How can fledgling financial planners successfully roll out a financial advisory practice? By planning ahead, and prioritizing five key elements of a solid practice: financing, team-building, technology, sales and marketing.
The real risk for financial advisors, however, is accepting the status quo, and doing nothing at all to streamline and improve their practices. Financial planners can't afford that risk, given the growing size of the industry competition.
Consider this - according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - the number of U.S.-based personal financial advisors will grow 32% from 2010 to 2020, which the BLS says is "much faster than the average for all occupations."
This pending growth is attributed to burgeoning demand from Baby Boomers for retirement advice as they grow closer to their Golden Years. To stand out from all that competition, financial advisors need to consider their businesses as dynamic ones - i.e., businesses that need to grow and improve all the time.
What's the best way to accomplish that imposing task? Try these tips from advisors who have years of experience in the field - and who have learned via trial and error what works and what doesn't in the financial planning industry:
Specialize - and stand out from your competition
Pamela Plick, a financial planner and founder of her own firm, pamelaplick.com, says planners should find a niche and dominate it. "As financial planners, we cannot be all things to all people," she says. "By targeting a niche, you become an expert in the providing solutions for this particular group."
For example, Plick says you can choose to work with female entrepreneurs, widows or dentists, or the niche can also be based on location. "Or, you could target retirees in a certain gated community or country club," she says.
Be a delegator
Plick also advises focusing on what's important and what you are good at - and either delegate or outsource the rest. "Focus on important tasks like marketing, networking and meeting with clients. If you can, outsource the administrative tasks," she advises.
Customize your client's needs - and connect with that client
Leonard Wright, CPA, financial planner and member of the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, says a client has a specific mission, vision, values and goals, and the good planners get to know what these expectations are. "While they may not know them specifically, it is our job to bring them out," he says. "If the planning and advice related to the planning does not connect to the client's mission, vision, values and goals, the client will migrate away. If the client does not understand why the advisor makes recommendations for their benefit, they will wonder why the advisor does what they recommend and have an instinctive emotional reaction to seek someone that understands them."
Get involved with your community
Steven Kolinsky, co-founder of Kolinsky Wealth Management and a 30-year industry veteran, advises getting to know your community and getting involved in your town. "Being generous with your time and talent in your community raises your profile and lets you get to know the people around you," he says. "We recently had a meeting with a young couple who was not ready to invest, but was looking for advice about their financial parameters in buying their first home."
Get to know local professional accountants
Kolinsky says that connecting with local CPAs is a great way to improve your assets under management. "A great deal of business has been referred to us through the genuine relationships we have cultivated with CPAs, showing them how we do business and that they can entrust their clients to us," he says. "These relationships have taken time to build, but have been mutually beneficial."
Aim for younger clients
There's a dramatic shift in assets underway, in the U.S. and across the globe, and it's trending toward younger investors.
In fact, the asset management industry can expect to see $28 trillion in total wealth by 2018, according to Deloitte Wealth Management.
"The key takeaway is servicing the younger generation doesn't have to dramatically change an advisor’s practice management and recommendations," says Jill Jacques, wealth management and retirement lead director at North Highland, a global consulting company. "Instead, it's all about incorporating engaging online and in-person tools that will create a two-way conversation to stay relevant to evolving audiences." She recommends building a younger audience via highly popular sites such as Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter, and Google+.
Prune your client list
A 2012 survey of "elite" financial advisors by Financial Planning
reveals that most $1 million-plus annual earners tend to serve fewer – not more – clients. With fewer clients, advisors can spend more time working on client relationships and building client satisfaction. That, in turn, creates greater customer loyalty and increases the odds that your clients will refer to you other affluent clients.
The Financial Planning study claims that to access more assets from fewer customers, focus on those affluent investors. The data says that the highest-income advisors tracked by study researchers says that its list of so-called elite advisors work with an average of 83 clients, each of whom has at least $1 million in assets with the advisors. That's compared with nearly 73 clients for each of the advisors earning between $500,000 and $1 million, and 23 clients for the lowest-earning group surveyed by the magazine.
The Bottom Line
As the tips above attest show, building a better financial advisory practice is all about focusing on a few game-changing steps - and doing them well.
"If you are knowledgeable about the products you recommend, continue to educate yourself on the investment industry, and always put your clients needs above your own, that’s a great head start," says Kolinsky.
Past that, be creative, get out there in the community and online, and build your own unique financial advisory brand - one that keeps you a step or two ahead of your competition.