Discipline and Efficiency Over Bravado

People love to talk about investments. Investors share country club talk about the hot stock their advisor bought them that earned a huge return, and advisors enjoy touting timing the market or asset classes for a big win. Everyone loves a good story, but the truth of the matter is that statistically, there is a much greater chance that you will lose more often than you will win making those types of decisions. As my high school football coach used to say, you don’t win football games with a last-second Hail Mary pass; you win football games by blocking and tackling.

As usual, I have been on the road quite a bit in the last month and have found that some advisors have been too focused on Hail Mary’s, instead of the fundamentals of good investing. With this in mind, there are two foundational things advisors can do in an effort to add value to client portfolios:

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Your Morning Cup of Links: Rockers, Millennials, and Roadside Attractions

Apr 15, 2014

It is spring break. For our family, spring break means tightly packing the family into a small hotel room. My wife and I are early risers, so it is almost funny as we try to plan out how we’ll read, check email, and get dressed without waking our sons every morning. (They need the sleep and we need the quiet time.) I have taken to reading by the warm glow of the cell phone light. My wife thinks the balcony (even at 45°) is the place to be. The good news is that I get to catch up with some of my reading.

As you read this Cup of Links, please know that I have already said, “I’ll turn this car around and head home right now, young man!” at least three times…

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How Three 1040 Line Items Can Increase an Advisor’s Value to Clients

Apr 10, 2014

I got quite a lot of feedback from my last article Advisors: Think Organization and Taxes… Your Clients Are. Most of the comments chided me around my procrastination around organizing my taxes before I send them to the accountant. I replied that at least I always put some Girl Scout cookies in the folder as a peace offering (Thin Mints, so he knows I’m sincere). I also heard that while the statistics show that many clients have other advisors or online accounts, the people who sent me notes have all of their clients’ assets under their management. Lastly, I heard a lot of questions around the third bullet point in the article, “Providing a Tax Observation Service.”

As I said in the post, it surprises me how many advisors still don’t ask for their clients’ and prospects’ tax returns. And if an advisor does ask, sh/e really doesn’t go through the return in detail to look for savings opportunities. Most of the questions around a tax observation service were about process, but a few were technical. Advisors asked…

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Top LinkedIn Questions Asked by Financial Advisors

Apr 8, 2014

Nearly everyone recognizes the value of LinkedIn, but they’re now interested in going beyond just having a profile picture. How can they use it to brand their firm? How can they use it for business development?

Here are the some of the most commonly asked questions during my recent conversations with advisors:

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Learning from Robo-Advisors

Apr 3, 2014

I’m a great believer in learning from the competition. For a firm to get going, you must have confidence and drive. But when the firm has grown, it is very easy for the confidence to turn into complacency and the belief that the current model will always produce results. The best way to remedy this affliction is to look outwards and check out what others are doing in your industry. Once you have seen the competition in action, it is easy to incorporate some of the best ideas into your plans for future.

One group that we can learn from is the robo-advisors. I was one of the first to analyze the robo-advisors in September 2013. Since then, much has been written about them, mainly in terms of “Will they succeed?” But my focus here is on what advisors can learn from them.

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Advisors: Think Organization and Taxes…Your Clients Are

Like many, I am a procrastinator when it comes to taxes. I even found a little short cut that goes around most of my local post office traffic so I can make sure that I beat the April 15 closing time deadline. I think for me, it’s the time it takes to get organized that is the challenge, not he actual filing — but each year, I promise that I will start earlier and avoid the stress. This year I am keeping my promise! (Actually, our kids’ spring break is the same week, so we won’t be home on the 15th, anyway.)

As I spent more than a few hours last night getting my papers organized, I started to think how much harder the job would be if we had multiple accounts with multiple custodians (especially if we had multiple advisors). It struck me that I recently saw a few different pieces of research regarding consumers and their use of financial advisors…

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How Advisors Managing for Taxes Can Shine in 2014

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

For many people, this invocation may seem apropos to today’s discussion topic. With April 15 rapidly approaching, the mere mention of taxes can bring to mind that feeling of frustration that comes with spending an inordinate amount of time worrying about things we really have no control over.

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Hitting the Ground Running: Advice for New Advisors

Mar 25, 2014

Late last week, I had a conversation with a newly minted financial advisor. “John” recently started working for a large insurance/investment firm and had just completed his series 6, 63, and 65 licenses. Doing as he had been instructed to do by his manager John called my wife (whom he knows from church), trying to build his network of prospects. As soon as my wife heard what he was doing, she suggested that he and I talk.

I’m not sure what John was expecting when we connected, but you could tell that he was a bit uncomfortable. After a few minutes, I told him about my position at SEI and how I have spent almost 30 years working with advisors. At this point, I am not sure if he was happy that he could talk about building a business, or disappointed that he was not going to get a sale. Either way, we began to discuss how it was going for him as he was beginning to build a business. As you would expect, it’s been tough and he is struggling in his new career.

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Engineering Smart Strategy: Your Roadmap to Growth

Mar 20, 2014

As I travel around the country – or when I am on the phone, most advisors that I speak with want to discuss the growth of their businesses. “What are the best firms doing? How much are they spending? What are their definitions of success?” These are all questions that advisors frequently ask. For many, it is difficult to really put this in perspective because they haven’t done benchmarking first.

Below is the second in a series of guest blog posts from FAInsight. Today’s post by Eliza DePardo, Principal and Director of Consulting at FA Insight, discusses not only growth and their “Growth by Design” survey, but also answers some of the questions on “Why would i want to grow?”

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What One Wisconsin Town Can Teach Advisors About Tough Client Conversations

Mar 18, 2014

The story, “The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death,” from NPR’s Planet Money team, was about La Crosse, WI. About 96% of townspeople who have died had an advanced directive or documentation on how they would like to die, compared to only about 30% nationally. The reporter traced the incredible statistic to one person, a medical ethicist, who got nurses and administrators to discuss the difficult subject with patients before decisions had to be made, rather than later and by the family. Now the whole community can discuss death openly and neighbors even know who does and doesn’t have a medical directive.

I realized as I was listening to the story, that one person had created a message (and a brand) in the community that really set him and the community apart. It was the power of the message — and the ability to do something about it — that makes this a teachable moment for us, as well.

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