Compliance is NOT a Dirty Word

Compliance is my friend…it’s NOT a dirty word!  Go ahead, say it.

Compliance requirements may seem like a ‘chore’ to your business however it’s there to protect you and keep you in business.  It is your due diligence for your clients, your practice and your future.  We need it to keep things in order and protect ourselves from those whose ethics aren’t ‘up to snuff’…consider it the law of your practice-land.

The best way to remain compliant is to stay on top of your company guidelines.  Yes, it means listening during those annual compliance meetings and paying attention to the things you think you already know.  Scan your corporate home page or regulations manual on a regular basis for announcements of new requirements.

It is also about documentation.   You cannot document your client interactions enough!  Your documentation will be around years later when your memory of the conversation may not be.  I’ve heard it, seen it, been part of it, to know that good documentation is one of the most important tasks your practice can do on a daily basis to protect your practice.

Build systems that encourage and require good documentation.  Using meeting agendas with standard formatting for discussion items and sections for note taking are extremely helpful.  Typically, staff should be responsible for preparing the agendas and ensuring the meeting notes are consistently done by the advisor.  Don’t be offended if they come back to you asking for more notes from a client meeting!  (Staff-don’t be hesitant to request more from the advisor – it shows that you care and increases your value to the practice.)  We know there was more discussed than just the performance of their investments!

Summary letters are also a great way to stay ahead of compliance.  They remind the client of your discussion and any action items needed.  They’ll know that you heard them and that you run a professional organization.  If you can get the letter out to them within the week, they’ll be even more impressed with your group and the information will still be fresh in their mind.  It also reflects that you’ve documented the conversation for their historical file.

So, again…compliance is your friend.

If you would like more information on building bullet-proof systems to protect your practice, feel free to contact AGM CONSULTING Group.

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5 Thoughts for Financial Advisory Practices

  1. Direction – Where is your company/practice going?  If you don’t know, how do you expect your staff to know?  A CEO leads the direction of the company with a plan/map.  Create a business plan that you share with your staff.  Get their ‘buy-in’ on your goals – you’d better – they’re the ones who’ll be doing the tasks to help you reach them!
  2. Revenue – Are you spending your time on tasks that increase your business revenue?  How are you adding new revenue streams into your practice?  Are your marketing events/tasks focused and intentionally adding to your revenue or just creating more tasks for you to do?  Remember the 80/20 rule – 80 percent of your time should be spent on the 20 percent of your work that is really important.
  3. Velocity – Are you getting the most out of your client relationships?  How much of your client’s assets are you managing?  Can you describe your ideal client?  Do you focus on duplicating those clients?  Avoid hiring clients that don’t fit your ideal client model as it will lower your practice velocity.  Work more efficiently with what you have and find more time for the finer things in life!
  4. Business Margin – Are you efficient with the practice structure you have laid out in your office?  When is the last time you took a good look inside your practice to make sure things are running efficiently and smartly?  Are you spending too much in some areas and not enough on others?  Instead of always working IN your practice remember to work ON your practice to find ways to increase your profitability.
  5. Staffing – Are the right staff doing the right jobs within your practice?  Maybe it’s time to repurpose your staff responsibilities.  Conduct personality tests as a group to determine their strengths – make sure they align with the job responsibilities.  Do a time study also to determine if they are over/under utilized.  You’ll have more satisfied staff if they are doing tasks that match their strengths and your practice will reap the benefits.
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Bridging The Gap

The overall goal of any business; be it for-profit, non-profit, service organization, or military, is to see a need or gap, and fill it. Plain and simple!

  • You want a new home – a realtor is there to help you find the right house.
  • You’d like an education – a teacher is willing to fill you with knowledge.
  • You desire to save money for a future goal – a financial advisor is there to help create a financial roadmap.

We are all in business to bridge a gap by helping others.  My underlying business passion is no different that most, to help others reach their goals.  I help financial planning practices run efficiently allowing the financial advisor to trust in the process and procedural systems built.  They can meet with clients and commit that the next steps will be completed in a timely manner.

It can be very valuable to take a peek inside your practice to see how it’s doing.  I’m not saying to do an episode of Undercover Boss or anything like that!  Just reassess how your office completes their daily tasks to determine if there’s a need to repurpose systems or staff roles.

Contact me if you’d like an objective view from an experienced staff (18+ years) perspective.

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30-Second Commercials

No, not for my business – for yours!  Can you describe what you do in 30-seconds?  If you’re in an elevator and were asked to describe what you do, could you do it clearly, concisely and consistently?  What does your staff or a client say to a prospect when asked what you do?  If YOU don’t have this down, neither do your staff or clients.

So what if you can create a plan for me, so can Joe Advisor down the street!  So what if you manage my investments, I can do this myself online!  How do you stand out from the shop down the street?  What is it that makes your financial planning practice special?  What compels clients to work with you?

If you’ve attended Chamber of Commerce or other community organization meetings, chances are you’ve heard about 30-second commercials or ‘elevator speeches’.  It’s a description about what you do in your business that makes you special.  The important link though is that your staff and clients portray your ‘commercial’ to your prospects.  Create advocates of your practice!  Let them multiply your reach!

Create your commercial during a staff meeting as a group.  Use words that are comfortable to your style of speaking and are branded to your practice.  Write it out and practice, practice, practice until you have it down to a couple sentences.  Then repeat it often – you may consider asking your clients for feedback – get their input.  Have them say it and repeat it…at the same time your training your new ‘advocate’ on your branded commercial.

Have fun telling everyone how you make a difference in the lives of others!

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3 Critical Administrative Issues

  • Client Phone Calls

Clients are your meat & potatoes!  They make it possible for you to have a job in the first place.  They are not an interruption to your daily tasks – they ARE the reason you have tasks to do.  Interactions should reflect the brand of your office & YOU are a reflection of the brand you present.  Do you want your clients to feel like an ‘interruption’?  Then don’t treat them that way!

For some reason when staff are too busy, phone calls to clients are one of the first tasks to be put on the back burner, however it is THE most important task in your office.  Keeping your clients on a structured contact system and the advisor calendar scheduled with appropriate client meetings keeps everyone focused.  The relationships will be nurtured and the advisor will consistently do what they do best – meet with clients!

  • Documentation, documentation, documentation!

Every interaction between a client and an advisor or staff where information is shared, should be documented in your contact management database; especially if the communication is related to a product discussed or their accounts.  What you don’t document today could come back to bite you in future years.  You cannot document enough in this industry!

Your contact management software is the perfect place to record the interaction as the entry will be dated, time stamped, and recorded as part of their historical records in a single location.  Whatever contact management system you prefer, using software is efficient and just down-right smart!

  • Staff Initiative

Staff initiative has a great impact on business growth.  If you work in a financial advisory practice, take initiative to create projects that will drive productivity and increase revenue – it’s about the bottom line.  Don’t wait to be asked, do it: prepare your idea, present the project with data to substantiate its relevance & make it happen!  With the current economic times, staff need to demonstrate to the advisor the value they bring to the practice.  Anyone can fill your chair – how do you bring value & ownership to your role?  Let your light shine!

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