In the annuity industry, 2016 continues to shape up as a year of change and challenge. With the proposed U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) ruling anticipated to be announced this spring, many are wondering how they should set their goals, transition their business to advisory platforms, or build out separate units for Middle America. In reality, we need to focus on some of the basic tenants of goal planning.
You probably know you need to keep goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. In times of significant change, we must keep those guidelines in mind as we set a new course for many of our businesses in the annuity industry.
Specific – We need to have a vision of what our financial planning practices will do for clients. Even under a fiduciary standard, it’s hard to imagine being all things to all clients. We must get specific about what services we want to provide to clients at an exceptional level.
Measurable – There are many metrics that will allow you to keep score and stay on track throughout the year. In times of change, we might have several parallel goals. Of course, we need to have a total sales or revenue goal. But, you might want to think about how much of your business you want to transition before the end of the year, or have another metric in mind.
Attainable – Because we are looking into a muddy crystal ball with a new regulator and unannounced rule, it is difficult to judge attainability. Clearly, we must set a course for a fiduciary standard sometime in 2017. I think it’s important to keep in mind that the sooner we shift our planning to this standard, the more attainable our goals will be once the ruling is finalized this spring.
Realistic – Realistic goals begin with action – early and often. We can no longer sit and wait for a legislative bailout in the 11th hour. Setting realistic expectations with clients and staff begins immediately. Slowly, we’ll start learning to have transparent conversations with clients; by year end, we’ll transition into deeper conversations about how our industry earns revenue for our expert advice.
Timely – We must set our goals with an end date in mind. With so much in flux with regulatory change, you should consider setting your goals at 90-day increments. We should know the final ruling by spring 2016. This allows the industry to set goals for the transition to a fiduciary standard by Jan. 1, 2017.
Bottom Line: Goals are important, but we just can’t focus on sales this year. In order to create long-term success in our industry, we must focus on our written policies and procedures to create meaningful goals that will transform our practices. By working on transparency and planning in 2016, we’ll provide ourselves with a jumpstart on our new post-DOL world.
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