Many wealthy clients have different financial advisors for various tasks. But when you become the quarterback for these other advisors, your high net-worth clients will come to see you as the one advisor they cannot manage without

By Tessie Sanci | June 2014

Your high net-worth clients are looking to simplify their finances and their lives. Finding a trusted advisor can help to co-ordinate all their financial affairs - and make life easier.

These clients may use various professionals in different roles, such as to provide financial planning, investment advice, insurance, tax planning and other financial services. But a single trusted advisor can be the "go-to" person for these clients.

Says Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist Business Development in Montreal: "If a client has any questions [about their finances], he'll call his trusted advisor. The trusted advisor is the one that helps clients see a complete picture of their financial affairs."

The term "trusted advisor" gained popularity with the publication of the book The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2000) co-written by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford. The authors, who are business consultants, argue that there are various levels to being an advisor who provides professional services.

An advisor at the first level is simply a vendor who performs tasks solely related to his or her profession. When an advisor reaches the second level, clients view this advisor as someone who can solve general problems that are not necessarily limited to the advisor's expertise. An advisor at the third level becomes a "valuable resource" that can be consulted on strategies not solely related to the advisor's specialty.

Financial advisors who act as one of these "valuable resources" can probably take advantage of a shift in the client/advisor relationship. In the 1990s, the emphasis was on new products. As a result, Gilbert says, clients would take on multiple advisors to have access to various products. Those clients now are older and looking for an advisor who can assist them with their current priorities.

"Now, their focus is on capital preservation and legacy planning," Gilbert says. "They are looking for someone who is going to make their lives easier."

The advisor who accomplishes this goal is proactive and in touch with the client's other advisors. This advisor is the "quarterback" of the team, ensuring that the strategy of every "player" works together to serve the client's best interests. As this trusted advisor, you would ask your client for his or her financial statements from other advisors, with the purpose of offering a consolidated view of the financial portfolio. This process could involve collaborating with other advisors you consider to be competitors.

These efforts will protect your client - and that is how you want to explain it to the client, says Gilbert: "You want to make sure they're not overweighted or underweighted in an industry or sector, geographically or otherwise."

If you wonder why you would put in all of this effort to help clients who divide their loyalties among advisors, the answer is simple: you are giving in order to receive (eventually). Your goal is to build your client's trust to a level at which he or she will naturally move all assets to your practice.

Working with other advisors is a part of accomplishing this goal. Another key element of the process is being the advisor who creates the financial plan. The advisor who owns this plan owns the relationship, says April-Lynn Levitt, a business coach with Toronto-based The Personal Coach.

"You can start to give [your clients] advice on some of the other accounts," Levitt says, "because they have given you their statements to do the financial planning."

Financial plans are an underutilized service for many high net-worth clients, says Levitt, because they are not concerned with having enough money for retirement. So, your plan should go beyond projecting funds for retirement and tackle the issues that matter to these clients, such as estate and tax planning.

Fourth level

And, if your clients do not know the experts that can satisfy these complex needs, be prepared to provide access to these professionals, whether they belong to your firm or are centres of influence within your professional network.

At this stage, you have conquered the professional hurdles to being your client's go-to person. However, there is a fourth level you can reach for as the trusted advisor. This step occurs when you become the person your client calls to seek professional advice as well as assistance regarding personal concerns.

Francis Sabourin, an advisor with Richardson GMP Ltd. in Montreal, works to become this type of resource for his clients. His practice's philosophy: "We simplify the lives of our clients."

Sabourin is a wealth manager who can connect his clients to experienced insurance advisors, mortgage brokers and accountants. Sabourin's promised personalized level of service also includes resources that would help clients with their day-to-day tasks. For this service, Sabourin works with a small concierge company that locates professionals who can provide services such as babysitting, swimming-pool cleaning and chauffeur services.

"It's a good way to show [clients] that I care," says Sabourin. "It's not always about investments."

© 2014 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.