One Financial Advisor’s Client Experience Philosophy

Jun 25, 2019

Mitchell Walk, the Co-founder and President of Retirement Wealth Specialist, and I recently connected at a conference in April. We started talking about the opportunity financial advisors have to create a personalized client experience. As the conversation progressed, he eloquently explained his process to me. I was impressed and asked him if he’d be interested in sharing his client experience philosophy, since it helped him grow to $350 Million in AUM and 305 client relationships. Thankfully, he agreed. This is the first installment of a two-part series, the second of which will be about client events. Without further ado – take it away, Mitchell.

In 1999, my friend Bruce Udell and I founded an investment company that today is known as Retirement Wealth Specialist (RWS). Soon after, we were facing 3 losing years in the equity markets. For a new firm needing to build a reputation for taking care of our clients, this was a scary time to be in the investment business. However, in spite of the down markets, our assets continued to grow, and we have never had fewer assets than the year before. Why, when most companies were struggling to maintain clients and keep assets growing, were we so successful?

Our client experience

We treat our clients the way we want and expect to be treated ourselves. We focus on:

  1. Personalization: Clients don’t want to feel generic. Our practice is primarily, but not solely, retired seniors. They don’t want to worry about outliving their money and they don’t want to change their lifestyles in an effort to have that security. They are clients who worked hard most of their lives to build a legacy and security for their loved ones who survive them. The other demographic of our practice is young adults who recognize the value of building something for their future. They relate to our material differently, they receive their information differently, and they have different aspirations and goals. What they all desire, and require, is being relevant and being recognized. This is what the client experience is about. The core of our company is built on making sure our clients know they are important to us, not just as clients, but as unique individuals whose needs, goals and lifestyles are as important to us as to them.
  2. Accessibility: In addition to good returns, clients want someone who is trustworthy, confident, knowledgeable, and above all, available. We don’t have voicemail. When our clients call our office, they are greeted in no more than 2 rings by one of our office staff. This means a lot to our clients and is one more important way of letting them know they are not just an account number. I also call often, especially when the market is volatile, to let them know I am aware they have questions or concerns. Treating your clients like the valued friends they should be will make your clients raving fans and help you grow your business without always selling it.
  3. Communications: The client experience is not about marketing or sales. It is about relationships. I don’t have a marketing manager; I have a communications manager. When I meet with prospects and clients, I tell them about the “communication” pieces they will receive from me, not the “marketing” pieces. It is important to recognize what information our clients want and how they want to receive that information. We communicate on social media, by email, and even some snail mail. Our biggest communication, however, is in person at our events. We host 3 types of events that bring our clients together and provide an opportunity for them to get to know each other, as well as an opportunity for them to bring their friends.

In my next blog post, I will share details on our events and provide 4 takeaways on how to plan and execute them.

Understanding the importance of the client experience is the difference between having clients for a few years until they are swayed by slick marketing and promises from bigger firms, and having clients who stay with you for the long term. That is what prompts clients to bring their families in, as well as refer their friends. The client experience sets the best firms apart from the good firms.

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Thank you, Mitchell, for sharing your insights. Here’s what stood out to me:

  1. The small stuff matters. Not using voicemail might seem small, but he and his staff understand their clients want to speak with a person. They are creating a consistent experience – and that goes a long way to build strong relationships that clients are confident in.
  2. There is a big difference between marketing and communications. Recognizing the multiple ways we can communicate with clients is important, and setting expectations early as to what that communication looks like is imperative. It creates an avenue for the client to see and feel the continuous value their advisor provides. This came out in our recent white paper, Your High Net Worth Strategy: It’s What They Want, Not What You Know. Our research found that high net worth clients want more effective and frequent communications from their advisor.

The opinions and views expressed herein are those of Mitchell Walk. SEI bears no responsibility for their accuracy. Mitchell Walk and Retirement Wealth Specialist are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.

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