Get active in your partnerships

Developing a strong partnership with a professional introducer requires skill, patience and most of all – a lot of proactive effort. Yes, some relationships with the likes of accountants begin with a couple of clients being introduced to you, but this usually peters out if that ongoing commitment to keeping the partnership alive quietly falls away. So what are the key steps for you to go through in order to build durable and strong introducer relationships?


Develop your accountant value proposition

You may have done all of the work developing your client value proposition (CVP), but you’re not finished yet! After all, your CVP is the articulation of the value experienced by your clients, however you now need to be able to communicate the value experienced by accountants in dealing with you. Your CVP starts with understanding your clients and in a similar vein, your accountant proposition starts with understanding accountants; their challenges, the partnerships that they value, where you can provide services that they will truly value etc. If you can help them to solve the problems that they face every day, well then they will place enormous value on your services! So first of all, really understand their business, identify the areas within it where you can add value and then demonstrate that the way you will work with their clients will seriously enhance their own client relationships.


Communicate your value time and time again

You then need to get in front of the accountancy partners time and time again to remind them of the value that you can add and to get regular client referrals. There are many ways you can do this; here are a few examples;

  • Add the partners to your own communication programme: Connect with the partners on LinkedIn and also get their permission to be added to your newsletter subscriber list. Let them see the expertise and thought leadership that you have to offer.
  • Develop bespoke presentations: These are for the initial meeting with the partners and should focus very much on the role of the accountant and how you can assist them in their own role. Personalise each presentation to the role of the particular partner’s area of specialism – for example the presentation to the tax partner should focus on pension reliefs, tax efficient protection products and other tax angles that you can bring to the table. This shows knowledge, understanding and willingness to engage in their areas of challenge with their clients.
  • Case Studies: Prepare a number of case studies of innovative solutions that you’ve implemented and know are relevant to challenges that are typically faced by the accountant. Don’t leave them guessing as to how you can help, join the dots for them!
  • Briefings for partners: Keep the accountants briefed on issues within the life and pensions industry that they need to be aware of, but may not be that knowledgeable. This can be through email contacts, lunchtime meetings or other such channels.


Develop joint marketing activities

And then you need to also promote the accountancy firm and help their bottom line! First of all, refer clients to them whenever possible. If you give them new clients, they are certainly going to try harder to reciprocate. Then offer the accountant the opportunity to include guest posts in your newsletter. This gives the accountant welcome exposure to your clients. You can then look at hosting joint events to which you both bring clients, take a speaking slot to impress the guests, all of this with a view to both you and the accountant meeting the other’s clients and building new relationships.


Prove your value with clients

Of course the biggest barrier to accountants referring clients to you is fear. Fear that you will somehow mess up and as a result cause difficulties for the accountant with their client. So when they do take the leap and finally refer a client to you, it’s imperative that you do a good job (as you do!) and then make sure the accountant is aware of it. How do you do this? You might seek a testimonial from the client, which you then share with the accountant. Alternatively you can email the client a few weeks after the end of your work with a short client satisfaction survey – again you will share the results with the accountant.


These are just a few thoughts on building profitable and lasting relationships with accountants. Build their trust, remove their fears, align yourself to their proposition and demonstrate your value time and time again. And then you will be well on the way to breaking the back of that search for new clients!


Clever generals win wars

…and clever financial planners achieve success for clients.

Wars are won and lost by clever generals. Irrespective of the external factors that actually caused the war, they never just wander into it and start fighting. Instead they carefully consider all of the external factors that will impact their success – the strength and condition of their enemies, the conditions and terrain on which the war will be fought as well as the weather and other factors that have the potential of impacting their success in the fight.

Of course the key factor that they consider is the strength and capability of their own forces; the size of their army, the weapons available to them and the different tactics that can be deployed. In short they take a very strategic approach to the battle. Generals also know that battle conditions are an ever-moving feast – things just don’t stay the same. The battle conditions change, the strength of their own army and that of their enemy change and of course progress towards their overall goals either improve or recede. As part of this, they consider the risk attaching to different tactical options open to them – do they risk lots of men and equipment for a particular short-term strategic objective, or do they wear down their enemy through sustained and slower-moving fighting?

This is where their real expertise comes to bear, adapting to changing conditions. This is also where disastrous mistakes are made – I’m showing my age here, but just consider the decision taken by the German generals in World War II who decided in the Battle of Britain to stop bombing airfields and instead to start bombing cities. This gave the Allies valuable time to rebuild their air force and fight back. And then as the German advance stalled later in the war, the Allies planned and executed D-Day, the ultimate turning point in the war. Clever generals achieve their country’s goals and win wars.

And clever financial advisers help their clients achieve their goals and achieve financial independence. You do this in the exact same way as generals go about their job. You first of all understand what the objectives are, what is the desired end state. You then consider risk and how much is appropriate for each individual client and situation. You then consider the current external conditions and most importantly the current financial strength of your client. All of this is then evaluated and captured in the financial (battle) plan to get your client to their final objective.

Of course your real strength, just like a general’s, is that you recognise that the battle has now only just begun. From the day you develop your client’s financial plan, conditions start to change – in the external environment, the client’s own circumstances or indeed the end objective. Your real value is in the ongoing evaluation of these changes, and the adaptations and tweaks that you make to your client’s plan and the tactics (products?) that you’ve deployed to achieve their end goals.

Sitting at the heart of this is the client’s future cashflow plan, as this clearly demonstrates the current and future financial firepower of your client to achieve their ultimate objective – a bit like winning the war… Your client will see whether they need to take more risk, strengthen their resources (save more money) or maybe rein back their ultimate objectives ( similar to seeking a peace deal)!


So if your clients are unclear about the value of a financial plan, it might be time to tell them a good war story!

Videos – Vanity or Value?

In this latest post in our series of “12 StepChanges to a better business”, we briefly set out our thinking on the benefits of video marketing.

Financial advisers often raise the question of the effectiveness of video marketing. Some see it as a vanity project, as an expensive activity that yields very poor results. And sometimes that is exactly the case! But certainly not always…

Video offers a number of great opportunities to financial advisers. First of all, it offers a different, engaging medium to communicate an important message – maybe an overview of your business, your financial planning approach or indeed different aspects of your client proposition. Some visitors to a website prefer clicking on a video than reading paragraphs of text, so video gives you the opportunity to hang on to that visitor to your website a little longer.

Also, YouTube is now the 2nd most frequently used search engine in the world after Google, so video also offers great opportunities as an entry point to your website from searches.

However quality is critically important where video is concerned. To produce a good video takes a lot of time and effort – careful scripting, a lot of thought about production including the video style, the location, use of graphics, the cast, the right music etc., and the key messages to be communicated. And all of this to produce a video that should be kept really brief – the preferred length for most videos is no more than 60 – 90 seconds.

StepChange works with financial advisers and other organisations in developing excellent scripts that will achieve real “cut through” with your audience. We also regularly collaborate with a leading video production company to bring these scripts to final production, using a variety of different video styles. These videos can then be used across all of your digital platforms.

Should you want to add this engaging medium to your marketing mix, maybe it’s time to get some expert help with it? We look forward to your call.


How many hats do you wear?

Do you remember the “old days”, when a financial adviser was someone who simply found the best financial product for clients? Do you yearn for those days again? My bet is that most of you don’t….

I know from conversations that you don’t miss those days of second guessing yourself all the time with regard to product choices and chosen commission levels. You’re also happy to no longer spend your time worrying if another broker or direct salesman is going to undercut you. You don’t miss living or dying by the vagaries of the stock market – if the fund you suggested went well, you were a hero! When it didn’t, it was always your fault….

As the 2020’s draw near, the role of the financial adviser has changed enormously over the last decade or so. Helping clients select products is only one small part of what you do. It’s worth remembering all of the areas in which you add value to your clients.


Dream Coach

Financial planners today don’t start new client relationships with conversations about money. Instead you spend very valuable time, really getting to know clients. In fact you go much deeper than this, you actually help your clients to get to know themselves better than they did before.

Good financial plans are based on the goals, aspirations and ambitions of the client. However, very often the client has never properly thought about these! So the first role of the financial planner today is to help clients actually identify their goals and dreams for the future and to build a crystal clear picture of them. Now they have a real destination to aim for.


Lifestyle Enabler

It’s all well and good having lofty dreams and ambitions, an equally important question is how achievable they are, and what price needs to be paid to attain them. This is critical work carried out by excellent financial planners today. Using future cashflow software, you are grounding client dreams in the reality of life and helping your clients to live their life on their terms. You’re helping clients make important choices between living life only in the moment today, or choosing their lifestyle for all of their life based on their financial wherewithal.


Behaviour Coach

And then you stop clients blowing up their plans! You are the voice of reason, the calming influence in volatile times, the expert guide keeping a long-term perspective. We all read professional articles every day of how poor decision making by clients does far more damage to financial plans than the performance of financial assets.

Humans have a nasty habit of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. In your world, this translates to them selling assets when they are cheap and buying them when they are expensive. In general, people get their market timing all wrong. We hear it all the time – the key is time in the market, not market timing. You are the voice of reason, gently but firmly ensuring your clients stay invested.


Family Finance Guide

This in itself includes many hats! Good financial planners make an enormous difference to families managing their day-to-day finances. Good advice around family budgeting can yield enormous results over the long-term as clients actively manage their expenses and stop wasting money. You also play a marriage counsellor role – helping to get couples on the same page about their finances through providing clarity of their financial situation and helping them make the right decisions together. When left to their own devices, money can be a constant cause of strain and arguments in a marriage… The advice that you give to clients about best banking and credit practices is invaluable too.


Financial planner

However the real value that you add is that you lead from the front. You’re the hub around which the client’s financial life revolves. You’re the person who pulls all the strands together. Clients hugely value having an expert in their corner who will guide them in a very complex area of their lives – helping them manage all of their financial challenges and also pointing them to other professionals (solicitors, tax consultants, accountants) when needed.  Never under-estimate how important it is for clients to feel that someone has their back, or even that they have an expert to go to for an insightful second opinion.


Oh and yes, you guide your clients to find the very best financial products to help them achieve all of their goals and dreams in life. This is very important too, but unlike the days of old, this is only one small element of the enormous value you bring in transforming the lives of clients today.


Dealing with dementia in clients

We hear and read a lot of commentary about the challenges that Ireland’s ageing population is posing to the state old-age pension scheme and indeed to pension policymakers. The statistics are indeed quite frightening as we see the scale of the growing population of elderly people being dependent on a smaller workforce. There was a shade under 630,000 people aged over 65 in Ireland in 2016. This is estimated to increase to 1.6million people over 65 in Ireland in 2051.

With this increase in ageing, there is likely to be a corresponding increase in people with dementia. According to, an estimated 55,000 people are currently living with dementia in Ireland, the most common form of which is Alzheimer’s disease. This number is expected to more than double to 113,000 by 2036. I’m one of the half a million people in Ireland who have had a family member with dementia, yet despite this widespread experience, research tells us that only one in four of us is confident that we understand dementia.

To look after your clients properly, you need to understand dementia.

Physical ailments don’t impact your client’s ability to make sound decisions about their finances. Dementia does impact this ability, with symptoms that can include memory loss, confusion, difficulties communicating and behaviour change.

These symptoms and the ensuing impacts of a loss of control, vulnerability and worry both for the person with dementia and their family / carers, require very careful and skilled attention from financial planners. Dementia requires a very well-structured, clear and empathetic approach.

When a client suffers from dementia, the financial planner is a critically important contributor in the life of the person him/herself and their family. You play a really important role as money is often a major concern for everyone – they want to ensure there is enough money to provide the best care possible for all of the sufferer’s life. Family members also want to ensure that the vulnerability of the sufferer is not exploited by anyone – having an impartial planner acting in the best interests of the sufferer provides a lot of comfort here.


It’s never too early to find out

Dealing with dementia starts with education of your client. Every client should know that if they or their spouse are ever worried that they are slipping mentally, or indeed receive a diagnosis of dementia, one of their first phone calls should be to you. Giving you an early awareness of this future change in their life enables you to help them plan effectively for it.


There are early steps to take

Your role will be very gentle and in the background before your client’s mental capacity really begins to diminish. However you can help them enormously at this stage, by helping them with some good financial practices. One of the first advices that you can give them is to immediately put an Enduring Power of Attorney in place, to allow a trusted relative manage their affairs when their mental capacity necessitates it.  This doesn’t “hand over control” today, just when needed in the future. Of course you can play a valuable role with your client by providing them with a 2nd opinion if requested in relation to their choice of attorney. It can be very useful for you to be introduced to the appointed attorney too. After all, both of you have been chosen by your client to help them manage their financial affairs as effectively as possible.

Also you can guide your client in relation to bank accounts, making sure that if they were to quickly lose their capacity, that their money would be accessible. This may be as simple as ensuring spouses have access to each other’s bank accounts. Relatively straightforward actions such as these will save a lot of stress and challenge down the road.


Become part of the client’s team

While you will have no role in the actual physical care of your client, in your role as their financial planner you should be watching their back at every turn. This includes working collaboratively with others in their interests, of course with your client’s permission. Seek introductions to their solicitor, accountant and tax adviser. While each of you retains full responsibility for your own areas of expertise, it is useful if the client starts “slipping” mentally for everyone on the client’s team to be aware of this. Early warning can be useful in the early stages of dementia, when some subtle changes and symptoms can be easily dismissed and potentially poor decisions made.


Be active with the sufferer’s spouse / family

People caring for dementia sufferers are usually entering a whole new world too. They’re dealing with unfamiliar challenges and a very uncertain future in unchartered waters for them. They are facing a lot of big decisions that they don’t feel particularly well-equipped to make. While a lot of these decisions are about care, many of them have financial angles or implications too. You can play a very important role in helping clients navigate these decisions.


Clients with dementia and their families need you. Are you ready to step up to the plate and help them?