Today, people know what a good client experience feels like. They expect it, and they are turned off when they don’t get it. Portfolio performance is just one element: meetings, marketing materials, communication, even offices and special events all matter more than ever.
To provide the best client experience, you need to adjust your advice, service offering and communication plan to each client as they travel though their financial journey. While 100% customization to each client is too demanding, using the five personas below will help you tailor your offering effectively.
Young people need guidance. Financial education in Canada is sparse, and emotions may rule as a result. This often means excessive time spent counselling and working in damage-control mode as opposed to leading positive, forward thinking conversations about next steps and goals.
So, with early investors – be they prospects or the children of your clients – be prepared to start with the basics such as budgeting, registered plans (not just the benefits but explain what they actually are), and the importance of paying yourself first. Provide step-by-step instructions on how to do key investing activities, like downloading a statement and how to read its basic components. It is often failure to understand these initial steps, and a lack of confidence, that create lifelong roadblocks for investors.
After a decade of regular investing and career advances, as well as marriage, children and home ownership, investors will have a greater income to invest – and a far more complex financial situation. Whereas you focused on the basics with early investors, your advice for money accumulators needs to centre on prioritization.
Mortgage payments, retirement savings, children’s education, vacations and vacation properties, home repairs – these are the big issues on your clients’ minds. They won’t have enough money to do everything as well as they would like, so you need to guide them to the best result. Investing less while focusing on the mortgage for a few years, and doing without vacations to establish education savings, are just two examples of how advisors can help clients achieve their goals and avoid financial regrets. None of this is obvious to most investors, so show them the way.
Pre-retirees are a special subset of accumulators. While many are in their peak earning years, most also need to start radically reframing their expectations of risk and return as they prepare for living on a fixed income. A significant market downturn at this stage of their investing life can necessitate a complete rewriting of the financial plan and a reimagining of what their retirement could be.
To avoid this shock, prepare your clients for the possibility of lower returns. It’s never an easy conversation, but since you will be reallocating to less volatile securities it’s inevitable. Start with the positives achieved during the years of relatively high equity exposure, then keep the focus on the future – that is what you are protecting.
If things are not going well for your clients at this stage of their investing life, it is probably the result of divorce or illness. If divorced, it is highly likely that their financial security needs much more work. Treating this client like a money accumulator (#2 above) and focusing on prioritization (with altered expectations of course) is something to consider. If illness is an issue, think about treating your client like an estate prioritizer (#5 below).
Retirement has arrived and it is time to use a portfolio for income. While you have already adjusted the portfolios of clients in this group, communication and behaviour will also need adjusting. Earlier in your clients’ investing life, tax was always top of mind but not a true priority such as strong riskadjusted returns and debt reduction. Now, however, tax takes centre stage as preserving as much of every dollar redeemed is critical to stretching retirement savings.
Helping your clients withdraw money from the right accounts at the right time is a value they will recognize immediately. Most are unlikely to have even considered the impact of registered, non-registered and government benefits on their yearly tax burden.
A side note on spending: it is unfortunate, but clients at this stage are not always happy about their situation. Many will have found their sense of personal worth tied up with their jobs. Now that their careers are over, they may feel empty. That’s why it is essential to factor in lifestyle expenses such as vacations into a retirement plan. People who have worked hard deserve to enjoy their retirement. These are not frivolous expenses; these are the rewards of hard work.
Investors who prioritize their estate are a special subset of money Decumulators (#4 above). While estate issues should ideally be ironed out long before people are in the latter half of their retirement, that doesn’t always happen. And if it did, things can change – they usually do.
Ensuring your clients’ wishes are met is the absolute priority when advising these investors. And that means empathy, and reframing goals. Very few people want to talk about death, but advisors must find a way to draw out their clients’ thoughts on this inevitability. A caring tone, sharing personal experiences, and focusing the conversation on children and loved ones rather than the client’s health are three skills guideposts through any conversation like this.