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Adopting Planning Teams to Maximize Efficiency and Win

Monica Ruelas April 15, 2021

Updated on: July 6, 2022

You may wonder, ‘When did financial planning become a team sport?’ Well, by definition a team sport includes any activity where individuals are organized together towards a shared objective or goal.

Members of a team usually have different positions or roles. The point of assigning roles is to signify particular responsibilities or skill sets that will contribute to the team’s efficiency and effectiveness. And when any team is competing, what is the likely common goal or objective? To win!

The Force Behind the Planning-led Strategy

Advisory firms today are competing to be a client’s one-stop shop for planning. With services evolving from product selection and investment management to financial planning and holistic wealth planning, firms are future proofing their business models by integrating a planning-led approach.

In its 2020 Financial Advisor Community—Financial Planning Study1, through research and interviews with hundreds of advisors, Fidelity outlined those that lead with holistic wealth planning are Advanced Planner firms. These firms have formalized and optimized the systems, people, and processes to support their planning mission. And it’s not surprising that they found nine in ten Advanced Planner firms utilize a central planning team.

We are seeing further evidence of a team structure from a recent benchmarking study by Charles Schwab2. Their study noted that advisory firms are increasingly adding client teams and specialized roles in their efforts to support strategic firm growth and deliver exceptional client experiences.

How Planning Technology Gives Teams an Edge

Financial planning technology exists because financial planning is a complex process. The planning experience has benefitted from technology automating certain workflows, simplifying procedures—like account aggregation, document storage and delivery, and managing risk through oversight.

Planning software helps firms formalize their planning process. A detailed workflow yields both external (client) and internal (team) benefits. As your practice grows, a well-defined team structure can scale efforts to deliver a consistent client experience.

When clients are aware of your workflow and the planning process they will go through, this limits the margin for misalignment. Clients return—and may refer—based on a great client experience.

If you have a team structure supporting clients—such as multiple advisors, a director of financial planning, or account/relationship managers, that means you can provide continuous, uninterrupted service. This is especially true if you are using a common platform that has role designations allowing varying access to client data and information.

Even further, you can be that one-stop shop for all things planning and wealth management if you can provide the full spectrum of services, including estate and tax planning.

If you do not provide those services yourself, with technology you can have ancillary team members, such as insurance, legal, and tax professionals communicate and collaborate with you on important information to the client.

Teams can also use technology to their advantage by splitting up roles and tasks that best suit the workflow, client relationship, or skill set of the team. You should define opportunities for your top producers—the offense—and reserve some of the more process-oriented tasks for the support level—the defense.

An example of this would be getting clients onboarded with their own portal or client site, which is an essential and meaningful task, but potentially time consuming. Having a junior team member responsible for that specifically, meaning introducing the tool, getting them logged on, even providing periodic data maintenance, may increase a firm’s success rate in client site adoption.

What Do Teams Do? Practice and Train for the Big Game

I previously mentioned the idea of junior and senior roles within the team. Creating a planning team dynamic also means that you will be creating learning, training, and mentoring opportunities for those at your firm.

Fidelity’s study found that Advanced Planner firms spend 1.5x the amount of time on each plan and they deliver almost 3x the number of plans per planner.1

So that’s interesting for a few reasons. First, the fact that the amount of time being spent on the plan is greater doesn’t necessarily speak to inefficiencies. Actually, these planners are spending more time developing these plans because they are digging deep with their clients and creating opportunities beyond investment transactions.

Next, the increase in plan production. That speaks to more clients being served (wins), but it also means that there are more plans for the team to work on (practice) and greater institutional expertise being built at the firm.

Make It Count

Future-focused enterprises that want to retain and attract top talent need to strategize. They need to retain top-producing financial professionals at the high points in their careers, while simultaneously attracting younger talent that will keep the enterprise moving forward in the years to come. Choosing an established player in the fintech market can play a role in your talent strategy.

Additionally, in Schwab’s recent study they made a case for making performance count. They found that nearly a quarter (24 percent) of senior client account managers / relationship managers have compensation tied to revenue and 49 percent have some degree of firm ownership—more than any other non-executive management role.2

Creating the Winning Combination

As firms continue to chase operational success and additional assets under management, I hope these items are on the table for consideration: invest in technology, and structure your talent in a financial planning team.

For more ways to future proof your business with planning, check out our eBook The Enterprise of the Future: Meeting Financial Professionals and Clients on Their Own Terms.


1 2020 Fidelity Financial Advisor Community (FAC), Financial Planning Study, January 2020, n=393.

2 2020 Charles Schwab, RIA Benchmarking Study, April 2020, n=1,010. The study contains self-reported data from 1,010 RIA firms. Hiring data represents firms with $250 million or more in AUM.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

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About the Author

Monica Ruelas, Enterprise Sales Manager at eMoney, works closely with enterprise firms, helping them innovate their advisors’ business. Over the last decade at eMoney, Monica has held roles as an Inside Sales Manager and National Accounts Director. Over this time, she’s developed expertise assisting firms implementing wealth management software so their advisors can deliver more value to their clients.

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