Most (if not all) advisors that I meet can clearly articulate their (or their platform’s) investment process. Research tools, asset allocation modeling and manager selection (and termination) methods are documented, memorized and sometimes even used in marketing brochures. Advisors use those process descriptions to show how they are different, how they will perform and how their style of investing will benefit clients. But I wonder how many of you clearly describe what is just as important – and something that is totally independent of the markets and under your control – how you service your clients.

Think about the words you use to describe your business. How are you different from or “better than the advisory firm down the street? Why should a prospect hire you? My guess is that somewhere in the conversation, you will say the word “service,” as in:

  • We provide great service for our clients
  • We are known for our commitment to servicing our clients
  • We are dedicated to delivering an exceptional client service experience
If everyone *says* they provide good service, you really have to *prove* it to mean anything.

Earlier this year, my wife and I talked about changing our internet/cable TV/phone provider. We laughed as we started to look at our options; each of them trumpeted their great service.  Let’s be honest, how many of you believe the big cable companies deliver great service?   It made things pretty clear: You have to prove your great service by documenting it.  What would happen if you documented and promoted your service process the way that you promote your investment processes?

Successful advisors prove it

serviceIn our recent whitepaper, Your High-net-worth Client Strategy co-author Allie Carey and I surveyed both HNW investors and advisors who specialize in HNW clients. Our research showed:

  • The desire among clients was that their financial advisor provide greater, deeper levels of personal service
  • Great service isn’t defined by you or your team; it is the client who defines it.
  • A key to success for many HNW advisors is publishing their service models and then discussing it with their clients

The advisors we interviewed for our paper created service road maps and tools that allow potential clients to see the difference. They documented why their service isn’t just a promise but a commitment.

Key learnings from their work:

  • Different clients value services differently, so advisors looked for niches in their business to exploit. They built personas to understand exactly what good service meant to their different types of clients.
  • Advisors modeled their service process as they did their investment process. Just as they describe their (or their investment partner’s) buy/sell and investment selection process, they committed the time to show HNW prospects how their firm is organized to serve specific needs. 
  • Advisors outlined all the steps and built them into workflows (preferably in their CRM) to ensure consistency across every experience, from meetings to other communications. They shared these steps with prospects so they knew what to expect when interacting with their team.
  • Advisors set expectations early. Some advisors used a client service flowchart, others a guide to working with their firm. The earlier in the process that they showed their service commitment and models the better the clients understood and built trust in the relationship
  • Above all, advisors were transparent. They think of transparency as another service they offer. By pulling back the curtain, they built greater trust with the client. It can alleviate anxiety for the client and strengthens the advisor/client bond.

You hold the service reins

When advisors detail their investment process, they are trying to show how they can “control” what can’t be controlled (the markets and the economy). What would happen if you showed a client a detailed roadmap of your service process, including workflows on things like scheduling and conducting annual meetings? Do you think they would acknowledge your commitment to detail and service?  You can control your service – why not show them how?


Join the Practically Speaking community

We're your go-to source for tips on how to better manage your advisory business.


I understand SEI may send future emails to me, even if I opted-out before, and that I can opt-out again later.
Photo of John Anderson

Legal Note

Information provided by Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI, a strategic business unit of SEI Investments Company. The content is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide investment advice or as a guarantee of any specific outcome. While SEI welcomes comments, SEI is not responsible for, and does not endorse, the opinions, advice, or recommendations posted by third parties. The opinions expressed in comments are the view(s) of the commenter(s), and do not represent the views of SEI or its affiliates. SEI reserves the right to remove any content posted by users of this site in its sole discretion.