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Raise a glass and raise your standards: Thoughts from a financial advisor

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champagne glasses toasting

Last week I was enjoying the sun in the early evening on a Vancouver patio, sharing a glass of wine with new clients that had just came onboard to join my practice. As the husband and wife chatted about their kids and summer vacation plans we raised a glass to cheers our new partnership. At this moment my new client looked me in the eye as we tapped glasses and said “To raising our standards”.

Back at the office the next day I was telling this story and it resonated with me to pen a little piece for all the stories and people I have come across over the years that seem to be under serviced in our profession.

As Canadians we need to raise the standards of what we are expecting from a financial advisor and do some homework on what is a reasonable level of service and expectation from your financial advisor.

Three things you should understand on your way to raising your standards.

  1. Why aren’t we asking the value question, when everyone is talking about fees/cost. Have you heard the story about the cheapest house painter? It doesn’t end well. First and foremost you need to know what you’re paying, transparency is key, but then we need to know what you are paying for. What is the value, what are the services you’re paying your financial advisor for? One piece we offer our prospected clients is a breakdown of the services they should expect as part of the cost. We incorporated this practice to both remind our clients of what we are doing between our conversations, but also as a prospecting guide for potential clients who may not be getting some of all of these services from their current advisor. *Tip to any financial advisors out there; we have not had anyone question our costs as clients know what they are paying and receiving.
  1. Does your financial advisor have a service model? How does your advisor communicate with you, is it random, does she call you to sell you something, does she ever call you? When a new prospected client comes into my office, the number one reason people give me when I ask them why they started looking for a new advisor is a lack of communication. The advisor does not call them, and in some cases it had been over a year since they have heard anything. Years ago we incorporated a service model for our clients, received amazing feedback, and have since trademarked the process and use the service model to keep us accountable and ensure our clients receive what was promised. We have started using this as a prospecting tool for prospective clients that are not receiving the communication they are looking for from their current advisor.
  1. Financial planning is a bit of a buzz word lately with a lot of advisors incorporating this into their practice in some way or another. Do you have a written financial plan? Developing a financial plan plotting a journey to your destination allows you to track your progress, reach your goals, dreams and most importantly your plan ensures you will not run out of money. Imagine setting sail for a destination on the other side of the world with no map (No GPS either). Running a few small degrees off course over a long journey could make you miles from your intended destination. Add some wind, the cross current, maybe a few storms on your journey, you this could be a disastrous outcome. Keep the plan/map front and center and continuously update, check in and ensure your on course to reaching your financial goals/destination. One thing we do with our clients is have them understand the financial plan is a living document that will constantly be referenced and updated as time goes on, we can make adjustments as needed but will always know where we are in regards to our goals and clients like that.

Our business is filled with amazing people and great advisors and I am lucky work in an industry that I am passionate about, with the opportunity to help so many people. As Canadians let’s not fall to the lowest common denominator in our business, let’s raise our standards expecting value, communication and planning from your financial advisor. It’s about more than investment returns. I’ll raise a glass and cheers you on route to raising your standards.

Chris Mills is a financial advisor with Raymond James Ltd. Information provided is not a solicitation and although obtained from sources considered reliable, is not guaranteed. The view and opinions contained in the article are those of the author, not Raymond James Ltd. Raymond James Ltd. member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund.