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Best Practices

Best Practices from Top Advisers and Experts

How are top advisers thriving in the current economy? What are their best practices-the things that keep their business not only alive, but flourishing? What systems, infrastructure and strategies are they glad they had in place when the economic crisis hit last year?

We asked several advisers these questions and have compiled their best information here to share their collective wisdom.

1- Adviser

1. Stay calm; project calm.

2. Treat this as an opportunity to go back to basics. Review cash flow, goals, priorities, fears and opportunities.

3. Advise clients to be patient and not to get too excited about a bear market rally.

4. Communicate that, eventually, there will be opportunities for those who have capital.

5. Be honest about the unchartered territory we are in.

What are you glad you had in place when the economic crisis hit?

  • A history and habit of using a financial planning approach for years with a focus on long-term relationships
  • A great assistant
  • A pruned book-given clients require a lot of hand-holding through this market, it was better to have fewer clients so I could service all of them well
  • Investment policy statements that guided decision making
  • Valid and reliable risk assessments

2- Adviser

1. A system to review portfolios on a regular basis.

2. Investment Policy Statements.

3. Financial planning review process.

4. A system for regularly scheduled client “touches.”

5. A budget for the practice.

When the economic crisis hit, I’m glad I had in place:

  • An electronic communication system
  • A Web site with frequently updated information
  • Cash reserves
  • A marketing/communications support firm to assist with client communications and distribution

3- Advisor

1. Get back to cost/expense monitoring in earnest. This should have never been abandoned!

2. Covet liquidity and credit facilities. Know that these are always yank-able when most needed, and are not a pure substitute for cash and near cash.

3. Focus more than ever on the revenue side. Focus on adding value via your human capital as a business owner/employee/consultant, as the case may be. In other words, buckle down and get to work as though the well-being of you and those around you depended upon it … because it does!

4. Re-focus on balance-sheet strength. Use this as a buffer against cash flow disruption.

5. Maintain investment discipline/policy.

When the economic crisis hit, I’m glad I had in place:

  • Liquidity. Not as much as I’d prefer to have had, but certainly more than I could have had.
  • Debt that was largely refinance-able without prepayment penalties.
  • From an investment advisory standpoint, I’m glad I enjoyed the blessing of having had considerable experience going into this period.

4- Adviser

1. Reach out to colleagues for problem-solving and support. Odds are your worst day might be the day your adviser friend has seven notes of gratitude, and you can float on her good will for a few days.

2. Listen and then listen. Clients don’t necessarily want an immediate solution; they want to share their fears and worries. Take the time to listen thoroughly before you begin problem-solving.

3. Don’t change horses in mid-stream. Yes, we are all learning to be better money managers in this environment, but there are many paths to the mountaintop. The best path is never evident when you are rounding a ledge in deep forest cover in the rain. Turning back or deciding your compass is broken are sure recipes for failure.

4. Don’t get sidetracked by emotion, politics or fear. Advisers are as human as their clients, and we need to manage our own poor decision making under fear or stress.

5. Seize the day and market like it is 1999.

When the economic crisis hit, I’m glad I had in place:

  • A superior CRM
  • A new COO
  • A personal trainer who showed up on my doorstep to exercise
    169 great clients (out of 170)
  • A minimum fee and a fee structure that included a fee for all clients

5- Adviser

1. Increase the frequency but not necessarily the volume of communications. Clients have told me they just like hearing from me during these times, not necessarily meaning they need to hear or read a lot. They just want to know I am still driving the bus, and they want to know where I’m going.

2. Document files, notes, meetings and conversations like crazy. Just in case.

3. Relax. Know that there really is nothing you can do to change things, only react to them.

4. Prepare. Get ready to take on the thousands of new prospects that Wall Street is throwing our way.

5. Get your own financial house in order.

6- Adviser

1. Provide leadership. Have confidence in the value you bring to your clients. Be the calming voice of reason amid the storm of media noise. Have a plan. Have a winner’s mindset. Take charge of the relationship; now is your time to shine!

2. Provide perspective. Look long term. Will the client need to tap their portfolio now or in five or 10 years? Even if the need is immediate, it’s rarely a need for the whole amount. Refocus on the client’s plan. Have any of the objectives changed? Has their timeline changed? Has their risk tolerance changed? If so make necessary changes. If not, stick to the plan.

3. Contact clients quickly and efficiently. Make direct contact with your most valuable clients. Reach out to multiple clients with a group conference call and make it available for clients to invite friends equally concerned about the market conditions.

Bulk e-mail messages, like newsletters, show your concern to reach out to clients, keeping them informed all while demonstrating that your time is used best to watch out for their interests. Using technology such as Audio Acrobat, you can even record and include a link within the body of your email message that will play a brief and reassuring audio message from you.

4. Keep your staff involved and updated. Lead your staff with clear instructions and a sense of calm. If your staff does not exude confidence, your clients will notice. Ask staff members to think of themselves as a heavy anchor in deep waters. Conduct an end-of-day wrap-up meeting with staff focused on your communication projects.

5. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your clients. Engage in healthy activities, and consider the extra energy you are expending during this period of extra work. Don’t sell yourself short. Have and demonstrate confidence.

7-Adviser

1. Have reserves. Have money reserves: cash, line(s) of credit to back that up, and personal reserves to back that; have energy reserves: exercise, eat well, meditate/pray and sleep; and have capacity reserves: enough excess staff and infrastructure capacity so that you can add services, or lose staff, in a serious downturn.

2. Stick to your investment management and financial planning best practices. Stay the course with your clients’ investment policies, and focus clients’ energy on their financial plan and how this all fits within that plan.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communicate even more often; communicate even more deeply and broadly; communicate even more caringly.

4. Help your clients focus on what they can do, versus what they have no control over. If clients are spending from their portfolios, they can tighten their belts and reduce their spending. If they are accumulating for a retirement that is a long way off, they can invest as much money as they can get their hands on now. If they are planning to retire now or very soon, they can put that plan off for now. Regardless of when they plan to retire, they can stop watching CNBC; they can do things that bring them joy; and they can practice gratitude for what they have.

5. Market aggressively. Now is the time to earn new clients.

When the economic crisis hit, I’m glad I had in place:

  • Our fundamental belief system around the markets and financial planning
  • Exceptional technology allowing us to offer clients more while using less staff time/resources
  • A great staff
  • A study group partners to ask for advice, to learn from and to commiserate with
  • My family and the ability to get reassuring hugs anytime I need them