How well do you think you know your clients? What about their complete financial profile? If you have been in the industry for a while you may believe you know everything. However, most advisors who confidently tell me this are kidding themselves. Why can I confidently say this?
Because I've been working with financial advisors for nearly two decades. These seasoned financial professionals believe they know everything about their clients, only to be corrected after implementing a comprehensive planning process and taking their existing clients through it. What they find is that clients have been hiding financial assets from them. Not for nefarious reasons, but instead because the advisor didn't take a holistic financial approach.
Why Comprehensive Planning Matters
With good intentions and limited client information, many financial advisors may have sold financial products to their clients over several years without fully understanding their financial picture. They may represent great financial products and have very good intentions on helping their clients. They may have even placed their clients in a better position than the day they met. However, they have not put together a complete comprehensive plan. In failing to do so, they have not communicated to their clients the value of their advice and recommendations.
Instead, when advisors use or follow a comprehensive process and leverage computer aided design programs to organize all of the client data to construct a complete, comprehensive retirement income plan, only then can the advisor see the full financial profile. A comprehensive plan incorporates all retirement resources, including retirement income, retirement assets, adjusted expected expenses, unexpected expenses, and taxes. Without a comprehensive plan, an advisor is likely to be viewed as a salesperson in the eyes of the client, instead of a trusted advisor.
Sometimes clients buy without understanding how everything works together and why the advisors' recommendations improved the outcome. The traditional sales process may provide enough reasons to buy, but is not compelling enough to encourage clients to share all of the facts. These advisors missed opportunities to gather information about all of the clients' assets and earn additional business. Veteran advisors with decades of experience have adopted this consistent planning process and took their existing clients through it discovered that their clients hadn't been completely forthcoming about their assets.
Why Clients Hide Financial Assets
The decision to hide assets from an advisor is often an emotional one. Clients may not want to share all of their information for several reasons. These reasons may be hard for the advisor to accept. Perhaps their clients don't trust them completely. Maybe they don't value the advice they receive. Because withholding information from someone doesn’t feel good, clients may justify the decision by saying, 'they don't want all their eggs in one basket." Or they may express feelings such as, “I like to receive advice from several advisors.”
Can you blame them? Put yourself in the client's shoes. If you've only been seen as a salesperson and not a trusted advisor, they believe your goal to uncover more assets is only to try to sell more products. This may not be the reason why you're asking, but this is the thought process of many clients. By withholding information, you shut out the salesperson.
It's not illogical for your client to hide financial assets from a salesperson. Your clients probably don't want to continuously purchase financial products that lack additional value. They may not fully understand how the existing financial products they have work, why they own them, or how they interact with all of their other retirement resources. They may simply think they don't need other products, and don't want anyone to try to sell them more.
Are You a Supplier or Architect?
When you operate like an architect, and less like a product supplier, the people who purchase financial products from you become clients, not just buyers. You elevate yourself to the role of a trusted advisor and you bring more value to their lives. Together as you draft their retirement blueprint, they realize how important it is for you to see all of their resources. They don't want any resources left out of the final blueprint that you're drafting. When they begin to understand how their resources work together, how taxes impact them, and how inflation impacts their plan, they're much more willing to share information about all of their assets.
Consider this, is it logical for a client to have multiple advisors working in a vacuum with no coordinated effort between one another? Probably not. That would be like hiring three contractors to build a single home on the same lot, with each following their own set of blueprints. They each use their own subcontractors and suppliers to build a structure that fits their plan. Imagine what might happen if none of them interacted with each other. What kind of a hodgepodge house would you end up with? You’d have a house of unrelated design styles and function. It won't look very good, and few would want to own it and live in it.
Every Dollar Has a Purpose
When your client fully understands why they own certain financial products, how they work together, and how they interact with all of their other retirement resources they begin to see the larger picture. They can understand the blueprint that is the design for their retirement and that every asset is valuable for the plan. They won't want to hide any resources because they will want to create the best retirement possible.
You can make the change from product salesperson to comprehensive planner at any point in your career. You just have to choose to do so. It's up to you to make that decision. No one will make it for you. If you fail to do so, you will never really understand your clients, and never know whether or not they're withholding assets from you.
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