Ross Levin FINANCIAL LIFE PLANNING
One of the things we learned during the pandemic is that our clients did not think of a phone call as a substitute for a meeting . We thought that randomly calling them for check-ins would show them we were thinking of them . But even if the clients appreciated this , they didn ’ t necessarily view it as part of their direct work with us , even when we were solving a direct problem with the phone call .
After each meeting with clients , we send them discussion letters outlining what we talked about , what is left to do , who is responsible ( including whether the client is responsible ), and when we expect it to be completed . We have found these to be helpful , since they make it clear what the client expects and what we said we ’ d deliver . We want these letters out within a week of the meeting at least 90 % of the time , and within two weeks 100 % of the time . If the letter takes longer than that , it ’ s overdue . Our CRM software allows us to track the status of these letters ( as well as all the tasks laid out in them ).
We have four types of advisors on our client relationships : client directors , lead wealth managers , wealth managers and investment managers . We all have dashboards showing a daily bar chart of who may be falling behind on their letters . Generally , the lead wealth manager is responsible for the content , and a wealth management assistant formats and sends the letter out .
All of our high-priority tasks are expected to be completed by the end of each month . For example , in December we were busy making sure every client had taken their required minimum distributions for the year . A high-priority task is something that is usually both urgent and important or something we committed to do for the client . Discussion letters help the clients understand what we are treating as high priority , giving them a chance to offer their input on it so that we ’ re all clear and can manage expectations .
We create our list of tasks after finding out everything that needs to be done for the client , something we discover through the Wealth Management Index process . After that , we keep on top of those tasks that are overdue .
Our standard is to have fewer than five tasks overdue per wealth manager . We look at both the percentage of individuals with overdue tasks as well as the gross number of those that are late . There is a tremendous amount of work going into each client relationship , so the number of tasks for the entire firm ( which serves 600 families ) is in the tens of thousands throughout the year . Managing our ability to complete those tasks is critical to delivering on our promises .
Whenever money flows into our clients ’ investment accounts , our team members get a daily list of deposits and withdrawals and we let the investment team know whether they should be invested or remain in cash . We can automate the process somewhat with cash , but we still must look at individual accounts to be sure we are handling things correctly . This is an especially important job , because if money that was supposed to be invested is missed for a period of time , we must go back and calculate what the client ’ s returns would have been and provide a fee credit . This doesn ’ t happen often , but it is certainly financially painful when it does .
If we want to be able to hold to these standards , we have to have an understanding of our staff ’ s capacity . Accredited ’ s Steve Gilbertson leads a work group that develops productivity and capacity standards . The staff evaluates its workload using several factors . One is how time-intensive the work is ( how complicated the client situations are , how cooperative the clients are when it comes to getting us information and how engaged they are in the planning process ). Staff also considers the emotional inten- sity of their work . ( What is the client going through that takes additional time ? How anxious can they be about their situation ? Do their expectations regularly change or are they consistent ?) The emotional intensity element is interesting because it represents how the planner is affected by the client ’ s interaction . What may seem intense to one of us may not be to a different planner .
There are other workload factors as well , such as the number of meetings , the number of tasks , the number of different teams in which a wealth manager is involved ( the more teams , the more time it takes ), and the other internal company responsibilities that take up the staff ’ s time .
From these evaluations , we can get a sense of how productive our team members are . This lets us know whether someone raising their hand to take on new clients can actually do it . There ’ s a concept we use called the “ entrepreneurial operating system ” ( EOS ), which categorizes staff members according to “ people who get it ” ( those who understand what needs to be done ), “ people who want it ” ( those who wish to take on a bigger load ), and “ those with the capacity to do it ” ( those who either have the skills or time to handle what they say they want to ). Measuring capacity in this way helps us predict when we have to hire and for what positions .
At Accredited , we ’ ve found that creating measures for standards and capacity lets us explore how well we are serving our clients . That means when we ask them “ How ’ s it going ?” we can believe them when they say , “ Great .”
To learn more about this and other things we are doing , please join us at our annual Be Our Guest program on June 6 . For a $ 1,500 donation to the Foundation for Financial Planning ( or $ 1,000 per person if you send multiple people ), we will spend a day going through everything we do to serve clients . For more information , please reach out to me at ross @ accredited . com .
ROSS LEVIN is co-founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina , Minn .
22 | FINANCIAL ADVISOR MAGAZINE | MAY 2023 WWW . FA-MAG . COM