Wealthtech Insider: For Better Engagement, Treat Clients Like Individuals, Not Buzzwords

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As advisors try to broaden their clientele, they’re better off focusing on creating memorable experiences than on trendy client groups and prospect sources.

Especially those that have become industry buzzwords, like next-generation, women in wealth and wealth transfers, according to Jackie Wilke, who, in addition to being vice president, advisor consultant at First Trust, also serves as a speaker, author and coach to companies and practitioners on business development teams.       

Wilke discussed those three buzzwords—each area of concentration for her research— on “You Are the Most Unique Thing About Your Business,” a recent entry in the Standard Deviations podcast by Daniel Crosby, chief behavioral office at Orion Advisor Solutions.

“I feel like these buzzwords have become so pervasive and ubiquitous in their focus—women in wealth, next-generation, wealth transfer—that we’ almost play a game of telephone where we pass around misinformation about some of these things,” said Crosby. “Sometimes I feel like a mythos gets built around some of these buzzwords that isn’t accurate or isn’t appropriate.”

Wilke said that we tend to overgeneralize when we categorize people by demographic group, as certain demographics are quite large and diverse themselves.

Like women. Women are half the population and a gender, not a niche market, said Wilke.

“I have an advisor who won an account from a previous advisor, and the reason that client left and went to this new advisor I was working with was simply because the advisor wasn’t putting one of the spouses’ names on the communications,” said Wilke. “It seems crazy, like you would just forget a spouse’s name on the communication, but we know better than that.”

Or so Wilke thinks, giving advisors the benefit of the doubt. She claimed that many advisors have developed behaviors and habits that no longer reflect what they know and feel to be true.

So, if an advisor finds themselves sitting across from a prospect that happens to be a 35-year-old woman, they should go through the same detailed discovery steps as they would for any other prospect rather than assigning her thoughts or feelings, or ascribing her traits based on her age or gender.

“When I say next-generation, what generation comes to mind? We usually have a generation in mind,” said Wilke. “Oftentimes the answer I get when I ask that question is Millennials, so next-gen and Millennials, I think we’re tying those a little too closely.”

For advisors, the most important lesson is to diversify among top clients by age and generation. The financial business and all of its practitioners can’t prevent trillions of dollars of wealth from being built, passed down and inherited.

If advisors want future growth in their business, they have to gather next-generation investors, said Wilke. If advisors want to part from their business at a reasonable valuation, they’ll have to stabilize their client base with younger investors.

“There are really two next generations, one is the younger investors that we need, the other is the client next-generation,” said WIlke. “Since so many financial professionals in our industry have older clients that are 70, 80 or older, their next generation client is in their 50s and 60s, they are the next decision-makers on the assets of your existing client.”

The reason most advisors fail to retain assets after a generational wealth transfer is that no matter what the age, they failed to build a relationship with that next generation prospect before their current client died.

Imagine if your parents died in their 80s or older, and you’re a 60-year-old heir, said Wilke, but you don’t hear from their advisor until they passed away.

“If I’m 60, I probably have an advisor, I’m already working with someone else,” said WIlke. “Also, thanks a lot for offering me help now, what I hear is, “I care about you now that you have all that money!’ That’s not a way of fortifying your practice.”

But how do you get an in with the next generation within a client family?

“There’s a process that I coach my teams on called the family phone call, and it’s very simple,” said Wilke. “It’s simply to help you bridge that gap, getting an introduction. The call itself is for 10 minutes, you’re only introducing yourself and not talking about money or having a full family conversation, just having a touchpoint ahead of a wealth transfer drastically increases your chances of retaining the wealth.”

Such a call might also give advisors insight into the family and whether there are family members who are already suitable prospects, or others that the advisor does not want to work with, said Wilke.

OUTSTANDING EXPERIENCES

But the real key to keeping clients is offering outstanding, memorable experiences.

One of Wilke’s advisory firms are very activity-oriented and frequently engage clients and prospects in events “away from the money.” During the pandemic, these experiences included virtual wine-tastings, motivational and educational speakers, and virtual cooking classes.

The firm in question also does a lot of engagement in-person.

“They try to have a lot going on that people can be a part of where even if you can’t attend the speaker series or that event, they’re still inviting their clients,” said Wilke. “They’re in front of their clients all the time, whether it’s market updates or things going on with the team or the fun things they’re doing outside the money, they be out of sight but they are never out of mind for the clients. They do a lot of the fun things but also go one-to-one a lot.”

Wilke explained there are three levels of client engagement:

One-to-many –“An example of one-to-many is a newsletter that goes out with weekly updates,” said Wilke. “This could talk about the market, what the team’s doing, usually a personal anecdote or a favorite song you’re listening to, or a favorite show that you’re watching. This isn’t meant for a specific end communication receiver, it’s more general.”

One-to-some – “We’re communicating within an audience that has something in common, so what we talk about is amplified,” said Wilke. “The value is amplified because it is more relevant to them. We could speak to business owners, executives with equity compensation structures or multi-generational families.”

One-to-one – “These are things we do that go above and beyond for specific clients and specific prospects,” said Wilke. “One of the things they did during the pandemic that I absolutely love… they look at who it is in their clients that has a dog during the pandemic, and they sent out one of those dog boxes you can get online or a ‘congratulations’ on the new member of the family, here are a couple of treats and toys.”