Why We Can’t Let Collaboration Die

Why We Can’t Let Collaboration Die

Whenever someone enters my office, they are greeted by a picture of “The Last Shot.” It captures the moment when Indiana basketball player Keith Smart took the final shot of the game to help the Hoosiers win the 1987 National Championship. However, it’s not just Smart I appreciate when I look at this picture. I also notice the other players, supporting him both on the court and on the sidelines. (EDITOR’S NOTE: If you look closely, you’ll notice Mike is one of the supporters on the sidelines as a student manager!)

Every time I look at this picture, I am reminded of the value of teamwork and collaboration. In a similar way, we must demonstrate a high level of cohesiveness in order to serve clients effectively. Often, our clients are trusting us with their very last retirement dollar, and they deserve an extremely high level of professionalism in return.  

Over the course of 30 years in this industry, I’ve observed a shift from holistic service to specialization. While the focus of retirement planning remains on accumulating assets, our clients need more than just asset management. Too little emphasis is placed on long-term care needs, guaranteed income floors, and the transfer of wealth with the least amount of taxation.


Making Your Team Work

With the current DOL ruling defining new standards for our industry, are you capable of performing ALL the analysis necessary to serve your clients with excellence? My guess is that, individually, you aren’t able meet that expectation. Therefore, you should use a more holistic, team-centered mindset to achieve these goals. 

This type of collaborative plan can be executed with a variety of professionals:  

  • Life insurance agent 
  • Long-term care expert
  • Attorney
  • CPA
  • And possibly others needed to serve the best interests of the client

When you use this approach, you must be certain everyone understands their role as individuals and teammates. Regardless of which who created the original plan for a client, everyone working on the case will also be held to the fiduciary standard, thus making it imperative for the team to work as a cohesive unit.

As you assemble your championship team, ask yourself a few questions: 

  • Are you willing to individually take on the fiduciary risk from others’ recommendations?
  • How can you ensure every team member is being transparent with the client about fees and disclosures? 
  • Is it time to re-think your business model as a sole practitioner and look to building a producer group that can address your clients’ needs under one entity? 

There’s no doubt we must continue to collaborate for the better of our clients. Yet, the real question is how to do it effectively and efficiently for our business. Now is a great time to look at all your vendors as teammates and determine what gaps you need to fill. Just as a coach strategizes where to position certain players, you need to strategize with your carriers, vendors, services and technology.  

When we surround ourselves with like-minded professionals, collaboration only benefits our clients. Think about how you will collaborate in a more regulated environment, and consider the consequences of working independently in a fiduciary setting while maintaining best interest standards. My fear is that collaboration will quickly fade as an unintended consequence of regulation and broker-dealer compliance. But, teamwork is too important to lose as we transition into the next chapter of financial services. 


Winning Strategy:

Our strongest professional relationships might change as a result of regulation, but we can’t sacrifice collaboration. You must be intentional about strengthening and maintaining your relationships, creating a team that will be effective for your clients and your business. 


About the Author

Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets.