Thursday, December 1, 2011
Don't Let Your Six-Month Review Turn Into Window Dressing
A six-month review of your new financial planning investment services program is an essential element in its long-term success. A quick discussion at the partner meeting will not get at the real issues. The review needs to be a serious project with a commitment to address any issues discovered.
Many firms have asked how we do it and what should we look for. The following is a breakdown of some of the key issues to review and test.
• Is everyone on board? Have all partners and associates been introduced to the program? At this point, at least 75% of the likely partners and associates should have made at least four to 10 referrals and have several customers engaged in the financial planning process. Take an accurate measure of where the referrals are coming from and where they are not; ask the appropriate questions of those with either high or low participation. There may be a need for more - or better - internal communication.
• Are you mining your whole client base or just looking for diamonds on the surface? You should have contacted all of your clients in writing to let them know about the new services and suggested a time to talk about starting a plan. By the six-month mark, you need to be following up with most of your "A" clients and prospects who look like potential "A" clients. In the first six months, about 75% of your time dedicated to the new efforts should be spent on getting started with "A" clients.
• How does revenue look? The annual goal of a 10% increase in gross billings cannot be divided by two and used as a measure for the six-month review. The startup phase of the program requires time to build momentum, and effort now will pay off in the second half of the year. You should, however, start to see some increases in the first billing total of, say 2% to 3%. Look at the mix of the billings; if all of it is fee-generated (e.g. asset management) and none of it is from product sales, you will fall below the 10% target and you will have to adjust the mix to stay on target. The number of complete financial plans will have a direct correlation with revenues. Part of the implementation plan should have included a per-partner target for the number of plans. Now is the time to compile a report of client plans completed by partner and compare it to the goal.
• Is the leader still leading? The managing partner/partner that either assumed or was given "ownership" of the program should by now be clearly owning and leading. He or she should be managing the cultural fit and making the necessary changes to ease the integration. This person should be reporting and/or posting results and should make the program a focus at appropriate partner meetings. It's important at this point to evaluate the role and responsibility of the person in this role: What have they done? Do they need help?
These are real issues and need to be addressed early and often for the program to succeed and should be the focus of every firm's six-month review.
Andrew S. Bluestone, CFP