The key to one adviser's success
Before making any decisions on investment options for her clients, for Eleanor Dartnall, AFA Adviser of the year, it is a process of discovery and learning – for both her and her client.
While a key part of her on-boarding process is simply listening to the client in their first meeting, Eleanor says equally important is providing the sound foundations of investing knowledge for her clients.
"While education was already provided in seminars and workshops, we decided to develop an educational 'flip-chart', covering a broad spectrum of investment topics, which now forms part of the on-boarding process with all new clients," Eleanor explained.
"The result is, each client can choose their investment profile based on real knowledge about investing, risk and the diversification and results in a client who can provide us with informed consent when we provide recommendations".
Eleanor is now looking to expand her educational materials to include an investing 'guide' that will form a part of the Statement of Advice (SoA). While adding further to the client's knowledge, the intention is that it will also cut down the time taken to sign the SoA, while the client will better understand the advice and recommendations given in the advice document.
The focus on education as part of the on-boarding process does take additional time but is time well spent, being the beginning of a shared journey and a shared responsibility between the adviser and the client.
"This time taken at the start of the relationship provides a lasting impression of the professionalism of our practice," Eleanor said.
"This time taken at the start of the relationship provides a lasting impression of the professionalism of our practice," Eleanor added.
Despite the success of her focus on education, the right way to begin the process for clients wasn't immediately clear.
Initially we provided client education using a white board, then developed this into slides which were shared on YouTube or email". This had drawbacks as Eleanor pointed out – "the client did not have the opportunity to ask questions along the way and they prefer to have something to take home to read and to own".
"Providing a hard-copy 'flip-chart' also ensures there is a demonstrable education journey," she added.
With more than 30 years in the business, finding the best way to deliver client education has not been the only challenge Eleanor has faced. Early on in the establishment of her practice, Dartnall advisers, Eleanor found that developing new services without consultation with her client base was not the way to go. Her clients now have input into the process of delivering advice, education and ongoing care.
"Success came from holding focus groups with our different target audiences and the resulting changes to the way the practice delivers its services have been outstanding," Eleanor added.
Growing the business
The decisions that have grown the business haven't all been about education. Eleanor places a lot of emphasis on estate planning when getting to know clients, even to the extent of asking prospective clients to bring their Will to their first meeting.
This provides an insight not only to their estate planning requirements, but has the added advantage of building familiarity and subsequently trust in the relationship. To support her focus on estate planning, Eleanor says employing a full-time estate planning lawyer was one of the best decisions she made for her business.
"To be able to directly link our investment and succession planning advice has been very beneficial to both the adviser and the client."
"Estate Planning forms part of our initial interview with all new clients, it is this element of our first meeting that builds trust and ensures a robust set of recommendations".
And if you're just starting out in the business today?
"Listen to what your clients have to say, and notice what they are not saying," Eleanor advises.
"Especially in that all important initial meeting, they have come to see you to tell you their story and to tell you what worries them and what they want to achieve."
"They do not come to listen to the adviser at this point."
What business decisions have been most beneficial to your practice?