In September, I wrote about a wealth management team I walked through the service-loyalty-revenue nexus drill. If you recall, this team was composed of three advisors (partners) who lost four affluent clients at a projected value of $1.2 million in lost revenue. What I didn't share with you was a key fact that contributed to this misfortune: Each partner conducted his business differently. As a result, they did not have a coherent practice management strategy.

As 2008 comes to a close, you might find it useful to go through the same exercise I tried with these advisors. First, I want you to think about each of the eight criteria our research identified the affluent want in a financial relationship. The idea is to be brutally honest, and assess how your team or practice performs each function or service along the following scale: (a) exceptionally well, (b) moderately well, (c) not very well, or (d) not at all. In the parentheses below are the grades that the team I was working with assigned to their own performance of easch function or service.

Remember, each of the following eight services is statistically significant to the affluent.

  1. Helping clients create a comprehensive, formal financial plan. (c)

  2. Coordinating investment decisions for clients. (c)

  3. Taking steps to understand the client's goals and family situation when providing investment advice. (d)

  4. Helping clients select an asset mix for their investment portfolio. (b)

  5. Working with experts in areas where team members lack expertise. (d)

  6. Clearly revealing and justifying your fee structure. (c)

  7. Helping clients coordinate and organize all their financial documents. (d)

  8. Proactively contacting clients when upcoming tax and other changes will impact their investment portfolios. (b)

Hopefully you got better grades than the team of advisors I was working with. They were struggling in their efforts to attract, serve and develop loyal affluent clients. They knew their services were not aligned with the eight criteria, but had no idea that they were so disconnected from the needs of their affluent clients. Unfortunately, too many financial advisors are in the same boat.

The challenge, especially in today's turbulent market, is to make certain you are delivering exactly what the affluent want — and then a little bit more. That requires that you work constantly to improve your mastery of these services.

As you determine whether you need to improve your delivery or add services, I've found the best way to approach this without becoming overwhelmed is to develop the following “action steps” for any areas that need improvement. Start with the areas that are most problematic.

Affluent Expectation Action Plan

Add and deliver any of the services you do not presently offer. It is important that you are attending to all of your affluent clients' financial needs (six or seven out of eight just doesn't cut it).

For services that you are currently providing, but that need improvement, be sure to clarify exactly what is missing.

Establish a time line for improvement: Thirty, 60 or 90 days. Your time line needs to be realistic, and will depend on the challenge and effort required to improve the delivery of that particular service.

Project out to the end of your timeline and ask these questions: What will we need to continually refine? What tasks, if any, should be eliminated? What else should we be doing?

Determine what you will do to implement each of those improvements: Assign responsibility for each improvement to one individual. Identify who will do what by when.

Establish how you will monitor those improvement efforts: You may want to meet weekly for an update, especially for those services that need quick and immediate attention.

Now that we have framed these eight important criteria, it is easy to see that meeting affluent expectations is hard work. It goes beyond the Bull and the Bear. Advisors who understand how to meet — and then exceed — the expectations of their affluent clients are part of the elite corps that will always excel in challenging times.

Writer's BIO:
Matt Oechsli

is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.