Build stronger relationships

Offering broad services can breed loyalty.

Case in point: most of Rhonda Sherwood’s clients have been with her for more than 20 years. Why? The Vancouver-based Scotia-McLeod advisor credits her big-picture approach to planning, which includes incorporating tax and estate issues and bringing in experts whenever necessary.

She doesn’t charge extra for this service. “Whether I do the plan or not, my income doesn’t change,” she says. “But doing it helps me understand my clients’ needs and also to build relationships. My clients call me for everything.”

That’s also because Sherwood’s services extend beyond the office.

“A lot of times I bring lawyers to clients’ houses and sit with them,” she says. “Clients are more comfortable when I’m there as their advocate. And I always visit clients for our regular meetings. Going into their homes shows me what’s important to them.” For instance, she uses pictures and other evidence of grandkids to broach estate planning. She’ll say, “I see toys around the house, so obviously you spend a lot of time with them and want to take care of them. Have you ever thought about leaving them money?”

Sherwood adds many grandparents leave money to parents instead, thinking they’ll pass it on. But that doesn’t always happen, so she suggests direct gifts, like putting money in trust for university tuition or buying a first house as well.

To make her model viable, Sherwood needs clients with at least $250,000 to invest, though her advertised minimum is $100,000.

Another advisor who includes tax and estate services in wealth plans is Serena Cheng, a Toronto-based advisor with Richardson GMP. Her fee, a percentage of AUM, includes quarterly meetings, a comprehensive needs assessment and scenario modelling.

But if clients require a detailed analysis from tax and estate experts—a review of wills, family trust creation, corporate restructuring—she usually charges separately “because it wouldn’t be fair to offer a more rigorous service model to one client over another.” Fees typically run between $1,500 and a few thousand.

Cory Daly, president of Daly Financial Group in Regina, Sask., also charges clients for tax and estate plans to underscore the value of what he’s providing. He primarily works with business owners and professionals with net worths of at least $2 million.

Often, after his clients see the complexity and customization of their plans, he says they move their investment accounts over to him.

23% of clients would be willing to pay a fee or write a cheque to their advisors for formal, written financial plans.

2013 Advisor Group Salary Survey, n=999.

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