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How Can You Work Better with Your Clients' Other Advisors?


Accountants are considered centers of influence, aka: COIs. Lots of people in sales want to know you because they think you will send them business. This might happen under the right circumstances. Business might flow your way, too. That’s only one of the benefits of a client’s various advisors working together.

Jan 13th 2020
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Accountants are considered centers of influence, aka: COIs. Lots of people in sales want to know you because they think you will send them business. This might happen under the right circumstances. Business might flow your way, too. That’s only one of the benefits of a client’s various advisors working together.

According to The Millionaire’s Advisor by Russ Alan Prince and Brett Van Bortel, the average HNW individuals have 3+ financial advisory relationships on average. Should these diverse specialists be working together? Yes. Here’s why: The business model of many private bankers is similar. Once the client’s banker sees the client has sold their business or amassed a significant amount of capital, they direct them to their affiliated private bank. Once they become a client, the private bank builds a wall, then a moat around the relationship. How?  By bringing as much of the insurance, lending, planning and investment functions as possible in house. They run the show, taking the day-to-day responsibilities off the client’s shoulders.

Back to “What do you have in common?” In a world where many people seek to eliminate the middleman, your client has a live insurance agent, financial advisor and accountant. They understand the concept of paying for professional advice.

Strategy #1: Does Your Client Have Good Advisors?

It makes sense for everyone to be pulling on the oars at the same time. The boat moves forward faster. But does the client have the right oarsmen in the boat?

You are a fiduciary. You look after your client’s interests first. You sell time and expertise, not product. You need to confirm your client’s other advisors are up to a high standard.

Clients supply account statements. If not, you should ask for them. You can determine if a client’s advisor is churning or overtrading the account. Are they taking lots of short-term gains, leaving you to explain the tax consequences? On the darker side, are they buying investments with up front charges, then selling them shortly afterwards to buy others, also carrying upfront charges? This is unethical if a similar fund was available in the family of the first fund and a swap could be done without transaction costs. Advice has value. Advisors should be compensated, but not excessively to the client’s detriment.

If this is the case, you should alert your client. Don’t tell them what to do, but make them aware of the problem. You can suggest a few advisors who might be good replacements if they want to make a change.

This step is important because you don’t want to work with an advisor or agent who is unethical.  It’s asking for trouble.

Strategy #2: Have Your Own Team

Lots of people invest on their own. Some are good at it, others aren’t. Some came from a full-service firm, others never worked with an advisor before.  From personal experience, you know a few good professionals in the different fields. This includes financial advisors, insurance agents, lawyers and bankers. If a client has a need that isn’t being met, you can refer them to a known quantity. Actually, it should be at least three known quantities. Give them business cards or contact information for at least three financial advisors, if that’s where the need lies. Suggest they interview all three, then choose one. This avoids the problem of directing all the business to your brother-in-law, which could be a cascading problem if something goes wrong. They may likely ask you to tell them about each candidate.

This gives you control. It’s like the scenario where a local company appoints a new manager for the division.  hey often reorganize, bringing in their own team.  People like working with known quantities.

Strategy #3 : Working with Their Team

Many people in sales are Type A personalities. They want to run the show, be the quarterback and coordinate the team for the client. They would also like you to refer business. Although many financial professionals act in the best interests of their client, they often feel the best solution to a problem involves buying a product they are selling. Put another way, “If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” 

You need to bring order to this situation. Your client should accept that you, as the fiduciary in the room, are the quarterback. Clients should bring problems to you. You offer advice, then the other professionals recommend and implement the next course of action.

Suppose the client has three financial advisors? Now suppose they are day traders? The client might have three advisors, each trying to balance gains vs. Losses, but who is watching over the three relationships, advising on the overall tax picture? That should be you. It’s a reason to coordinate with each advisor, so you can tell the client how all the pieces fit together.

Let's assume they only have a few professionals on the “payroll.” They have a lawyer, financial advisor and insurance agent. You’ve checked out their discipline records online. They are clean.  You’ve seen how they work with your shared client over the past couple of years. They are ethical. Establishing contact makes sense. They will probably initiate it themselves of ask your client for an introduction. Learn about their specialties and their niche. There’s the most overlap in the investment world and less on the insurance side, although retirement planning often involves insurance products. Contact with their lawyer is minimal, unless setting up trusts as part of their estate plan is in the picture. Settling and valuing the estate upon death also brings lawyers and accountants together, but that’s down the road.

Let the other professionals learn about you.  xplain your system of suggesting a few alternatives when a client needs an attorney or advisor.  Once you are comfortable with them, ask for business cards and include them in your referral network. Hopefully they reciprocate.  Review the relationship periodically.

Strategy #4 : The Shared Stage

You might hold lectures or seminars for clients and prospects. If there’s a good fit, include an advisor at attorney on your agenda. Consider joint events where you each supply half the audience from your client base, share the event expenses and share the stage. You each might get clients. As an accounting professional, you can also make yourself available as an event speaker, free of charge when they hold a client seminar.

You might be concerned about their topic. Bear in mind their compliance departments are very strict. Their legal teams will probably want to review every script, handout and PowerPoint slide they plan to use. If you speak at a joint event, they will likely want to see what you plan on saying too.

A client’s other advisors can be allies, working together for the client’s benefit.

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