The Benefits of a Quarterly Financial Planning Engagement

As I started my firm, one of the most important aspects for consideration was examining the client experience. I was able to consider questions such as How do I best serve the clients I work with, What is the best process for an advisor to examine every aspect of a client’s Financial Life? In the Financial Services industry, clients have become accustomed to the Annual Review as the main method of working with their advisor – meaning 1 meeting per year. I find this to be inadequate to meet the standards of a “highly engaged financial planning relationship” and in delivering the best customer experience for my clients.

 

In my former days as a retail brokerage consultant, I was very reactive in managing the financial planning advice that I would give to clients. Given that I was counseling approximately 400 households with significant assets, and responsible to bring on additional clients each quarter, I implemented the standard engagement model of giving clients an annual meeting. I did not proactively engage every client on many financial planning topics because a) I had too many clients to help in that capacity and b) I was mainly compensated by bringing new clients to the firm not by giving the best advice. I knew that this was not the client experience that I wanted to deliver to my clients.

I recently met a client who was working with a large RIA in our area. This individual has a large investment portfolio, lots of questions, and needs a quality relationship to help manage the many unique aspects of her situation. She was paying this Advisory Firm more than $15K annually in fees to have access to 1 annual meeting and when she called, she felt the firm acted as if they were doing her a favor in just speaking with her!! People deserve better and we should expect a much higher service level!

As I consider my updated situation, I realized that I was now empowered to design and craft the best method of delivery and experience for my clients. It is an empowering position to play the role of trusted advisor and at the same time set a unique consistent engagement to deliver advice to help them be successful. As I have considered my options and asked for input from clients, I have decided to implement a quarterly engagement calendar, and here is why…

Here is the Financial Planning Schedule:


Q1 – Review Non-Retirement based Goals – Student Loan/Housing Debt, Personal Business Goals & Structures – Growth Goals, Business Sale, Buy/Sell Agreements, College Savings Goals, Risk Management Reviews – Insurance Policy review


Q2 – Tax Planning – Meeting with each client to review their previous year’s tax filing and reevaluating the tax strategies for implementation to improve their tax outcome in the current year.


Q3 – Long-term Goal Review – Updating Retirement Planning software projections,Reviewing Contributions/Distributions and coordination with Budget and Cash Flow


Q4 – Year-end Planning Objectives – Corporate Benefit Elections, Medicare Open Enrollment, End of Year Tax Planning and Charitable Planning Needs


A quarterly meeting schedule provides ample time for discussion of the two most important aspects of a client’s situation, Taxes, and Their Goals. As an Advisor, I believe that the Q2 Income Tax review is one of the most overlooked and important consultations I can provide – in most cases, clients do not understand their taxes, nor do they receive ongoing advice from their tax professional. This meeting is an opportunity for me to deliver significant value and provide guidance as to each client’s unique situation.


Clients choose to work with the Financial Advisor who will best help them accomplish their personal goals throughout their relationship. 2 of these strategic reviews are based on their unique goals: In Q1, we discuss their non-retirement goals and in Q3, we specifically review their Retirement plan. We have ample time to examine account types, contribution amounts, and track our ongoing success in accomplishing each of their goals.


Additionally, Clients pay large fees to Investment Advisory Firms that do a disservice to clients by only providing 1 meeting annually with limited phone calls in between. I feel that Investment Advisors are highly compensated, and we owe our clients a high touch, concierges’ level of service. A quarterly meeting schedule creates a cadence of engagement and allows me to serve as the financial advisor to schedule conversations with clients so that I can deliver the best advice for each client at the appropriate time.


What are your thoughts on this approach? Are you getting the best engagement from your financial advisor or do you have needs and questions that are not being addressed?