In the early days of financial advice, an advisor’s primary (and key) value proposition was giving clients access to capital markets via various investment products and vehicles that consumers simply couldn’t buy on their own. And as a result, the nature of the advisor/client relationship was such that they would ever only really need to interact when some sort of transaction needed to occur. However, as the internet made various investment products increasingly accessible to consumers directly – through online brokerage accounts – many advisors’ primary value-proposition became managing a more holistic diversified portfolio… necessitating regular (often quarterly) meetings to discuss the performance results of that portfolio. Yet as the financial advisor value proposition begins to shift once again, and the profession further broadens its scope to include all the other facets of a person’s whole financial picture, many advisor/client review meetings still revolve largely or entirely around investment performance reviews. Which (especially for advisors who are transitioning clients into ongoing planning relationships) raises the question: how exactly does the advisor change the conversation in review meetings with their clients to be less investment-centric (when it may be all their clients have ever known!)?
In our 45th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards explore what it takes to restructure the client review meeting, and discuss what advisors might talk about on a high level with their clients, how action items (which stem from their Goals) help them make progress towards their “desired future state”, and a way to systematically structure those meetings in such a way that allows the advisor to demonstrate exactly how they’re bringing more than just investment value to the relationship.
As a starting point, advisors can think of the periodic review as a sort of “State Of The Plan” meeting, which (barring any unforeseen events in their lives) typically is to know that they’re making progress towards their goals. Accordingly, on a broad level, talking points can include a review of the client’s Statement Of Financial Purpose (which could include things spending time with family, serving in their community, or traveling, to name just a few), Goals (which flow out of the Statement Of Financial Purpose), and then their progress towards those goals and if the use of their capital still aligns with where they are headed (which is where the real meat of the conversation resides).
Meanwhile, a strategy for structuring these meetings might include actually crafting a physical agenda, which should cover a basic check-in to make sure the proverbial plane is still flying in the right direction, any news and updates (either within the advisors firm or out in the world that might have a bearing on the discussion), some sort of planning item (which, depending on the time of year, might revolve around taxes or estate planning), and then (and only then) a portfolio review. Ideally, the agenda should be delivered a few days before the meeting itself, which will not only help build trust (first by telling the clients what will be discussed and setting expectations, and then by adhering to that agenda), but also gives them an opportunity to add anything that may have come up that the advisors isn’t aware of yet (further facilitating more non-investment-centric client conversations). .
Ultimately, clients really just want to learn three things when they meet with their advisor: are they okay, are they making progress, and are getting their money’s worth from the advisor relationship? And by using a consistent structure and cadence, with a standardized meeting agenda, not only can an advisor make those periodic review meetings more valuable to their clients beyond a discussion around portfolio performance (which can be sent separately anyway), but it also provides a framework that they advisor can use to mention all the great things they’re doing behind the scenes to continue to earn their clients’ business as well!