Why values integration is the key to practice management
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
September 2019
A more in depth exploration of key sustainability topics
Why values integration is the key to practice management

Successful practice management is often a juggling act. Client acquisition, professional development, brand management, strategy planning, administrative set-up —there’s a long list of tasks financial advisors put in motion before they ever get to sit across from clients to talk about the issues they care about and the legacy they want to leave. On average, principal advisors spend about 8.8 hours—or about 20 percent of their work week—meeting with current clients, according to a Kitces study.

So how do you spend those precious minutes with your customer? Do you use them to talk about performance and products, or do you use them to understand what motivates them and their families? How can you spend that time to connect with various stakeholders so as to avoid the all-too-common fate of clients changing their advisor upon death or inheritance?

And when it comes to the remainder of your week spent on other tasks, how are you building a cohesive team and a brand that stands out among competitors?

Here’s one idea: ensure that your advisory firm’s values and the values of your clients aren’t a byproduct of practice management, but the basis of it. Make values the defining factor of how you run your business.

To understand how this approach could work, consider it in the context of three pillars of practice management: brand strategy, client engagement and talent acquisition.

Brand strategy

Why did you start your firm? There’s perhaps nothing more important to the success of your business than how clear you are in responding to that question. After all, the reason why you’re in business informs all aspects of your practice, from how you identify yourself to clients to what goals you set for your future.

At a time when investment advice is cheap and market access flows freely, advisory practices that have a clear value proposition stand out from the crowd. Did you take on fewer clients because you value high-touch relationships? Do you work with young entrepreneurs because you want to be a stabilizing force for young wealth? Are you building a new advisory model where you’re measured on impacts other than financial performance? Building a practice that’s clear about its mission brings together both clients and advisors who share that vision and are eager to see its success. After all, clients don’t invest in products, they invest in stories, and advisors do their best advising when giving the advice they want to be giving.

Client engagement

Growing your practice while also maintaining consistent and personalized communications with clients can be a challenge. Those 8.8 hours go by fast. How can you make them count?

Consider reframing the meetings altogether. Instead of centering them solely on performance and products, focus them on values discovery, planning, and implementation. Every client has his or her own ambitions and sensitivities: do you know them? What about the goals of the other family stakeholders, who may very well control that wealth tomorrow?

Once you know the preferences, you can engage clients by showing them how well such values do or don’t map onto their current financial holdings. Talk to them when their concerns about firearms ignite in the face of a mass shooting. Discuss with them ways to modify their portfolios to accommodate those values, ensuring that advice and planning drives investments rather than the opposite. Empower them to use their capital thoughtfully.

There are ways to channel individual client values into opportunity, not a burden, and to address them not in words, but in action.

Talent acquisition

Building a business that is proactive about its values can improve your hiring in two important ways: it creates a team of like-minded individuals that can ensure smooth succession planning, and positions your firm to attract and retain the up-and-coming generation of financial advisors. First, hiring advisors who share similar core values not only breeds better team dynamics but also allows them to carry forward the same values-focused service for clients of retiring advisors. At a time when the industry faces a wave of retirement and an impending talent shortfall, smooth “buying of the books” is important for all involved.

Second, a values-driven organization is an important differentiator in attracting the best future leaders and keeping them involved in the causes they care about. “Purpose-driven” cultures are a distinguishing factor among employers, and few millennials envision staying at companies where profit is the sole aim. Empowering these advisors with ways to translate the causes they care about into financial portfolios can be one way to avoid the pitfalls of disengaged employees and the associated expense of employee turnover.

* * *

At a time when clients have countless options, and advisors must juggle various tasks throughout their week, a return to core values can be a simple and effective approach to practice management. Sending a clear message about what you value—your brand—draws in clients and advisors with common ground to work from. Reframing client meetings to move away from pure product sales and toward a discovery of client values sets up the relationship for ongoing and personalized dialogue. Putting forth a firm mission that extends beyond profit can attract like-minded individuals eager to carry that vision through future generations.

Now comes the fun part: what matters to you?

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Sources and footnotes

Alex Laipple is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, now living in New Jersey with wife Meghan and his  four daughters Charlotte, Ruthie, Quinn, and Ellie. Alex has over 15 years’ experience in Business Development and Growth roles within start-ups and asset management firms.

Melissa Mittelman creates content at Ethic and is an alumna of Bloomberg News, where she covered private equity & deals. Melissa previously worked at Deutsche Bank, providing institutional, cross-asset sales coverage for ultra-high-net-worth investors.