We’ve all been warned against the dangers of succumbing to “herd mentality” and blindly doing something just because everyone else is. There’s a reason that clichés survive, usually based on a grain of truth. As humans, we feel validated when we know that others are doing the same thing or following the same thinking.
Take asset allocation, for example. Not long ago, ThinkAdvisor.com published an article warning large brokerage firms against using a 60/40 allocation strategy. On the plus side, the article noted that larger firms are recognizing how global markets affect investing. The point of the article, however, is that bonds may not produce the same return as in previous years. Treasury yields are low and global events have put foreign bonds in negative yields. Those are all real possibilities that need to be considered when advising our clients about investments.
But despite these warnings, financial advisors continue to present solutions that are eerily like previous recommendations. The recommended allocation presented different asset classes with more and less risk than bonds. Arguments were made that the discussed asset classes performed better than bonds. But they didn’t ask some important questions:
And here’s where herd mentality rears its ugly head. We continue to do the same thing we’ve always done. The same thing everyone else is doing. We chase yield and returns.
And that leads to an opportunity for you.
Move Away from the Herd
Here’s your chance to gain market share, grow your business and attract clients with innovative new ideas. While everyone else is repeating the same old lines and offering the same tired recommendations, you can provide a new strategy to your clients — one that is impactful beyond preservation of capital and a few basis points in yield. Thinking differently makes you stand out in your community and with your clients. And it attracts prospects.
Providing a solution that meets the demands of changing demographics and reaches the most needed segment of the population – near and current retirees – positions you as the thought leader in your market.
Anyone can move money with a click of a button to chase yield. Honestly, that is the least valuable service we provide. But as a thought leader, you’ll have clients coming to you for ideas that work.
What Makes You Different?
You still may hold yourself out as a money manager with a focus on asset allocation. And you’re right —asset allocation is important. But in the new world of relevance, you must also provide income. The more stable and dependable your retirement income strategy is, the better positioned you are to take advantage of the greatest shift from the workforce to retirement we have ever seen.
By providing income strategies, you separate yourself from the herd of other asset gatherers and managers. That separation wins clients and prospects. They don’t want to pay for something they can get from anyone else or even do themselves with today’s technology.
They want answers to their most difficult problem – retirement income.
It’s Time to Stand Out
You won’t separate yourself as a thought leader by following the herd. Clients don’t win in investing when they invest based on herd mentality, and neither should you. If you do the same thing as others or stick to the outdated strategies used in the past, you will get the same results. It’s time to transform your business and step out in front.
Separate yourself from the herd. Recognize the opportunity to transform your business by taking our free course.
It’s a new year with new challenges and new opportunities. But even as we set resolutions and think about how we want to change, as financial advisors, the need to maintain balance stays the same. The question remains: How do you find the right mix of advisory and commission-based products in relation to what is best for the client?
Before I answer that, let’s look at what we’re dealing with — specifically, dramatic shifts in our country that continue to affect retirement income planning. You’re probably aware of these shifts, but it’s worth identifying them.
Together, these shifts paint, if not a bleak picture, certainly a more challenging one.
Advisors will have to create more income, for longer periods of time, with fewer assets, than ever before.
What it really means is that you, like other advisors, are left trying to figure out how to drive value in your business by increasing recurring revenue. And, at the same time, you’re responsible for addressing your clients’ retirement outcome with non-advisory products. Piece of cake, right?
Fortunately, the answer can be found in a single strategy. And it’s one I’ve talked about before.
Our industry needs to behave, act and think differently than ever before if we’re going to help Americans secure their financial future. It’s time to execute on Income Alpha strategies that both increase the outcomes for many Americans while creating a long-term increase in revenues and assets under management.
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How it works
It can be summarized in three simple steps. The strategy employs:
The benefits can also be easily pinpointed. The strategy results in:
Start 2020 off with a win-win-win strategy and get that much closer to transforming your business. Find out more.
Deploy strategies that let you generate more income, with fewer assets, while maintaining the value of your business.
Client perception is our reality.
As financial planners, we solve problems. But, you can only provide meaningful advice if your clients understand the correct problem.
I’ve talked in the past about how we have so much information available, we get paralyzed by indecision. And with so much information available, it can’t all be accurate. Just turn on cable news and you’ll see more speculation than factual reporting. People believe what they expose themselves to – and that messaging is constant. Our clients focus on the media at least as much as they focus on what we say. More, if we aren’t providing them with the information they need.
A client’s sentiment, right or wrong, affects their behavior. It’s also constantly changing – especially if you are only meeting with clients annually. So, it’s no wonder that it can seem almost impossible to keep up.
That’s where our alignment needs to change. We’re in a place of communication failure. Not about portfolio performance or basic information … we’re missing how a client’s changing emotional mindset can impact a far-reaching financial plan.
According to a recent survey, 65% of Americans believe there will likely be a recession in the next year, while most economists indicated that during the summer, those winds have subsided. The survey was conducted in early fall after economists changed their predictions. Yet our clients’ beliefs didn’t change. That tells me either we are not communicating properly, or clients have fallen behind in obtaining important economic data.
Either way, the burden falls on us to communicate clearly.
Preparing … Partially
The survey asked what Americans are doing if they believed a recession is imminent. Smartly, most respondents indicated they have begun building an emergency fund or paying down debt.
Unfortunately, only 13% of the survey participants have taken the time to reallocate their investments. This is in the backdrop of one of the largest increases in market value since the financial crisis.
Few are taking risk off the table. Probably because we are not advising them to do so.
Clients move. The market experiences poor performance. A friend enters the industry and your client transfers business to them.
Planning vs Reality
Most Americans are saving less money than our parents, but we are saving money for retirement. But our clients save based on the expectations (that we help set) they will reach their ideal retirement age before leaving the workforce. What’s on your clients’ plan? 65? 67? 70? For more than 40% of Americans, that won’t be the case. 4 in 10 will have to retire early due to health concerns or being forced to leave the workforce.
Will your client still be set up for success if they retire earlier than projected? Have you talked about it?
Overcoming Communication Failure
In a worse-case scenario, failing to help clients change their perception and understand the financial market can cost them security and wealth. Selfishly, it can also cost us the ability to gain new clients.
If we don’t prepare our clients for contingencies, they will fail to enjoy the lifestyle they have been envisioning. If that happens, we risk not only the client relationship but future relationships of generations to come.
We must be better at communicating the risks and solutions associated with retirement income planning. And, we need to do that in a way that is so simple, thematic and compelling that our clients tune out the noise of friends, family and media to use us as the trusted source.
As a StoryBrand Guide, we tell our advisors, “If you confuse, you’ll lose.” Getting your message clear is difficult, but leads to exponential gains in your business. When you correct how you communicate, you will impact your clients’ lives because you have a better chance at being aligned.
This is where High Performing Practice can help. In past blogs we’ve talked about some of the techniques: finding the right clients, building deeper relationships, automating your message, and most importantly keeping your message clear.
But it really comes down to you and your clients. Are you understanding their reality? And what are you doing to meet them where they are, then guide them to a place of security?
If you’re ready to have that conversation, we can help.
Improve your communication – and effectiveness — through simple and consistent messaging that connects with your clients.
We’ve all lost clients for one reason or another.
Clients move. The market experiences poor performance. A friend enters the industry and your client transfers business to them.
Often, the reason doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you personally — it’s just the way it is. Regardless of why, losing a client is painful and expensive. No one wants to get fired. Acquiring a new client is the most expensive business process in terms of capital, time and human effort.
But there is something you can do in most situations. And that’s to manage client expectations. Regardless of what they say, clients are really leaving because their tie to you – their relationship with you – isn’t deep enough to overcome missed expectations.
And there’s always the one emotion that can derail your client relationships: frustration.
Stop Frustration Before It Starts
Frustration is a powerful emotion. It generally turns things from good to bad and, if left unaddressed, from bad to worse. But setting realistic expectations can replace frustration with understanding and empathy.
Let’s look at a practical example. I was sitting at an airport recently during a delay. Delays happen frequently when I travel, so I try not to get upset at the prospect of waiting an extra 20 to 30 minutes sitting in the airport. But, for non-business travelers, their immediate frustration levels ramp up as they realize their flight isn’t on time. When the gate agent explains that the inbound aircraft is running a few minutes late and they will be able to make up the time in the air, everyone relaxes. They continue reading or watching their favorite YouTube video once they know what to expect.
But if the communication stops or becomes inaccurate, the frustration level increases. Now it’s higher than it was before. About 30 minutes after the initial announcement, the airline updated everyone of the decision to bring in a new plane which would delay us another two hours. You can see people begin pacing. They call loved ones and spew hatred for the airline over an uncontrollable situation. Now it’s not just a late aircraft. And, an hour and a half later, there is still no word of when the new plane will arrive, and we can take off. Frustration continues to build in the gate area, but it is met with radio silence. There are no notifications on the travelers’ phones. Customers seek out employees of the airline for answers.
Then the gate agent returns. He provides an update of another 30-minute delay but verifies the new plane has landed, is at the gate, and being serviced for food and beverages. Again, the relief is palpable. From there, the delay went as planned and everyone got to their destination.
Circumstance Isn’t the Biggest Problem. Frustration Is.
On this travel day, I missed my connection by more than two hours. My new flight arrived eight hours later than planned. Because of the delay, I missed the largest networking opportunity at my conference. All in all, it was a lost day. I’m sure other people lost time with their business trips or their families. That’s a problem, no question. But the larger problem was frustration levels. During times of communication, frustration was low, and customers understood the dilemma. During times of high frustration, people were angry and talking negatively about the airline. When frustration left again, it became, “That’s alright, I’m still getting to my destination safely.”
How to Overcome Problems Without Losing Clients
Although frustration can be managed, it’s even better when it can be avoided. Pretty basic, right? What we need to recognize, however, is that our business is very complex, confusing and intimidating to most customers. Just having to sign stacks of paperwork to transfer assets to our firm creates a bad customer experience off the bat. Then, when markets fluctuate, or specific goals don’t seem to be met, frustration can increase dramatically. We must manage the frustration level.
Fortunately, there are some simple strategies to help do that.
Ideas to Control Client Frustration Levels
If you can reduce frustration with any problem, you have a better chance of resolving conflict without damage to your practice.
Establish processes and communication strategies across your entire practice to mitigate frustration.
In every industry, there’s that one person, that expert, who’s willing to share knowledge for the good of others. For financial advisors working with middle-class Americans, that person is Professor Emeritus William Sharpe.
As he ages, he understands firsthand the concerns he has worked so diligently to help us solve. In fact, many of us still use the Sharpe ratio to gauge performance and risk.
Today, I want to highlight an article published on Barrons.com. It documents an interview Professor Sharpe gave about the importance of preparing for retirement, while acknowledging that we’re facing a big problem as we try to figure out how to do it. Understanding what Professor Sharpe has to say, and how to implement it, is an important step to transform to a High Performing Practice.
Let’s pull out some key points and relate them to our clients.
Why retirement income is a difficult problem
Professor Sharpe outlines two risks – investment and mortality. He points out that you can eliminate one but not the other. And, there are so many potential outcomes, especially when you have two people, that it’s extremely hard to know which scenario to plan for. These uncertainties create a problem that is difficult to solve without the use of an annuity portfolio.
Potential for employer involvement in the future
Like Professor Sharpe, I would love to see more programs, education and options in corporate benefit plans designed to help Americans retire more securely. There is currently a lot of talk around The Secure Act that would allow guaranteed income in some plans. And, even this partial step to a more secure retirement doesn’t come without costs in the planning process. The loss of stretch provisions above $400,000 takes away flexibility in the overall planning process. At the end of the day, the discussions around The Secure Act should at least provide additional validity to the proper use of guaranteed income in retirement income portfolios.
Oh boy — that’s a big issue
Yes, I’m talking about Social Security. But I’m less concerned about the funding of Social Security. Even with the rise in benefits and the lack of additional funding to date, there are alternatives to correct the trust fund’s balance and provide security to many Americans for decades to come. All it would take is a few tweaks. Urgency is important in the legislative process but unlikely due to the political nature of this subject.
The real issue of concern is the continued misuse of Social Security. Even with the immense amount of education over the last several years, the election rate for maximizing benefits at age 70 is very low. For those advisors wanting to provide value to their clients, leveraging Social Security’s guaranteed income with inflation protection is critical to the success of many middle-American retirement income portfolios.
Professor Sharpe points to a basic premise in investment management – diversification. This technique mitigates the investment risk by pooling it. Annuities pool the longevity risk. And, if you pool the investment risk during the accumulation phase, why wouldn’t you continue that practice during the income phase? The article states that longevity risk is at least as big a concern as investment risk.
Today, there continue to be specialists in insurance and investments that do not collaborate. Going forward, as our products merge, we must learn to collaborate or implement different products into our planning process. There are advantages to both. If the two biggest uncertainties are investment and longevity, there is a place for both.
But the answer to growth is not how. It’s why, and beyond.
Professor Sharpe states that he did all this research for free because it was of interest to him. As he ages, he likely faces the same risk most Americans do.
Remaining relevant with our clients is paramount to our long-term success as planners and business owners.
Making sure that we are aligned with the changing demographics and offering solutions to meet the future needs of Americans allows us to remain relevant with them and with the industry.
Read the original article. Think about how retirement income planning will be relevant in your practice over the next 10-20 years as your clients age.
Having solutions that mitigate more than investment risk will provide more opportunities to serve clients.
© 2018 Ash Brokerage LLC.