Don’t Throw the Kitchen Sink at Clients

“Financial Planning” is the business of moving people toward “financial happiness”. I sometimes get the feeling that we’re in the business of “administering product”, “financial analysis”, “asset management”, “data management”, or one of any number of operational things we do in the background. These may be some of the tools that qualify “HOW” we move clients to financial happiness, but they are not what the client is paying for, or what the client values.

Similarly, it feels like we are sometimes our own worst enemies. Not all clients need the super-impressive-mega-techno financial plan thrown at them to experience a material change in their lives. Too often, we are over-delivering to a client that needs something much more basic. And we’re doing this to gratify our own insecurity rather than hearing where the client is at and delivering appropriately. Like a parent that offers too much to a child’s innocent questions about the world, so too do planners jump headfirst into their worldview of what the client needs. “Am I doing OK financially?” gets answered with an anatomically correct, embarrassingly gratuitous description and re-enactment of the undertaking of intercourse.

Not only are we trying to meet our clients at a point they haven’t yet reached, but we’re wasting precious energy of our own. Toddler clients will take extreme value from the features of an advice process that are the simplest for you to deliver. Might be the first period of your long-term relationship is not doing a single calculation, but rather educating the client around better financial behaviour. Maybe drawing them a simple pic of all the financial aspects in their lives? Doesn’t mean you’re not adding value and can’t take a fee. On the contrary, you’re delivering relevant value at the appropriate time in that client’s life stage and can certainly charge a fee in compensation for the value added, rather than the time spent. And it mixes things up a bit for the client, they don’t get the same document every six months for the rest of their lives (which they probably don’t actually ever read or understand).

We can’t paint all clients with the same brush, try and slam them with our “mega offering,” every time. Not only will we not be connecting with our clients, but we won’t be “sweating our assets” because every ounce of energy is sucked up in the delivery of an elaborate service where attention at a molecular level are the key measures.

My sense is we’re stuck in a world where value is directly correlated (as measured by us, not clients!) with the complexity of the financial plan that is constructed and the product that is implemented. We completely undervalue the other elements, also part of the process, like “listening to clients”, “educating them”, “helping them to understand”, “creating awareness”, “coaching them”, “setting goals for them”, “assuring them”, “getting them out of trouble”, “changing bad habits”, “creating better habits”, “debating and connecting”. Many of these are inherent in the “the mega offering”, but some clients just want a kick up the pants and are willing to pay handsomely, just for that. In that case, why are we doing all that other stuff? Is it really for the client.

I’m not keen to continue working too hard for too little appreciation … not only are we undermining our ability to progress financial happiness, but we’re also undermining our ability to deliver it for more clients.


Scroll to top