Getting Holistic: How Some Advisors Are Expanding
One of the keys to success in financial planning is the ability to really listen to your clients. Understanding their goals and the realities of their current situation not only makes them happier, it can result in valuable referrals that boost your business.
Sometimes, that careful listening can also be a clue to possible areas of expansion — new fields to combine with your financial planning practice that will not only broaden your areas of expertise, but make you even more valuable to your client base, whether it’s typical families with budget planning needs, high net worth investors, or business owners.
The possibilities are endless. Some planners might take a holistic approach to their practice. Others might begin offering life (or other forms of) insurance if there's sufficient client demand from individuals or businesses. And some might simply help their clients screen other professionals that impact their finances.
At SK Wealth Management, Providence, R.I., new clients can benefit not only from the company's financial planning and investment management services, but also from a team member who specializes in divorce support services, including the financial choices and consequences of that life event.
"It's designed, from a business perspective, to have another avenue for clients," says founder Jason E. Archambault in an interview. "One of our planners (Cheryl Ethier) ... works with individuals or couples who decide they need help dividing assets."
The sub-specialty came about as the firm realized that many attorneys, who often oversee the separation of belongings when a marriage fails, do not understand the consequences of picking certain properties or assets. Or how to value a certain enterprise or business owned by one of the parties.
And that can have a long-term impact on one or both parties. SK Wealth Management not only offers counseling and expertise in that area, it also serves as an expert witness when necessary.
"What we've found, especially with younger divorce attorneys, is they don't understand if there's a $200,000 home and a $200,000 401(k) plan, which is better to pick from a tax perspective," says Archambault. "People might be emotionally attached to the house, but is that the best thing from a financial standpoint to take? We find that divorce attorneys ... are sometimes paying more attention to the client's emotions."
Dan Andrews, founder of Colorado's Well Rounded Success, has expanded his company's focus as well. Well Rounded targets millennials as customers — and Andrews says he has found that the offer of financial counseling is rarely enough to get them through the door. To add to the appeal, he incorporated personal coaching, executive training, and professional development into his process, helping them develop skills that will eventually increase their incomes.
"People view financial advisors and planners kind of like they see dentists — an obligation they have to do, but don't like to do," he says. "If I include personal and professional development, it gets them more excited about personal finance."
The services he offers — which include drafting a personal mission and vision statement, establishing personal branding, boosting networking strategies, creating vision boards and discussing personal subjects, such as the five regrets of the dying — might sound a bit alien to the financial planning world, but it has helped him build a practice filled with young clients. The majority of the people he works with are between 27 and 35, which could result in long-term relationships with lots of referrals.
"[Millennials] are the least trusting generation out there," he says. "They're not attracted to do business with businesses, but they will with people they know and trust. By having that authentic message of my own personal and professional development brand, it makes people see Dan Andrews the individual rather than the businessman."
There's no hard data on how many financial professionals are expanding their businesses with additional specialties. And the Financial Planners Association declines to discuss the practice. But the rise of new branches in the field, such as Integrated Asset Management, point to a rise in financial professionals who are branching beyond their core business or focusing on specific niches and businesses. (One planner in Kansas even specializes in serving the fishing industry.)
Sometimes, though, the extra service a financial planner chooses to offer is less market based and more customer service focused.
Brian Kuhn, a Certified Financial Planner™ professional with Planning Solutions Group in Maryland, noticed his clients often had questions that were best suited for professionals in other occupations. So he started asking those questions for them in a series of YouTube interviews that has since grown to more than 100.
Eighteen months ago, Kuhn began recruiting four guests per month, often making more than one video out of each interview. The short-form video format, he says, is more approachable today than written content. By talking to a wide swath of people, he's able to avoid the typical topics so many financial planners address in blog posts. And they're easier to incorporate into his practice.
"Any conversation I have can go in any number of ways," he says. "People may need something other than what it is I do, like deal with a credit issue, or they need an expert in an affiliated occupation, like insurance or taxes. What I do is, instead of just giving a business card, show them a video of the person I think they should go to."
Kuhn says he personally vets each person who appears on his videos and vouches for each, but he doesn't limit it to one professional per field, letting clients choose who they're most comfortable with. He views himself as a first point of contact and being able to make these recommendations to other professionals is part of the service he offers.
The videos, since they're viewable by anyone, also have the added bonus of drawing in new customers.
"I would say it has increased business," he says. "In general, I get about a call per month from somebody who says 'I found you on the internet and want to get with you'. That may not sound like much, but it's pretty rare for the financial planning industry."
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