Bob Dylan said it best back in 1964 when he sang that the times are a changin,’ and from the unique perspective of an IFA, the world of finance is certainly undergoing its biggest revolution yet. Machine learning is sweeping in to revolutionise how you do business, while the social, global and political drivers of the markets have probably never felt more uncertain. But while these shifting sands may make it seem more important than ever to acquire more clients, your commitment to the retention of clients you already have should be your biggest priority. So, here are seven tried, tested and time-proof ways of building and maintaining those key client relationships.
1 – Expect the indispensable
Okay, so you may be ‘just’ their IFA, but you’re actually much, much more. Beyond the dry data of your client’s finances lie secrets, lies and family ties worthy of a novel, whether it’s a messy divorce, a difficult sibling or a painful inheritance. So, when a client chooses you, they’re not just choosing your experience or your speciality; they’re choosing you to be an integral part of their world. Not only will you be fully collaborative with their financial plan, but your involvement in their lives can, and probably will, go beyond the remit of finance. Be prepared to put your credentials aside at short notice, and instead be that safe pair of hands, that friendly face and a willing and ready ear; in short, consider their concerns your own. After all, when they lose – you lose, too. So, whether it’s out-of-hours phone calls, questions beyond your qualifications, or an emergency that requires you to drop everything, do it. By proving yourself to be indispensable, you are building a strong relationship in which they know they can depend upon you – so why would they go anywhere else?
2 – Apply a little science
The theoretical world of behavioural finance is a field combining cognitive behavioural theory with conventional economics to explain the rationality – or not – of investor decisions. After all, you can advise them, but you can’t implement anything without their approval, which can lead to frustrating outcomes. So, to increase the chances of them making the right choices, turn to the work of financial experts Bryan Olson and Mark Riepe who, back in 2010, formulated a series of recommendations that form not only the backdrop to a successful adviser-client relationship, but also to investment guidance and communication which steers them towards placing more trust in their IFA. From steering clear of over-confident, blanket statements such as – ‘you won’t find a better adviser than me,’ to being clear about what you can – and can’t – control, they found that a proportionate, rational and honest presentation of your experience and skills was more likely to appeal to your clients than a bullish, one-size-fits-all approach.
3 – Communication is key
While it’s easy to hide behind an email address – don’t. Tailored communication will always impress, as Jonathan Davis, founder of Jonathan Davis Wealth Management says, ‘If you have close relationships with clients, professional, clear and bespoke communication is essential.’ So, seek out your clients’ communication preferences and keep them up to date accordingly; some may prefer the immediacy of a phone call, while others would rather the brevity of an email. And there’s no room to be sloppy, as he goes on to underline. ‘Spelling, punctuation and grammar need to be of a high standard.’ Don’t be fooled by the informality of text or Skype either, and make sure that those communications adhere to the same standards. For those IFAs who are volume-based and rely on templates, Davis again sounds a warning – ‘you put future sales at risk by taking a conveyor belt approach to client communication.’ Finally, always consider making the time to meet clients face-to-face.
We then segue back into ‘Consider, at all stages….’
4 – Consider your community
In today’s increasingly online world, the notion of community has taken a rather unfashionable backseat, but building close ties in and around your local area can pay very rich rewards. From sponsoring local sporting and artistic events, including taking tables at charity events, or leading on youth initiatives, to planning elegant, seasonal parties to say ‘thank you,’ to your clients, becoming a supportive, corporate presence in your community will impart a sense of trust, commitment, and permanence.
5 – Bridge the generation gap
The differences between the generations have never been so stark, with research from stockbrokers, Selftrade, showing that 31% of millennials – those born between 1982 – 2000 – believe that they’ll never be able to earn enough money with which to retire. A quick look at their particular slice of the job market shows that the ‘gig economy,’ along with short-term contracts and freelancing makes for a far less secure financial platform than their parents, and that lack of surety means less money to invest. But, by providing ‘next generation’ workshops for the children of existing clients, which are designed to pass on basic financial skills and knowledge to the younger generations, no matter what they may – or may not – have available, shows a sustained commitment to looking after the family’s finances.
6 – Offset robots with rapport
The rise of the robots is undeniable, and the financial field is swiftly being leveled by the magical mechanics of machine learning, but while the computers take charge in the back room, never before has a strong personal side mattered more. Your clients will want to know that you’re committed to their financial success, and by taking advantage of this proven technology, you’re certain to stay ahead of the game, but be sure to bring some balance to the table by choosing proven methods which you can explain simply. Meanwhile, it’s important to assuage client fears of AI overtaking their experience by keeping that human connection. Like the rarity of receiving a hand-written letter, don’t underestimate the ways you can make your clients feel special by retaining the personal touch. As more and more processes become automated, it leaves a clear opportunity to step into the breach left by the robots to not only wine and dine your clients, but to engage meaningfully with them as people first, and profits second.
7 – Fly with the legal eagles
The financial market follows social trends, and both the increasing buy-to-let market, along with consistently increasing divorce levels means that the need for solicitors to work alongside IFAs to secure the best outcome for their clients is also on the up. Whether it’s complexities in settlements, along with frequent oversights in securing adequate financial provision for children, or issues with property insurance and mortgage fraud, the need for solicitors to work closely with IFAs means that combining specialities into a partnership – known as a ‘joint venture,’ or ‘JV,’ – makes increasingly greater sense. While such a partnership does create an enhanced need for regulation and compliance, the holistic workings of a JV help create more revenue generating opportunities along with a greater sense of continuity and trust for clients; after all, what could be better for them than to know that their trusted IFA now has the in-house facilities to deal with any legal issue which may arise?
Why not book a short online demo with us to see how incorporating CleverAdviser into your firm will also help you retain relationships with your clients.