Client Communication: Master the Client Review Meeting

The cornerstone of client communication is the client review meeting, a time-intensive undertaking that rarely receives the respect it deserves. As one of the few times you and your clients sit down one-on-one, reviews can be valuable drivers of client retention, growth of wallet share and referrals.

If you are like most advisors, you use these sessions to review the markets, client assets and recent life events. To set yourself apart, consider going beyond these basics.

Prepare for the Meeting

Solid preparation for the meeting is essential for a successful and quality interaction.

"A review requires at least 45 minutes to properly prepare. I know some people who don't prepare. I did it once, and the client subsequently left me." — E.S., Northeast

Creating a standard report that fits most of your clients but allows for customization where needed can save you time. Consider following the process below to ensure you cross all your "T"s and dot all your "I"s. You or someone on your team should:

  • Schedule the review with the client
  • Create a summary of the client's account
  • Prepare the review report based on the summary
  • Proof the review report
  • Mail the materials in advance of your meeting with a cover letter confirming the date and time of your meeting

At the Meeting

An effective meeting covers more than performance. It should instill confidence, bring the client a level of comfort and include a holistic discussion of wealth management issues. An agenda is a must, but so is flexibility. You want your meeting to be organized, meaningful and consultative, even if that means veering off the agenda.

Part I – Cover the Necessities

  • Discuss developments (e.g., market changes, life events) that have occurred since the last meeting
  • Review the client's portfolio and investments:
    • Asset allocation
    • Equity sector, size and style analysis
    • Fixed income analysis
    • Performance
    • Gains/losses
  • Discuss individual investment accounts
  • Provide an overview of the market, including where you stand and what to expect

Part II – Differentiate Yourself

  • Discuss pertinent wealth management issues, including:
    • Estate planning
    • Retirement issues
    • Philanthropic and charitable giving
    • Asset titling
    • Liabilities
    • Investments
    • Insurance
    • Income taxes
  • Provide a tactical business idea
    • Use market analysis from experts at your firm or another trusted source to discuss positioning of the client's assets (e.g., equities vs. fixed income, large vs. small, sectors)
  • Review service expectations to ensure you are in sync

Part III – Make Sure You Don't...

  • ...interrupt clients. This is their time and they should not be rushed.
  • ...make excuses, but share information honestly. Strong communication can offset weak performance.
  • ...let distance dominate. If a key client has moved 200 miles away, consider web conferences to keep the personal connection going.

Ask for a Grade (and a Referral)

Assuming you have been successful at setting appropriate expectations at the beginning of a relationship and reaffirming your value through the client review meeting, have the courage to:

  • Ask for a grade. Referrals are rewards you can earn from clients for satisfying their needs and expectations. Ask for a grade to make sure you understand your client's level of satisfaction with your services before asking for a referral. While 94% of "highly satisfied" clients are likely to make referrals, only 13% of "moderately satisfied" clients will do the same.*
  • Be very specific about who you do your best work for.
  • Use the following phrase: "I am never too...," as in "I am never too busy to help someone you care about."

Case Study: Maximizing Meetings

Good — Emerging Elite Advisor
The advisor scheduled today's client review at the end of last quarter's review. He uses the same template each time, which his assistant prepares and hands to him as he is heading into the meeting. The advisor and the client quickly review the asset allocation, any moves since last quarter and the portfolio performance. The advisor answers any portfolio-related questions and then asks the client about changes at home or at work that might be relevant. Once the 45- to 60-minute meeting is over, the advisor schedules next quarter's meeting. In the meantime, he will use monthly calls and emails to stay in touch.

Great — Elite Advisor
This advisor also scheduled today's client review at the end of last quarter's review. He used one of his monthly emails to the client to inquire about agenda items for the meeting. The client appreciated the more personalized email, and the advisor liked that it encouraged the client to think of topics and concerns beforehand, leading to a more thorough discussion. The advisor has a template for the portfolio performance review, but he selects just a few pages from that template that he thinks will resonate based on the clients' interests. The advisor sends the materials to the client a day before the meeting, which (1) ensures the advisor has time to prepare, (2) allows the client to review in advance and (3) avoids the complication of sending them too early and pre-empting the review. During the meeting, the advisor will offer to start with whatever topic most interests the client, and he makes sure the client does more talking than he does. At the end of the meeting, the advisor schedules the next review for the following quarter, and follows up with an email recapping what they discussed and any "homework" the client or the advisor should do.

*Source: Cultivating the Middle Class Millionaire (Russ Alan Prince).

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