In this article, Wayne G. Miller discusses best practices for taking the lead on advisory teams and expanding your centres of influence.
Picture this: Sharon has a net worth of $5 million. She has two adult children from a previous marriage and another two children from her current marriage, one of whom has a physical disability. She owns a thriving software development company that’s expected to go public in a year. She owns a property in Arizona. She’s giving with her time and money, and one day plans to have her own family foundation.
As a result, Sharon has seven professional advisors in her corner – each supporting her in different ways. She meets with each of them separately and receives good advice, but it’s not always consistent or aligned with the opinions of the other advisors. Naturally, she gets frustrated with the conflicting advice, causing her to feel irritated by the situation, procrastinate and ultimately avoid making critical decisions for her financial future.
This scenario is all too common. But it’s avoidable when you mobilize a team of advisors to work together for the best interests of the client.
Multiple advisors can lead to challenges for clients
The wealthier the client is, the more advisors and types of advisors he or she typically has. A wealthy individual’s advisory team might include a tax specialist, legal advisor, financial planner, insurance advisor, investment advisor, bank manager, trust officer and family office advisor.
When a client seeks the advice of multiple advisors, there can be mixed messages and, at times, conflicting recommendations, priorities and advice. And, in the majority of cases, the client’s understanding of the issues and solutions is fairly limited. Assuming that person knows more than he or she actually does is a recipe for failure. Mixed messages to an uneducated or already confused client means the process typically stops. Worse, one or more of the advisory team will likely have a professional ego that can get in the way of making the best recommendations for the client.
A rotten apple can spoil the bunch. As a member of the team, the client’s impression of you is likely only going to be as good as the weakest link. And the “team” isn’t your team; you don’t often get to choose the team members – the client does.
How can you handle the complexities of an advisory team to best support your client?
- Use the opportunity to step up and lead.
- Network your way to a team of influencers.
Every good team needs a leader
Working with a network of professionals is meant to help clients navigate complicated situations. So, in scenarios where there’s an advisory team and the client is having multiple touch-points and communication barriers, you have an opportunity to take the lead. You’re well positioned to take on that role and champion the best interests of the client.
To subtly take the lead, without being too aggressive, consider some of these best practices:
- Play a formal, or informal, role of team quarterback; others won’t likely do this.
- Know the names, contact information and roles of all people on the client’s advisory team and seek permission to contact them.
- Connect with the other team members to consider the merits of collaboration.
- Earn the trust of the other team members by putting their interests ahead of your own; you’ll all win in the end.
- In a perfect world, present a comprehensive plan to the client that’s supported by the team.
Showing the client you’ve taken that extra step to meet that his or her needs can potentially lead to more high net worth referrals.
Expand your network of influencers
The advisory team may have been chosen by your client, but you have the opportunity to expand your referral opportunities through key relationships with the team members. Your client’s other professional advisors provide a way to expand your centres of influence: the people (or organizations) that can boost your market access and credibility through referrals, testimonials, and simple, undervalued word-of-mouth.1
While the majority of referrals are made by highly satisfied clients, the most profitable investors are usually referred by other professionals or centres of influence.
- Choose your centres of influence wisely and work to structure these relationships appropriately to maintain a consistent flow of the kind of referrals you want.
- Set clear goals on what you want to achieve and then work to identify people in your community, beyond these advisory teams, who can introduce you to the people who can help you realize your goals.
Consider some of these ideas to further expand your centres of influence:
- Host seminars or events and invite people from other specialties. Some events can just be study groups where each member shares a case study or discussion topics.
- Encourage each professional to educate the group on his or her respective area of specialty.
- Increase your value and reputation by:
- Pitching the value you offer.
- Becoming a thought leader: write and share other credible articles.
- Volunteering as a guest speaker at events or meetings.
- Enhancing your digital presence. Make yourself easy to find online, via your website, LinkedIn or other professional networking sites. Publish recommendations or testimonials.
Video: Why every advisor needs a professional network
When dealing with complicated issues like creating a tax-efficient retirement income plan or estate planning, a professional network that includes accountants and lawyers can help you serve clients better. It can even help boost your business.
Everyone wins with a positive team approach
Ultimately, clients are looking for an easy-to-understand plan with clear steps on how to execute it. More to the point, they want a plan that’s supported by all members of their advisory team – that’s your goal.
When you take the lead on an advisory team, two things are likely to happen:
- Your client’s needs will be met. When the client is happy, there’s a good chance you’ll be recognized with additional business and positive referrals.
- You’ll prove your worth to your centres of influence. They’ll see you as a valuable player and refer you, further expanding your client base.
Everyone wins with a positive team approach. Take the lead and see for yourself.
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1Clagett, Bryan. Who are your centers of influence? Credit Union Insight, March 2013.
Wayne Miller is an Associate Vice-President, Strategic Business Development, Individual Insurance and Wealth, Sun Life Financial.
Over the course of Wayne’s almost 30 years at Sun Life Financial, his respect for advisors has only grown. As the holder of Associate designations in both the Society of Actuaries and Canadian Institute of Actuaries, he spent the first 10 years of his career in product development, with the balance being in Marketing and Distribution. In his current role as Associate Vice-President, Strategic Business Development, Wayne oversees a team of thought leaders that focuses on professional development, practice management, and market development. Wayne holds an Honours BA in Mathematics, Actuarial Science from the University of Waterloo. He has many industry accolades, including his associateships in the Society of Actuaries and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries; his membership in Advocis, GAMA and CALU; as a conference speaker at events sponsored by the CIA, CLHIA, CALU, CAILBA and Advocis; and through his published articles in Advocis’ Forum magazine.
Wayne is leading the advice revolution. He’s a founding member and past Chair of CLHIA’s Task Force on Sales Illustrations, which mandated increased disclosure and sensitivity analysis for life insurance sales illustrations. He developed the industry’s first disclosure booklet on participating life insurance; co-authored a white paper on life insurance as an asset class; and authored many published articles on topics ranging from demutualization, industry trends, product mechanics and suitability.