3 Ways To Help Clients In The New Year

December 19, 2017

This article is part of a regular series of thought leadership pieces from some of the more influential ETF strategists in the money management industry. Today's article is by Dustin Blodgett, a portfolio specialist and member of the Investment Committee at Accuvest Global Advisors in Walnut Creek, California.

As a firm, our travels often take us to Utah, the home of best-selling author Steven Covey, whose book changed the way many think about business and work.

Among his principles, he talks of habits highly effective people have, the first being “Be Proactive.” A concept that Covey uses to illustrate proactivity is the circles of concern and of control. Imagine one larger circle with a smaller circle within. The larger circle is the circle of concerns. This circle might include things like traffic, the federal deficit or nuclear war.

The smaller circle is our circle of influence, and it includes things like our personal motivations, our diet and who we spend time with. The key here is, which circle do we grow by dedicating time and energy to? Proactive individuals focus on areas within their circle of influence.

Those who focus on their circle of concern will find their circle of influence to shrink and wither. Below are three areas I believe to be critical to increase an advisor’s circle of influence.

Spend Time With Clients

The foundation of your success as an advisor will revolve around your relationship with clients. Your clients have entrusted you to help them watch over their family’s estate. When it comes to building relationships of trust, there is no substitute for spending time together while you empathize with them and provide them with sound advice and nothing but pure, unvarnished truth.

While it is certainly important that you should be well educated on and aware of relevant issues, trust is earned through contact over time. Your effort to spend time face-to-face with them is within your circle of influence.

Client Education

How do you spend your time with clients? Hopefully, you consistently allocate some time to education. I’m not referring to deep technical analysis and industry jargon, but to teaching and reminding clients how you’ve constructed a plan that helps them achieve their goals.

What are the assumptions you’re making? What are the benefits and limitations to your approach? In terms of dollars, how much could their portfolio decline during an average bear market? Will you attempt to time the market, or should clients be prepared to hold fast during a market downturn?

Many organizations do fire drills for good reason. Hopefully, your clients know how they should respond and how they should expect you to respond during stressful market events.

You may be the only person in a client’s life willing to tell them some of the difficult things they need to hear. If you don’t already, you might consider spending time educating clients about some of the difficult trade-offs that can come with financial planning, such as:

  • Save more/spend less
  • Work longer
  • Don’t fully fund posterity’s education
  • Increase the volatility in their portfolio
  • Sell a vacation home

In other words, a client may be able to accomplish almost anything, but not everything. A key role an advisor can play is to help a client articulate and then be reminded of what is required to achieve realistic goals. This approach can help clients to be more proactive in their own lives.

Asset Allocation

There is a wealth of information regarding the relationship between performance and asset allocation. Studies point out that asset allocation is the primary determinant of a portfolio’s return variability at a level of approximately 90%. This leaves approximately 10% of returns to come from security selection and market timing.

If you believe this to be true, or that it’s even close to being true, this should be blinking on your “circle of influence” radar screen. Asset allocation is a huge determinant in risk/return outcomes, and it’s completely controllable. You can’t control the markets, but you have the ability to inform your clients regarding the risks and benefits associated with their particular asset allocation.

Sometimes it feels like the tail wags the dog when it comes to client conversations about investment portfolios. Clients often want to talk about world leaders, elections, geopolitical events, natural disasters, etc. However, what if we were able to tactfully shift the conversation from the circle of concern to the circle of influence? What if we could focus near 90% of those conversations to discussing, debating and educating a client’s asset allocation?

Every day, clients are bombarded with mostly irrelevant financial information that, at best, confuses them, and at worst, actively encourages them to make poor decisions. A trusted advisor might make all the difference.

Challenge

These are just a few areas an advisor might focus on to increase their circle of influence. As you review 2017 and look to 2018, evaluate and then discard any words, activities or thought processes that serve to increase your circle of concern, and redirect this newfound energy to growing your circle of influence with your clients.

Accuvest Global Advisors (AGA) is a registered investment advisor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more thought leadership and firm updates, visit www.accuvestblog.comwww.twitter.com/Accuvest; or email [email protected]. For a list of full disclosures, please click here.

 

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