Adviser Stories: What makes a difference in clients' lives?

04 March 2019 | Practice Management


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Advisor's typogragphy visual

I was a teacher for nine years but found myself becoming disillusioned. It was hard to make a difference. When I became an adviser, I started wondering: what makes a difference in clients' lives?

Twenty five years later, I'm still guided by that principle. Too often, the industry makes things more complicated than they need to be. That isn't anything to celebrate. To a client, that's mumbo jumbo. All they need to know is how their finances affect their lives. To me, being an adviser is about clearing away the jargon and making money come alive for clients.

That's why good communication is so important. In my opinion, it should be at the centre of the planning process. Advisers are educators. If you aren't educating your clients through the process, you aren't doing it right.

Illustration of Bill Bottomley

Cash-flow modelling has revolutionised client meetings because it helps advisers paint a picture. It shows clients how much money they have at their disposal and what they need to do to reach their goals. Most people have a vague idea about what they want from life but cash-flow modelling gives them an understanding of what they can and can't do – it makes it real. It blows clients' socks off. It means your conversations are about their lives, not their money.

Fund-picking is a smoke screen. The real issue is what keeps clients awake at night. Once you connect with a client at a personal level and uncover what's going on in their lives, you can see them truly understand their finances for the first time. Then you can help them come up with a plan and talk about products. But only then.

Using cash-flow modelling to check in with a client once a year is the most effective way of keeping them on track to achieve their goals. Clients find it meaningful and it helps you build a relationship with them.  After we first starting using cash-flow modelling, demand went through the roof, so a while ago, we decided to do it for all our clients.

We also offer potential clients an introductory meeting using the software. We don't put them under any pressure to continue working with us, but nine times out of ten, they want to. Since adopting this approach, we haven't really needed to advertise. We find that most of our business is driven by referrals.

Once you see the impact this approach has on clients' lives, you develop a zeal about it. We are a mission-led firm. It's hard not to be when you see first-hand the effect of giving clients' peace of mind – even when they have something difficult going on in their lives, like illness or a death. That to me is really making a difference.

Bill Bottomley, Director, Lifetime

Vanguard's Adviser Stories are a series exploring adviser-client relationships.


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The opinions expressed are those of the individual author and may not be representative of Vanguard Asset Management, Limited.

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