Are You Adapting for Your Future Clients?

The pace of change today—from technology adoption to consumer demand for a personalized, convenient service experience—is unprecedented. What are financial planners doing to adapt to change, and how will they innovate in the future? These are the central questions explored in new research from SEI and FPA, which will be released at the FPA Annual Conference next week in Minneapolis.

Qualitative data from in-depth personal interviews with planning practitioners was combined with the results of robust online surveys of both planners and investors to reach the general conclusion that planners may not be effectively preparing for the client-centric experience that investors will demand in the future. The results of the joint research will be presented at the FPA Annual Conference in Minneapolis next week. Here are a few key takeaways (stay tuned to the FPA Research and Practice Institute for the full research report after it is released):

More Differentiation Needed

When asked to choose among 10 options that best described their primary differentiator, the most popular options among financial planners were “offers life planning and financial planning” (selected by 28 percent of the online survey respondents) and “fosters personal connections” (selected by 24 percent). Only 5 percent chose “other” and offered unique descriptors that could meaningfully set them apart from the competition, such as “tax-free retirement specialist.”

Nearly half (48 percent) of planners surveyed described themselves as generalists who work with any client who meets their minimum account size. Less than one-quarter (24 percent) of planners surveyed segment their clients and prospects by niche.

Meanwhile, investors were asked the top reasons why they stay with their current financial planner. The most popular reason, selected by 69 percent of investors surveyed, was because the planner is available to answer questions. Nearly 60 percent also indicated they stay because of the personality of their planner; simply put—investors like their planners.

Technology Disconnect?

Clients like you; that’s great—but will your likeability be enough to grow your business in the future? The investors who participated in the survey (686 non self-directed investors with investable assets over $100,000) were either very comfortable (38 percent) or somewhat comfortable (42 percent) with digital tools. Yet just one-third (31 percent) currently use an online portal to manage their accounts. Are planners missing an opportunity to provide clients the tech tools they are accustomed to using in other parts of their lives?

Although planners are well aware that technology will be a “theme” they will encounter over the next five to 10 years, just one-quarter of planners surveyed said that one of their top three business goals over the next five to 10 years will be to adopt the best new financial technology on the market. Planners also believe that technology is the key to freeing up more time to spend on personal connections with clients.

But, there may be disillusions when it comes to the work involved in adapting planning practices to new technology and evolving client demands. When asked how they expect to evolve their client experience over the next five to 10 years, only 22 percent of planners surveyed reported that they will have to adapt their process at all for the future.

Editor’s note: If you’re in Minneapolis and want to learn more about this research, check out the session “Advisory Firms in 2030: The Innovation Imperative” at 10:45 a.m., Wednesday Oct. 16 in MCC 101 HIJ. If you haven’t registered yet, do so today. Want to stay tuned into what’s happening at the conference if you’re not there? Read the conference blog

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Carly Schulaka is editor of the Journal of Financial Planning. Reach her at cschulaka@onefpa.org. 


Managing Our Most Valuable Resource: Energy

To achieve balance, we may need to integrate our personal and professional lives rather than trying to separate the two.

Research by Investopedia, Janus Henderson Investors and the Financial Planning Association shows that 65 percent of advisers feel that maintaining a reasonable balance between work and life is their most common challenge and stressor. But what is “balance” and how is it measured?

We can reduce negative stress and achieve balance by managing our energy.

Although most of us feel that time is our most valuable resource (since it’s the only thing we can’t make more of), the most critical and valuable resource we have as human beings is not time but rather our energy.

Time management can only take you from being physically absent to being physically present. Energy management, on the other hand, is what allows you to be fully mentally present. If you’re experiencing negative stress that’s keeping you from becoming your best self and living your best life—and research shows that’s probable—the problem is likely that you’ve been mismanaging your energy investments.

We can break energy investments down into four dimensions:

  • Physical—the quantity of energy we possess to fuel the body and mind
  • Emotional—the quality of energy we give to manage our thoughts and feelings
  • Mental—the focus of energy we engage to organize our lives and center our attention
  • Spiritual—the force of energy we apply to complete our mission and purpose

Striving for Balance

Perfect balance—an equal distribution of ourselves to all our responsibilities all the time—is unattainable. I spoke with Jack Groppel, the co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, about this idea and asked him, “If perfect life balance isn’t attainable, what is?”

His answer was illuminating: “Life integration and oscillation.” While we try to compartmentalize our personal and professional lives, our environment typically doesn’t allow us to truly separate the two. By focusing on integrating those two lives—rather than striving to balance them—we may be able to blend them together seamlessly and activate a flow state of being.

But what does that mean, exactly? If we want to change the narrative of negative work/life stress due to poor energy management, we need to understand the following:

  • Managing your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy is key to becoming your best self. Making regular investments in each of the four dimensions allows you to create new capacity in all
  • The oscillation between stress and recovery is critical for growth in all four energy dimensions. Stress is the stimulus for growth, and recovery is where growth occurs. If there is no recovery, there is no
  • We are all creatures of habit. Whether you are completely happy or totally miserable, we are where we are because 95 percent of our actions are nonconscious and automatic. If we want to change our situation, we need to accept where we are currently, know where we want to go and then develop new, purposeful rituals that will become habits that support our ultimate mission.

Personal change doesn’t just happen: there is no little pill, no magic wand. There’s only purpose, truth, action and energy management. A few tips to start with:

  1. Become an observer (without judgement) of your current habits. What habits aren’t serving your ultimate mission?
  2. Do a daily thought download. Are you prioritizing your goals, or getting stuck in the same patterns of negative thinking?
  3. Learn where to draw boundaries. Stay focused on the things you can control, and the things that fulfill you.
  4. Eat small meals and snacks every few hours to provide your brain with a steady supply of nutrients and exert yourself physically to maintain an internal calm.
  5. Envision 90 days out and refine your ultimate mission and habits to meet you where you are today.

Unlock energy reserves to stay engaged and achieve peak results with our Energy for Performance workshop.

Lindsay Troxell headshot.png

Lindsay Troxell is director of Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors. In this role, she works with the Professional Development Team and provides extensive consulting, training and practice management expertise to financial advisers. Troxell is a sought-after coach and keynote speaker. She leverages her experience as a financial adviser, G2 firm leader and executive management consultant to bring insight and intentional disruption ideas to clients, enabling them to differentiate themselves and better serve investors. Troxell earned a BBA degree in entrepreneurship and organizational development from Babson College. She has 13 years of experience in practice management, training, consulting and coaching and 17 years of financial industry experience.

Editor’s note: This post was reproduced in part with permission and under license from Investopedia. First published on 5/8/19 at https://www.investopedia.com/advisers-what-is-your-most-valuable-resource-4685771.


René Nourse on Supporting Women, Finding Your Niche and Mentoring for NexGen Success

Rene NourseWhen you need to know more about how to be a successful woman in financial planning, you go straight to one of the profession’s pioneers, René Nourse to see how she did it.

Nourse is the founder and managing director of Urban Wealth Management, which started in 2012. She’s a guest commentator on CNBC Closing Bell and, to top it off, she’s the tenth president of the Association of African American Financial Advisors. She’s also a trailblazer in the profession, advocating for women, people of color and inclusive leadership.

Nourse’s Path to Urban Wealth Management

Nourse didn’t always own Urban Wealth Management, and she wasn’t always a CFP® professional. She started out in the insurance industry, working for Mutual of Omaha. While she was there, she developed a niche where she offered a special discounted rate for disability to government employees. Her manager, who was also African American, took notice and really worked with her to build that niche and her skills.

He was one of only three African Americans working at Mutual of Omaha at the time, and he became Nourse’s mentor.

“I was very blessed to have someone who actually had my back, he was my mentor and he also supported me,” Nourse said in a recent episode of the You’re a Financial Planner Now What podcast.

Under his guidance, and thanks to Nourse’s own driving force, she got her Series 65, which allowed her to sell mutual funds. That got her pretty excited, and she left Mutual of Omaha to start working for a deferred compensation plan company in Los Angeles County. After her experiences there, she decided she really wanted to become a stockbroker (the term at the time), so she got her Series 7.  

During this same time Nourse took time off to be with her new baby. When she was finally ready to go back to work, though, nobody wanted to hire her.

“I was turned down by everybody except one firm,” Nourse said. “It could [have been] because of the culture, because I was a woman. This was back in the 80s, the percentage of women in the industry was very, very low … and then being a person of color, they were like no, you’re not a good fit.”

But then she found Dean Witter, a family-owned company she loved. When the firm was acquired by Morgan Stanley, though, she left for Prudential Securities. She stayed there for seven years and then went to Smith Barney. And when Smith Barney was eventually acquired by Morgan Stanley, Nourse said enough was enough—and she started Urban Wealth Management.

Supporting Women Through Leadership and Service

Since then, she has been devoted to supporting women—both in the profession and the clients her firm works with. At Urban Wealth Management, there are four female CFP® professionals, including Nourse. With her all-women team, her firm focuses on giving women the option to be in a safer, more supportive space, where it’s not just about investments—it’s about their life and their hopes.

At her women-led firm, Nourse also creates a space for female planners entering the profession—and she encourages other planners and firms to do the same.

As she explained in our conversation, women can be aggressively recruited in the profession, but once they’re in a firm, they’re often the only woman, they’re offered little support, and they’re at sea during this massive transition. 

“One of the challenges—and I hear this a lot from women—is when they come into the industry or they come into a firm, it’s very sales oriented,” Nourse explained. “That’s difficult for women. We’re great with relationships and developing relationships. And if you’re planning to work with women in particular, we don’t tend to make decisions right away, we’ve got to trust you, so, that takes a little bit of time to develop that relationship.”

She advises that if you want to attract these new planners, regardless of gender those in leadership should step up and create a culture that offers the right environments.

“Women, to this day, still are mostly responsible for managing our families,” Nourse said, which includes things like taking the kids to the doctor or their soccer games. “Women need to have the flexibility to come and go as they need to manage their family and manage their lives.”

Focusing on culture within a firm is one of the best ways to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, and so that everyone can bring their real skills to the surface.

The Importance of Mentorship and Community

Nourse said she believes that new planners need a mentor, someone to help them navigate what can be an overwhelming and complicated industry. That’s part of what she does in her own circles and firm, but mentorship is something she thinks everyone in the profession should seek (and provide). 

She explained that mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal affair, like a mastermind or a paid coach. It can be inside or outside of the profession. It could be a group or a single person. But finding someone who can answer your questions, calm your worries and help hype you up is essential for new planners, professionals and future leaders.

“Have a mentor—or mentors—to be able to assist and provide you with some guidance so that you can be groomed to be strong and feel confident and be a leader,” Nourse advised.

Because she’s a firm believer in the power of mentorship, she joined the Association of African American Financial Advisors in 2015. Her initial call to join was to stay connected with other women and people of color in the profession.

Over the last four-plus years, Nourse has been very involved—even joining the AAAA’s board, most recently as its president, because she wanted to continue the legacy of the organization’s founder, LeCount Davis, CFP®. This year she is helping the association focus on the three M’s: messaging, mentorship and membership.

Nourse is guiding the launch of Quad-A’s mentorship program, which she believes will connect many professionals—new and veteran alike. 

But there was a major thread through our discussions with Nourse: how community, leadership and mentorship all lend themselves to finding a niche and doing the best work we can do as financial planning professionals.

How to Find Your Niche

Are you looking for your niche—the thing that makes you a truly unique professional in your space? Nourse’s quick and easy answer to finding your niche is exploring the questions: who are you? What are you passionate about? What is your specialty?

One niche could be serving the many younger clients coming into the profession looking for an expert who have student loan debt. They need someone who knows all about student loan options, or who can help them manage other debt while paying that down. Another example, she said, is working with people in the tech field. Identify a specific company that you are familiar with in terms of their services, their products, their employee benefits and reach out to its employees.

“Who’s naturally knocking on your door,” Nourse posed. “Cultivate that group and start making sure you narrow your focus in on working with them.”

Because at the end of the day, serving a specific niche makes you a better planner, and potentially a better leader and mentor down the road.

“You really have to start from who are you. And I think once you do that internally, it’ll be easier to answer that question about who you want to work with,” Nourse said.

If you want to hear Nourse’s great insights into the progress of the profession, the role of inclusion, and how to find your place in all of it, take a listen to this episode of the “You’re a Financial Planner Now What” podcast.

Alexandria Davis

Alexandria Davis is the 2019 FPA NexGen president-elect, a host of the “You’re A Financial Planner Now What” podcast. She is a current CFP® candidate professional and is passionate about the financial planning profession and participating in nonprofit financial workshops to help educate her community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from California State University-Sacramento.