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Elevate Your Financial Planning Strategies

Steve Levis August 5, 2021

Growing a thriving financial planning practice doesn’t typically happen overnight. Marrying operational efficiency with the constantly shifting needs of clients can take time and investment. But for those interested in how financial planning keeps you present and relevant to your clients—and helps grow your business, there are practical strategies for overcoming the obstacles that you can implement to see that growth.

Having consulted with a variety of financial professionals and firms for over 10 years, there are identifiable traits of planners and firms that have strategically grown and scaled their financial planning practice from evolving, to established, and those that are excelling. I discussed this assessment in a recent webinar.

In part two of this planning series, I spoke with four financial professionals in a panel discussion to dig into the strategies they have used—and continue to iterate on—to elevate financial planning as a core business at their respective firm. They share a wealth of insight for advisors and financial professionals who want to find ways to serve their clients more comprehensively with financial planning.

The Undeniable Need for Financial Planning

First, there is a recognized need for planning. People’s lives continue to get more complex. It’s the nature of comprehensive financial planning to take all that complexity into account through aggregation, analysis, and prioritization to address the needs specific to that client. Financial planners really fill this gap in the market that clients are asking for.

Karen Van Voorhis CFP®, Director of Financial Planning at Daniel J. Galli & Associates summarized it well when describing the clientele she serves every day:

“Families are overwhelmed by the ‘pieces.’ The financial management of a household is exponentially more complex today than it was even a few decades ago—with 529s, HSAs, and Roth IRAs—these are the pieces that people who are busy living their lives can’t necessarily manage on their own. Advisors need to start thinking outside of investments and focus on what households are dealing with—tax returns, insurance policies, etc. The need for analysis and getting your arms around all the pieces is huge. People want the advice on all of these things they ought to be taking advantage of.”

Evolving the Firm to Lead with Planning

Understanding the market need is often the easy part. Delivering on that need and packaging the offering is often the barrier for firms that want to adopt planning. Several of the advisors on our panel spoke about how their offering evolved along with their adoption of financial planning software.

Market Development Director Becky Walen AFC®, CFP®, SVP with Bell Bank Wealth Management assessed the technology needed to do planning when she joined Bell. They felt that leveraging a financial planning platform was really important to offering a consistent and trusted experience for their clients. Especially since a client may interface across different divisions of the wealth management practice.

Becky recounts: “The technology was helpful for us to regain focus and get organized around financial planning. We wanted to go from ‘dabbling in planning’ to ‘leading with planning.’ Having the software to aggregate accounts and view everything in one place has made a huge impact on clients. We have seen such an impact, in fact, we use it in our marketing as a key benefit.”

In addition, Becky mentioned that financial planning technology has been critical in bringing on new talent to do more planning and offer better, more comprehensive planning. “We are working with the younger generation and career changers that pursue financial planning. Mentoring those individuals on our process and tools helps us achieve scale for our clients.”

Establishing a Fee for Planning Services

As mentioned, a common hurdle to engaging clients in planning is often a lack of structure for financial professionals to offer it. The assets under management (AUM) model is still a prominent one amongst the financial services industry. To offer additional services beyond portfolio management can require a strategic shift by the firm, including the need to establish planning for a flat fee, or a move to a subscription-based or annual service agreement. Panelist on the webinar, and Principal of his firm, Daniel Galli, CFP® summarized the journey his firm took to be able to successfully decouple financial planning from investment management:

“You have to get past the hurdle of charging for your services. When I hired a director of financial planning [Karen] we spent quite a bit of time reworking our pricing model and scrutinizing our financial planning workflow. We scoped out each step of the service, from introduction to financial plan delivery, to come up with a baseline of how many hours this service takes. Using our hourly rate and understanding the variations of each client, we are able to accurately calculate what their financial plan will cost. The pricing tool we’ve developed has helped drive home the value of our time. It has also helped frame the pricing for clients, knowing that it is based on something we can show.”

Another panelist, Donnie Laurence Jr. CFP®, CRC®, Managing Director Stone Oak Wealth Management agreed that the failure of their pitch for “free planning” was evidence that when clients write a check for a financial plan it means something to them. Investing money in the service also translated to investing their time and focus on the engagement.

How to Excel Planning Growth

Once you have planning technology, a qualified team, and a pricing structure in place, it is then up to the financial professionals to execute. Donnie acknowledged that for his firm, the push to planning strategically made sense—for their clients and for their business—as he sees financial planning as a compass for the value they can offer.

To push forward, his firm made a goal that in three years 90 percent of their clients would have a financial plan on file. Utilizing technology, in six months they have already been able to achieve 52 percent of their goal with 186 financial plans.

“Those clients now have a financial plan, they have account aggregation, they have a Riskalyze number. Now the clients have something tangible. Clients are encouraged to build in assumptions so we can get the most complete picture. A client site really helps to show the client where they are, as well as track where they are going,” Donnie added.

Elevating Financial Planning Strategies

The need is there. The pitch is simple. Dan said, “When people ask us what we do, we say, ‘Essentially our process helps you find the answers to three questions: Where am I?; Where am I going?; How am I going to get there?'”

To hear more immediate and actionable steps about how financial planning strategies can elevate your practice, watch the webinar below.


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

Steve Levis, CFP®, SVP, Financial Planning, leads the Practice Management Team within eMoney’s Financial Planning Group. Steve helps new and existing firms succeed with the eMoney platform by leveraging its capabilities to the greatest extent within their practices. During his eMoney career, Steve has led the Customer Service, Financial Planning, Tech Support and Training teams at various times, in addition to countless hours assisting advisors and their teams.

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