In the highly competitive financial planning sector, it is critical that advisors strive for excellence if they wish to stand out as providing a top-tier service. Brilliant planners- those who offer sound advice and consistently outperform their competitors-
tend to share several smart practices that contribute to their success. Julie Littlechild, founder of Absolute Engagement and a member of the national board of the Financial Planning Association, has identified several unique attributes that unite the most exceptional financial planners, beyond pure talent.
Littlechild highlights the importance of clear and constant communication with one’s clients as a central quality that defines outstanding financial planning firms. Rather than a generalised understanding of each client’s intentions and desires, she argues that it is essential that advisors have a firm grasp of the specific needs of their clients and how they can best serve them. In order to achieve this superior level of understanding, it is imperative that financial planners listen carefully to the concerns of their clients, ask thoughtful and probing questions, and demonstrate a genuine concern for their financial well-being. Doing so breeds a relationship of trust and open communication between client and advisor which is crucial for continued financial success.
Another core ingredient to the ongoing achievement of acclaimed advisors is their commitment to continuous education and upskilling their level of professional expertise through expanding their knowledge base. One way to supercharge your skills-base is by procuring the Credited Financial Planner qualification, which the FPA heralds as the “gold-standard” of financial planning due to its rigorous assessment criterion. Furthermore, by gaining additional qualifications- such as a specialisation in retirees or self-managed superannuation, financial planners are better able to differentiate themselves and remain relevant to their clients.
Yet, what ultimately sets the great financial planners apart from the good ones is their ability to pair this knowledge with real-life experience in order to offer their clients realistic advice that is fiscally intelligent. According to Littlechild, the best financial advisors are highly skilled guides that discern the goals of their clients and then help them to implement those safely and efficiently. In order to monitor this journey effectively, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman recommend keeping detailed and contemporaneous file notes to track the progress of clients and ensure that your strategy is clear and refined on a regular basis.
However, beyond being a skilled guide, Littlechild stresses the importance of constantly measuring one’s success. Outstanding financial planners not only advise on sensible goals for their clients but continuously follow these up with timely reviews and consultation, in order to achieve the best possible results and manage both positive and negative trends in business. It’s clear that transforming your financial planning firm into an outstanding firm relies upon positive communication, continuous knowledge advancement and constant assessment of one’s client goals in order to achieve financial success.
About The Author
Jeff Zulman studied at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and then read law at Oxford University in England. After graduating, he joined Goldman Sachs, where he was trained on Wall Street, and then worked in their wealth management division in London. Jeff now runs TrailBlazer Finance, a specialist lender focused on providing growth capital to financial planning practices and allied finance specialists.