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On the Long Road to Retirement, Checkpoints are Key

Short-term actions yield short-term effect. This is especially true in financial education, where a recent report from the Pension Research Council at The Wharton School found that programs that follow up with participants or that operate continuously are most effective.

Our financial lives aren’t static; they change throughout the retirement saving process.

It may be time to evolve past a one-and-done education strategy in favor of planning that’s both consistent and dynamic.

According to the study, financial education programs that included follow-ups delivered to employees around the age of 40 optimally enhance savings by close to 10 percent at the time of retirement. Assuming a retirement age of 67, employees who have been followed up with since age 40 will have logged nearly 30 years of personalized education by the time they retire. That adds up to a lot of opportunities for plan sponsors to continue to support employees by engaging through tactics that work best for the particularities of the demographic involved—whether through videos, print materials, live sessions or even podcasts.

To paraphrase an old political phrase about voting, “educate early, educate often.” An employee who planned to retire at 65 but didn’t save enough may be hard to reach, especially late in his career. Our previously mentioned well-served mid-career employee is bound to be more willing to listen and learn. The key takeaway you can impart to your clients is to establish enthusiasm and confidence in retirees at the outset of the planning process, then build a strategy based on this solid foundation.

Bridging the Retirement Conversation Gap

More education is good, but a consistent schedule of relevant follow-ups is even better. For example, companies might improve their enrollment protocol by offering a week of employee presentations and meetings instead of one afternoon. That’s an important step, but it still overlooks the fact that planning can take decades. Typically, conversations about retirement take place during two periods. The first discussion happens when the worker is first hired and probably covers plan details and enrollment policies. The second may not occur until the worker is near retirement, at which point it’s a little late to make adjustments.

To keep the lines of communication open and flowing, advisers can add value to their plan sponsor clients by helping them maintain an ongoing and varied dialogue with their plan participants. Consider staggering the delivery of materials so the recipient doesn’t feel overwhelmed, and craft a follow-up game plan to suit personality types, schedules and status (newly enrolled, on track, running behind, nearing retirement).

Following up with participants may also mean checking in on general financial concerns such as daily living costs and paying down debt. Perhaps they’d like to receive advice about overall financial wellness as well as retirement. Even if they’re not quite on track after receiving guidance, in many cases they’ll still feel better after a chat.

Another opportunity to add value may arise when participants who initially don’t qualify for a contribution matching program become eligible later on. Whether or not the matching policy is clearly articulated by the employer—and in a perfect world, it always would be—your clients can enhance their service model by staying on top of eligibility along with other details.

Retirement planning is a long road for everyone involved—advisers, plan sponsors and, of course, the retirees themselves. You might think about emphasizing the importance of follow-ups by comparing them to friendly inns along the way: they provide the perfect opportunity for all parties to reflect on how far they’ve come and prepare for the next stage of the journey.

Learn more about retirement strategies and solutions through Janus Henderson Investors’ Defined Contribution program.

Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared on the Janus Henderson Blog here.

Ben Rizzuto

Ben Rizzuto, CRPS®, is a retirement director for Janus Henderson Investors. In his position Rizzuto works with financial advisers, platform partners, Janus Henderson colleagues and clients to find solutions for today’s increasingly difficult retirement issues, whether they be within retirement plans or for those clients that are trying to figure out how to retire on their own terms. He also contributes to the dialogue surrounding these issues as the host of the “Plan Talk” podcast and through periodic posts to the Janus Henderson Blog.


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Find Your WHY to WOW Your Clients

Why do clients do what they do? What makes them tick?

If you want to wow your clients, you have to understand this. However, the subtle art of delivering exceptional client experiences is as much about you as it is about them. Don’t believe me? Try this deceptively simple self-awareness exercise: for 24 hours, as you go about your daily tasks, ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?”

The tough part of the process is being honest. Don’t let yourself off the hook with answers like, “I’m making coffee because I need caffeine,” or “I’m driving to work because I need to get to the office.” Even for the most mundane action, there often exists a deeper motivation for the things you do, a motivation which I’ll call here your WHY.

Your WHY is your supreme mission. It’s the underlying element that leads to purpose beyond self. For your business, it also goes beyond just making money. When you act in service to your WHY, you feel fulfilled, energized and better prepared to create WOW moments, which Knowledge LabsTM defines as unexpected, thoughtful gestures that make clients realize you offer a level of service unique to them.

Can you tell when people you interact with are merely going through the motions? Well, your clients can tell that too.

WHY Gets You to WOW … But How?

Two examples that illustrate remarkable client experiences.

I have a friend and mentor who is a successful trial attorney. His WHY is to ensure that no one in Florida is treated the way his brother was treated by a major theme park corporation after a tragedy years ago. He intentionally tethers to that narrative daily, and as a consequence, his clients are systematically WOWed. The client experience his firm generates is second to none.

Or consider the adviser who took his wife and daughters to a Celine Dion concert in Chicago. “We’re here for the Celine concert,” piped up one of his daughters to a hotel employee. On the day of the show, a different employee knocked on the adviser’s door and asked if the family would like to join Ms. Dion privately as she warmed up on the hotel piano—with permission from the star, of course. From a WHY of bringing lifelong memories to their guests, a WOW was born.

Asking and answering WHY your team does what it does is a key to world-class client experiences and brand burnishing. Live out a sincere WHY, and your business will thrive. In an era of exclamatory texts and gushing social media posts, it’s the “sincere” part that’s key here. You don’t actually love everything and think everything is amazing, but by this point such superlatives have become habitual. It’s time for you—and your team—to focus on a WHY that is both real and actionable.

Three Steps to Discovering Your Team’s WHY

Find answers to the following:

1.) What makes your team unique?

2.) The hero in your WHY is not you. Who is it?

3.) Talk through your unique idea for WHY with five close friends who have your best interest at heart.

WHY leads to WOW, you watch.

Learn how the Art of WOW, can help you cultivate extreme loyalty among existing clients and grow your business.

Editor’s note: A version of this post appeared on the Janus Henderson Blog. See it here

John L. Evans.jpg

John L. Evans Jr., Ed.D., is executive director, Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors. In this role, Dr. Evans works with the Professional Development Team and provides extensive consulting, training and practice management expertise. He is a sought-after expert and keynote speaker. He regularly contributes to The Orlando Sentinel newspaper on business and politics and is featured in the Advisor Center section of Barron’s magazine. Dr. Evans has authored books on client retention and client acquisition, including The Book of WOW and “A Genuine Persuasion System.” He also serves on the board of advisers for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Florida, and Elevate USA in Denver, Colorado. Prior to joining the financial services industry, Dr. Evans was special assistant to former U.S. Senator Connie Mack and director of business development for the state of Florida’s No. 1 registered investment advisory firm, according to Wealth Manager Magazine, for 2007. Dr. Evans holds an MBA from the University of Miami and an Ed.D. in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University. 


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Best of 2018: Advisers: Recognize Your Walk-Away Moment

Editor’s note: This is the last of our top blog posts of 2018. Sometimes you have to fire a client. John Anderson of SEI Advisor Network gives our readers some tips on how to recognize that walk-away moment. A version of this post appeared on SEI’s blog Practically Speaking. You can find it here

In business—as in life—the lessons are often in the mistakes we make. But sometimes the better knowledge is seeing the mistake coming and avoiding it altogether. A routine exercise for business owners is the “what worked” and “what didn’t work” review of their practice. For many advisers, when considering the “didn’t work” part of the equation, the overriding theme is “I knew better but…”

Here are a few scenarios:

  • Adviser A: Had a client ask him to manage half of his assets, while the client self-managed the other half.
  • Adviser B: Built his practice with farmers and ranchers, then found himself working with two ultra-wealthy clients that were taking all his time.
  • Adviser C: Was amazed when he got a call from an $80 million lottery winner. He was managing only $35 million at the time.

Each of these advisers got to a point where either they were fired or they fired the client. On paper, or with the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to say they should have never taken on the client. But how do you prepare yourself if you’ve taken on a client who’s not a good fit? What can you do to identify your walk away moment?

Why Walk Away? Two Sides of a Bad Relationship

Each scenario was a challenge for the adviser who was involved—a challenge that upset their business. It is easy to see the adviser’s side of the bad relationship, what we often miss is the other side. The effects it has on the office:

1) Staff. The staff has to deal with major interruptions that an ill-fitting client brings to the table. Requests that are outside of normal process and procedures take time to learn and process. It drags down efficiency and because it is new, opens up potential for mistakes

2) Marketing and client relationship management. Time spent on ill-fitting clients takes away from marketing and new client acquisition for many advisers. What could the adviser be doing better with his/her time?

3) Revenue. For the adviser who lives in an AUM world, we know that with planning, onboarding, etc., the revenue earned is backloaded over time. In other words, the time you spend upfront with a client is earned back over the years from the advisory fees. A short-term relationship typically does not pay for itself

Avoiding in the First Place

One of the challenges for most advisers is to understand their target. I have often written that creating a persona or an avatar of your ideal client as the way to specialize your practice, and to focus on a niche. Some advisers however, are not ready for that level of specialization and a few may not go that deep. No matter where you come down on identifying the ideal client, I think it always starts with a few things:

  • What is the target? Simply stated, in the broadest terms possible, everyone in the “class” of people that you want to work with. The class could be the type of business that you find most interesting such as legacy planning or income planning or it could be retirees in general etc.
  • What is the ideal? Again, in broadest terms, what do they value or what will they value from your relationship?
  • What is the deal breaker? What will they not value, or what would cause you to walk away?

Note: Each of these is a subset of the others. The “deal breaker” is a subset of your ideal clients; the ideal clients are a subset of the target. Knowing the deal breaker before they walk in the door makes it easy to say no, or to direct them to someone else that can fit their needs.

What Happened Next

The client fired Adviser A (above) after a year. The client’s reasoning, “I know you outperformed me but I just can’t give up managing my own assets. I guess I’m not much of a delegator.” All of Adviser A’s pre-work, planning and effort was wasted.

Adviser B terminated his relationship with the ultra-high-net-worth clients. He found them a home with another adviser that had a more investment-focused service model. The staff was thrilled to go back to their type of clients—ones who appreciated planning and were less demanding.

Adviser C could not compete with the constant second-guessing by competitors and family members trying to get a foothold into the $80 million lottery winner’s life. Every waking moment was spent defending and babysitting the assets and the client. He gladly went back to his recently ignored book right after the new client fired him.

We all know when something does not feel right. Maybe we should be prepared beforehand, in writing, so we are more prepared to walk away when it doesn’t.

John Anderson

John Anderson is the managing director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network. He is responsible for all programs focused on helping financial advisers grow their businesses, create efficiencies in their operations and differentiate their practices. He is also the author of SEI’s practice management blog, Practically Speaking.