In last week’s post, Client Surveys – Your First Step in Specialization, I suggested that the feedback from clients can be invaluable in helping advisors understand their definition of value and great service. Surveys are a useful way to ask clients about their preferences, future needs and areas of concern.
Once you have client data from a survey, how can your firm act on it? How can you create a business model that services your clients, but does so with scale and profitability? One way is through partnerships.
When I talk to most advisors about partnerships, I typically hear about estate attorneys or CPAs. Trusted, competent professionals can be counted on to prepare and execute documents or answer complex tax questions. But these partnerships don’t differentiate your business, especially if you partner with a professional that the client brought to the relationship.
What speaks to your clients?
By leaning into specialization, advisors can have a deeper level of understanding of their clients’ needs and how to address them. Using a post-pandemic survey allows firms to get even deeper.
Let’s look at few generalized examples:
- Taxes: Your higher-net-worth clients are probably concerned about taxes right now (and into the future). Partnering with custodians and platforms that focus on loss harvesting,1 tax-aware trading, and rebalancing, as well as tax lot accounting2 would be a great resource that you can discuss and promote with your firm clients. Partnering lets you take advantage of the services without creating your processes.
- For clients with pre-college teens, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right college or university for their kids, and understanding grants, loans, and scholarships. Partnering with firms or consultants that have expertise in college choices (based on the kids’ academics and extracurricular activities) would add extreme value to your clients.
- Retirees and pre-retirees will no doubt have questions regarding health care and various programs and insurances. Leveraging services to assist with things like Medicare, doctor searches, and insurance paperwork reduce the confusion and possibly save the client time and money.
These general examples are fine but what about going deeper? Think about adding partnerships for your specific niche. What can you do to really deepen integration with your business?
I talk a lot about personas, hypothetical ideal client profiles that you can use to navigate your planning, marketing, and client service. While the three examples of partnerships above are general, what would a partnership look like for a tighter niche or specialized business?
My guess is that a combination of survey answers and your persona would tell you where you can add partnerships. Put the two together and you will find things like:
- A union representative or officer for your police or firefighter niche clients in areas of benefits and resources.
- A lending officer for your “get-your-hands-dirty” contractor clients to facilitate the purchase of materials before big jobs and help manage their cash flow.
- A philanthropy consultant to help explore the possibilities around giving, foundations, and donor-advised funds for your wealthy tech executives who want to make a meaningful impact.
You can choose to build, manage and judge the success of your services. The infrastructure costs and time are on you as you add to the complexity of your business. Or, you can gain a better understanding of your clients and then form partnerships to meet those needs without distraction or expense. It is up to you.
1. Loss harvesting: Allows the manager holding a stock at a loss to sell all or part of it to realize the loss and create an “asset” that may help offset some future gain.
2. Tax-lot accounting: A method of accounting for a securities portfolio in which the manager tracks the purchase, sale price and cost basis of each security. This allows the manager to “swap” a batch of stocks with long-term gains for a batch with smaller, short-term gains.
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