How to Create Value Beyond Fees or Returns

How to Create Value Beyond Fees or Returns

If you’re like most of the people that I’ve talked to over the past 18 months, you’ve felt revenue compression. As our industry gravitates toward more transparency, it’s fair to expect continued reductions on commissions and fees. So part of becoming a more successful financial planner involves defining your value in a whole new way. 


It’s no longer enough to have the lowest fees or the best returns – anyone can have the best returns in any given year. According to research from S&P Dow Jones, only 5 percent of active money managers continued beating the index after a three-year run of beating the S&P 500.1 


Any advisor can lower their fees until they are unprofitable and unsustainable. Go ahead and Google “online financial planning software,” and you’ll see how low your fees will have to be if you want to compete – free. As Bob Burg and John David Mann explain in “The Go-Giver,” you must think about your value in terms of how much you are giving your client in excess of the payments you receive.2


Customize Your Value to Your Clients

Return and fees might be a part of your overall value, but they are longer the determining factor for clients to select advisors and to stay with them. You need to provide additional value to every client on their own terms. Customization will be critical. Know what is motivating each and every client interaction. Examples might include online access to information, bill paying ability, concierge or complimentary professional services, or family office services. 


Understanding what is important to your client is the key to success – it’s not a specific investment theory that can ultimately be duplicated. Providing service and expertise that’s personalized to their situation adds value. Focusing on the client and delivering what they want adds value. Every. Single. Time. 


Your Client-Focused Business Model

The fiduciary standard forces you to walk away from your own interests and place them on your clients. That includes your business model. You new business model should be “the client model.” You should be asking yourself:

  • What is the ultimate goal for this client/prospective client?
  • What can I do to put the client in a better position financially?
  • If my client sat down a year from now and said, “Thank for making my life better!” what would have happened and what would I have done with this client?
  • How can I help this client the most?


That is a client-focused model. No concern about your upfront or ongoing revenue streams. Did you provide value to the client on their terms? That’s the ultimate question you have to answer. 


Winning Strategy

Focus on growing your business through a client-focused model. Your true worth in a client relationship is determined by how much you give in value, not what you take in payment. 


About the Author

Mike McGlothlin is a tireless advocate for the retirement planning industry. As executive vice president of retirement at Ash Brokerage, he heads a team providing income planning solutions focused on longevity and efficiency. He’s also a thought leader who provides guidance and assistance for advisors and broker-dealers navigating marketplace and regulatory changes. You can find a collection of his blog posts in his book, “Above the Clouds … Winning Strategies from 30,000 Feet.”


1 S&P Dow Jones Indices, “Fleeting Alpha: Evidence From the SPIVA and Persistence Scorecards,” February 2017:


2Bob Burg and John David Mann, “The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea”: