Much of the initial focus of advisers moving into financial wellbeing is on changing the ‘discovery phase’ where they establish goals and motivations.
But what I’m noticing is that it’s taking longer to bring the financial wellbeing thinking into the ongoing relationship and into annual review meetings.
When observing advisers in a recent Financial Wellbeing Certificate masterclass I noted how different their approaches to the review meetings were. For some there are challenges in changing the format because the wider practice has not yet adopted the financial wellbeing approach. While others had made much more substantial changes to ensure they focused on their clients’ life and wellbeing, rather than the nitty gritty investment performance, and would only go into the technical side if the client asked specifically about their investments.
Staying true to the ethos
I would suggest that to stay true to the financial wellbeing ethos, the purpose of the annual meeting should shift from reviewing their investment portfolio to exploring “Are we on track to improve their financial wellbeing?”
This is the adviser’s chance to look at ways to move their clients’ ‘happiness setpoint’. Yes, a big ask, I know. But if you promote yourself as someone who helps improve financial wellbeing and if you truly believe it, should this not be your ultimate aim?
Here are some pointers on what I suggest you as a financial planner should focus on during the annual review meetings, and what you should avoid or minimise.
Don’ts - only discuss if the client specifically asks about these:
- Investment portfolio and investment performance
- Portfolio rebalancing
- Tax strategies and planning
- Estate planning
- Risk profile
- Capital markets outlook
- Adviser fees vs other advisers (and comparing to investment gains)
- Recent government legislation changes
- The technical side of the financial advice
- MiFID II disclosures and requirements.
And yes, I know that for many advisers this is exciting stuff and your comfort zone. But only a few clients will find this interesting, and these do little to help improve the client’s financial wellbeing. They are important elements, of course, but something you as the expert should take into account in your work after the review conversations.
What should you focus on instead?
- Make financial wellbeing the core of the conversation, and set the scene ahead of the meeting so the clients know this.
- Focus on them as people: their lives, their aspirations, their interests, their goals.
- Ask what is going on in their lives? You can structure these around the five pillars to wellbeing i.e. career, financial, physical, community and financial.
- Explore what has brought them joy and fulfilment in the last 12 months.
- Inquire into any new thoughts and ideas about their life and their future.
- Check in whether income, outgoings, life or plans have changed since the last meeting?
- Revisit cashflow plans i.e. are we still on track to support their lifestyle and goals (yes, that one is fine and was consistently used by the experienced financial wellbeing advisers)
- Explore any questions or concerns they have.
- Notice their emotional responses around money, investments and their life. Listen for unhelpful biases, self-limiting beliefs and behaviour that are getting in their way for financial happiness.
Taking investment discussions out of review meetings to focus entirely on financial wellbeing requires a lot of new knowledge and skills, as well as a good dose of confidence. It’s outside the comfort zone for almost all advisers.
Financial wellbeing is a new area and any adviser venturing into this space needs to receive good quality training and be prepared to be challenged as they adopt a new way of helping clients live happier lives!