With 2006 drawing to a close, it’s time to look under the hood of your practice to analyze what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. The goal is to figure out how to run your firm more efficiently and profitably. And, sometimes, the best remedies are the simplest and most common sense.
Indeed, this is what SEI—an asset-management and investment-processing outsourcing firm—found in a recent informal survey. In a series of meetings around the country with its own client advisors, SEI identified five easy things that advisors say have helped (or hindered) their success.
Michael Anderson, a financial advisor with Evensky Brown & Katz in Coral Gables, Fla., says that some of his busiest clients actually prefer to be emailed, but that there are email security issues when it comes to bigger matters and confidential information. Besides, there has to be a balance. “We will always try to touch base on bigger issues,” says Anderson. He emails clients once every other week or so, at a minimum, and meets with them at least quarterly. But he’ll meet some clients six to seven times a year. “The older the clients get, the more face time they want,” says Phil Cook, an advisor with Cook & Associates in Torrance, Calif.
Anderson says his firm outsources portfolio documentation to a software company. While his firm still does most things in house, Anderson says it is considering outsourcing other tasks, too. “I’m on the newer school side of things, so I’m always looking at new lines of thinking, if they can make things more efficient,” he says. One thing Evensky Brown & Katz is considering, for example, is outsourcing a virtual safe, or document vault, where clients can access key documents online. It would also serve as an important backup in case of emergency.
Evensky Brown & Katz has established a name for itself nationally and has specialized in holistic financial planning and asset management for 22 years. “Now everyone is doing it,” says Anderson, “so we have to further differentiate ourselves.”
Anderson said he thinks this will become particularly important over the next year or two because the market has had such a nice run and is most likely approaching the end of a business cycle. “That is always the highest challenge,” he says. “Managing expectations in down. Hopefully you are adding value in the down market. You have to be constantly educating them.”