If you had a crystal ball…
The financial advice industry is on the cusp of a paradigm shift, a fork in the road. While a growing number of financial advisers have embraced a different view of the future of their business, the vast majority of advisers continue in the same way they have for the past decade. What will your business look like ten years from now? Who will your clients be? What will they need and what will they pay for?
Many advisers would reply that in ten years they will likely not even be in the business anymore. However, those same advisers are depending on the proceeds from their business for their retirement nest egg. The future success of your business and its value will be dependent on how successful you are in shifting with the times.
The evolution of the advice industry around the world
Traditionally, investment and financial planning focused on positioning the client for the future. Clients looked to retirement as the incentive to save for tomorrow.
Today, that future has arrived. The global financial services industry is recognizing that today’s client has different needs than a decade ago. A maturing consumer is moving from the accumulation stage of financial planning to some more immediate concerns: “Will I have enough?”, “What kind of life can I lead now that I am retiring”? “How do I plan for the day-to-day life issues that I will face as I get older?”
The question for advisers is how to get a handle on what the next iteration of the financial advice industry will look like. Across North America and around the world, financial advice-givers with a long-term perspective are also trying to imagine how their businesses will continue to serve tomorrow's client.
Most successful advisers understand that their business is always changing, and that they will have to make adjustments. Their belief is that they simply need to change the way that they deliver the product and customers will still come into their store. They have been successfully providing investment advice, and now they just need to find new and exciting ways to position it.
Unfortunately, marketing financial advice for North Americans is firmly grounded in what has worked in the past and what is working today. Matt Oechsli, the President of The Oechsli Institute sums it up best:
"Clinging onto reality keeps many people with good intentions from realizing their dreams. You haven't changed your reality if you are continuing on the same path..."
In your practice, there are daily changes that you will have to address in order to move your business into the future. Rather than saying, “if it ain’t broke—don’t fix it”, successful advisers will continue to look at their practices to consider not only what is ‘broken’ today, but what is going to break in the future.
The Life-first Adviser—the future of financial advice
Here is what we know today:
There will be more female clients in the future, and many of them will be single
Clients are getting older, which impacts the way you communicate and connect with them emotionally
The regulatory environment continues to tighten everywhere
Competition from the Internet and low-cost investment providers are turning many adviser skills into commodities.
As clients change and their advisers adjust to a maturing marketplace, the role of the adviser will be redefined.
We call this ‘modern adviser’ the Life-first Adviser, a name that reflects the advice that you will need to provide in the future. The Life-first Approach understands that the needs of clients are changing as they move from wealth accumulation to wealth conversion, wealth protection, and ultimately wealth transfer. Client planning needs are evolving away from “single need” solutions such as investment management or tax planning, and towards an integrated solution that requires a more holistic approach.
There are already “holistic advisers” out there. Some take a life planning approach and focus on the psychological or emotional aspects of money; often they use the discovery process to delve into the client’s innermost thoughts.
Others view holistic advice as a purely financial approach and define it in terms of looking at a client’s overall financial picture. Often, this approach is equated with a “comprehensive” or “financial planning” positioning.
Both have their challenges when it comes to adviser branding. The emotional approach to a client relationship is much appreciated by the client and builds deeper relationships. Often, however, the client has difficulty in articulating what the adviser actually does for them when making a referral.
The purely financial approach to holistic advice often fails to differentiate the adviser’s value proposition for other advisers. Not only do clients assume that you are going to look at all aspects of their financial situation, but most advisers claim that they do!
The Life-first Adviser does both.
The Life-first Adviser is an adviser who helps a client understand those planning needs that will be necessary to help them transition to the next phase of life. This adviser will take a ‘life-based’ rather than a ‘money-based’ approach, starting discussions with clients by considering their life needs, concerns, opportunities and goals first before moving to financial solutions.
The Life-first Adviser will also take on a different role in the life of a client, one that creates a valuable partnership between adviser and client. Because the nature of the discussion between the adviser and client will tend to focus more on the life and emotional issues that clients face in the future, the adviser will move from being a financial adviser to becoming a mentor, a coach, an educator and a catalyst.