Teamwork is the new mantra of wealth management.
Advisory firms now boast of the service improvements that teams provide, including faster response times and greater specialization. But though successful teamwork depends on proper staff procedures and training, it also relies on educating clients about working with adviser teams.
Clients, however, are increasingly coming to understand what that means, and it is even raising their expectations, advisers say.
“When I started, I would tell clients not to get a financial adviser that’s your age, because eventually you’re going to slow down, and you don’t want your adviser slowing down at the same time you do,” says Merrill Lynch’s David Leland, a CFP and the managing director for wealth management, a wealth management adviser and portfolio manager at the Leland Group in Beverly, Massachusetts. “Now, that was a great line for me 35 years ago, but now that I’m 62, and even though I have not slowed down, clients wonder whether at some point I might.”
Leland says that his clients ask about his plans for the future and what happens to them if he retires.
If they are making the commitment of giving him their business, they want to know what commitment he can give about continuity, and that naturally leads to discussions about his 12-person team.
“Clients are asking, ‘What’s the depth of your team. Who else can I meet now?’” Leland says.
“So it’s not a matter of me pushing clients off to the team; it’s a matter of clients asking me, ‘Who is the rest of your team?’ They feel they have all these additional services and expertise in a much larger team watching out for their money, so they look at it as a plus,” Leland says.
Whereas in the past, clients might have insisted on calling and speaking to their own adviser, they now understand that often they might get a call returned from an adviser or staffer on the team, which means a faster response.
Comfort with a team doesn’t just happen.
Many advisers go to great lengths to figure out the best ways to introduce clients and team members to one another and make sure that they are comfortable with each other. It also helps to have low staff turnover.
“I have 17 members that have been with me seven years or longer,” says Lisa Detanna, another veteran adviser. “It takes time; we have a few associates that don’t speak to clients because they’ve been here less than two years.”
Detanna, managing director and senior vice president at Raymond James in Los Angeles, says that a wide age range among employees also helps the firm connect better with a broader group of clients.
For example, if a client has a business with a 401(k) program, she might be the one to give the annual investment lecture and help make models of the plan with the custodian.
“But my younger team members will go and sit down with younger employees who may share more easily with them than with me because I’m 30 years older,” Detanna says.
This story is part of a 30-30 series on smart strategies for RIAs.
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