A common service model for many financial advisory firms is to schedule annual client meetings throughout the year where the advisor meets with each client in the month they started working with the firm, and conducts a comprehensive review of all planning topics for the client. Which means that on any given workday, advisors might find themselves reviewing one client’s portfolio and another’s estate plan in the morning, and having a meeting with a third client later in the afternoon. However, by creating a systematic annual process to monitor and update client plans based on seasons, not only can advisors save time and work more efficiently, but they can also communicate the value of ongoing financial planning services to prospects and clients more effectively.
One way to implement a seasonal model is to group client meetings (and the requisite meeting prep) by topic, and then to thematically organize seasons throughout the calendar year. With this approach, the advisor can focus on particular planning areas (e.g., tax and estate planning) for all of their clients in each given time period, with designated seasons for meeting prep and separate seasons for client meetings. Which means there would be ample time to prepare for meetings that would cover only one set of planning topics – e.g., advisors would discuss tax and estate planning with clients in the fall and prepare for those meetings in advance over the summer, while discussing retirement and investments in the spring and preparing for those meetings in the winter.
This approach allows advisors to focus more deeply on each topic they discuss with clients and, because of the systematic nature of the schedule, can also save time while improving both efficiency and efficacy. Furthermore, advisors can adjust the annual calendar to accommodate their team members’ work-life balance needs. For example, with summers designated as meeting prep seasons, team members with children can have more workweek flexibility (given the lack of client meetings) and enjoy more days off while their kids are on summer vacation.
Importantly, implementing any new client meeting system also requires communicating to clients how the system works and setting clear expectations with them upfront. This may be done through a Client Engagement Standards document, which can ensure clients understand the process and their obligations to provide the advisor with the requested information. And by making sure that clients have this level of clarity, advisors and clients alike can have confidence that no part of their plan will slip through the cracks.
Ultimately, the key point is that by establishing a seasonal cadence of when and how clients’ financial plans are updated and monitored, advisors can improve efficiency while easily demonstrating to their clients the full range of work involved in monitoring and updating their plans. So for advisors who feel overwhelmed with the range of responsibilities they have in a given week, implementing a systematic annual planning process based on seasons can not only provide more structure to their processes, but also provide a better experience – not only for their clients, but also for their work teams – in the process!