Wealth mentoring facilitates client interactions that go well beyond investments and provides the basis for a deeper relationship with each client.
3. Supporting higher planning and advice fees through the offer of a powerful discovery process. Financial advisors may also use client centered systems to add new revenue generating services such as couple or family facilitation, executive life balance programs etc.
4. Improving relationships with problem clients. Advisors often struggle with a segment of their clients because their natural behaviors differ greatly with those of the advisor. While advisors may keep these relationships in good times, rocky markets require more careful facilitation to help clients feel understood.
5. Advisor productivity increases because once you know the behavior of the client it is easier and quicker to identify their needs, manage them and keep them committed to a plan. Alot of time can get burned for an advisor dealing with client changes and problems after year 1 which could have been addressed up-front.
6. Greater documentation of who the client is enables relationships to be transferred to other people within the practice and also when it is sold. This has a very positive impact on business value.
In terms of metrics, here is what we base the wealth mentoring value proposition on:
1. We have seen trends that advisors who adopt a client centred methodology are increasing their gross asset under management revenues by 25% or more per annum from new clients. Further, we are seeing them increase their fee for service revenues by 15% or more per annum. Also, there is enhanced client retention. Of course success from using any system is also up to the effort of the advisor.
We believe it is possible in respect of an average practice to help the principal advisor double their net take home profit over a 4 year period. This is achieved from segmenting the client base so it is fundamentally more productive and building the AUM and fee for service revenues from the top 100 or so clients. This is a substantial return on investment from our costs and the coaching cost.
2. From point 1, there is the ongoing business benefit that the increased revenues and profits translate to increased business value on sale. What we have also seen is that the behavioral data enables greater transferability of clients which is fundamental to the business value as revenue and profit sustainability post the sale are fundamental to the value.