Simple but powerful ideas to build life-long relationships with clients – Marc Freedman, CFP - Network FP
August 13, 2012

Simple but powerful ideas to build life-long relationships with clients – Marc Freedman, CFP

Marc Freedman
President/CEO Freedman Financial CFP®

Imagine if your clients no longer called your office because they were scared about the economic environment, but instead called to ask for your advice on how to persuade their friends and neighbors to do business with your firm!

Pretty powerful?  Yes. Is it possible? Absolutely!

What’s the secret?  Keep on reading and you’ll begin to learn the simple, yet honest solution to building life-long relationships with your clients and prospects.

My name is Marc Freedman, a CFP Practitoner and I am a second generation planner.  I joined the profession in 1990 as my father’s apprentice. Barry Freedman, my father, is known as one of the founding fathers of the financial planning profession as he started his career in 1968. In January 2007, my father retired and sold the business to me.

Today our firm has 450 financial planning relationships with individuals and families.  The average net worth (including real estate) of our clients is between $500,000 and $2,500,000.  The average investable assets of our clients are about $600,000.

My office, Freedman Financial is located just 11 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts and 90% of my clients live within a 10 mile radius of my office.  That’s the way it’s always been.  As such, we have very personal relationships with our clients.  Not only do we hold all meetings in my office, I also run into them at the grocery store, the movie theater, the school yard, and in my own neighborhood.  By having such a local client base it’s important that I always maintain confidentiality about client accounts and maintain my ethics, composure and integrity both in and out of my office.

My staff consists of myself, Marc Freedman and;

  • Marion Gilman, CFP (she is responsible for meeting with clients and oversees all investment decisions;
  • Kim Gagnon (she is our paraplanner.) She is responsible for preparing for all client review meetings.  She also processes trades and prepares proposals and special reports.
  • Sonia DelValle – Client Service Specialist.  Her job is to process all new business, account changes, payouts, etc.
  • Lisa Drown – Director of First Impressions. She schedules all appointments, answers phones, handles marketing, compliance issues and any other projects that need tending.

 

Managing Client Frustrations

In October 2008, I was the chairman of the Financial Planning Association’s Annual Conference in Boston MA.  While more than 2000 financial planners from around the world attended this important meeting, the global stocks markets fell close to 15%.  In the weeks and months that followed, the US stock market dropped another 25%. While clients were worried, we were too.

During those challenging days I learned that it was OK to let clients know that we didn’t have all the answers. While we wanted to ensure that they remain rational during very emotional times; it was equally important to be sure that they were sleeping well at night.  If they weren’t; then we needed to make changes.

During this tumultuous period we NEVER SOLD OUT. Our clients were always asking, “How low does the market have to drop before you sell out”?  Our answer to them was, “the market won’t stay down forever. Unless you need a large sum of your money now, it’s best to hold tight and stay invested.

It’s important to note, that we do not buy individual stocks for our clients. 90% of our clients have mutual fund portfolios, for which they pay us an annual fee of roughly 1%.  Over the next few years we worked very hard to continue to earn our client’s trust and the fee they continued to pay us.

How many clients did we lose between 2008- 2010; just one client.  He went all to cash and continues to leave his money in the bank.  What’s interesting was that not a single client left us to move their money to another financial advisor.  Instead, surprisingly, we acquired more new clients and added more money under management than ever before.  Why?  It’s simple.  We remained committed to our Financial Planning First philosophy and began a communications plan to our clients where they received a note from us every Friday.

The Financial Planning First Philosophy

For years the financial planning industry has talked about a standard that includes “placing the interests of clients first”.  We whole-heartedly believe in this cornerstone principle; and require that we know where all of our clients money is – and what it’s worth before ever making an investment and/or insurance recommendation for them.

By building a net worth statement, using document they provide – and then having them sign off on them.  We can collectively agree that any future investment decisions align with their overall financial life.

In addition, we ask qualitative questions about both their short and long term goals. And most importantly, we NEVER establish a financial planning relationship with the client until we’ve met both spouses.

One thing we’ve learned is that if you choose to take on a client for investment purposes only; and neglect to confirm their net worth and prepare a financial plan for them, they will measure your success solely on your investment performance.  As such, when markets drop, they think you failed them and they seek another professional.  When financial planning is done first, market fluctuations impact the financial plan – and in many cases, the long term objectives don’t change much.  All they may need is a little tweaking.

Communicate with your Clients

I am of the belief that clients DO NOT want you to call them all the time.  In fact, advisors who reach out to clients via phone run the risk of annoying their client rather than building a deeper relationship.

In March 2009, we created “Planning Pointers”, a weekly electronic publication that is written at our office and distributed to not just our 450 clients, but an additional 3,000 prospects, professionals, colleagues, friends and family.  For more than 2 ½ years this publication has been our primary communication tool.  We don’t just talk about what’s going on in the stock market, rather we focus on ordinary financial planning ideas.  Over the past few months we’ve written about helping children choose the right college, how to get the best value from your credit cards, and whether refinancing your home mortgage makes sense.

Our clients are so appreciative of these simple ideas, and it often leads to them contacting our office with questions that are both related and unrelated to the newsletter.  In 2008, we learned that if we called clients during difficult days in the market, the last person they wanted to hear from was us.  Clients really just wanted to ignore the volatility of the day.  Our weekly newsletter became (and has become) a regular expected communication that reminds them that we’re here for them if they need us – but doesn’t rattle their day by making an unsuspecting call.

How long does it take us to build the newsletter each week?  2.5 hours.  That’s right.  It’s not hard – and it makes a lasting impact.

Oh, besides the nice comments we get from our clients about the newsletter, they forward it to their friends and co-workers.  Not surprisingly, these friends become new clients of our firm because they tell us “My existing financial advisors doesn’t communicate with my like you do.  Are you taking any new clients, because I’d love to move my accounts to you”.

Wouldn’t you like this to happen in your practice?

If you’d like to see what the newsletter looks like, visit the wesbite Freedman Financial.  Sign-up to receive a free weekly issue. Or consider purchasing my book “Oversold and Underserved – a Financial Planner’s Guidebook to Serving the Mass Affluent”

 

Authored by,

Marc Freedman

President
Freedman Financial, Inc
Boston, USA

11 Thoughts to “Simple but powerful ideas to build life-long relationships with clients – Marc Freedman, CFP”

  1. Practical approach to planners. People must know how a financial planner can add value to their personal finance. It's expected both the spouses are aware of financial matters, otherwise it may be impossible. Planner makes you know how to reach your goals. Otherwise, how you'll know when, how much do you need and what are vehicles are available for you?

  2. piyushkhatri says:

    I agree with Mr. Marc completely… informed client is more satisfied… thank you sadique for sharing this

  3. Badrish Nagaraj says:

    very useful and i beieve this can be incorporated in the client's presentation?

  4. Abhijeet Chatterjee says:

    marc you are truly an inspiration for aspiring financial planners the world over! Keep up the good job and happy planning!

  5. Thanks so much for your kind words.  Let me know if you'd like more stories like this.  What topics would you like to hear about?

    • vinayaksapre says:

      Thanks Marc, great way of keeping clients happy. Can you share how you all handle different kind of clients. As in do you classify/categorise clients as per their size of relationship or their behavioral pattern.

      Cheers!!

       

      • Sure. 

        We generally have three groups –

        Clients who pay a financial planning fee first ($1,500 minimum) – then elect to place money under our management. 75% of client base

        Children of clients listed above. 15% of client base

        Clients who have basic financial planning needs – but really need money management help. 10% of client base.

         

         

         

  6. Excellent practical inputs for us.

  7. vinayaksapre says:

    Thank you so much Sadique for sharing this.

     

     

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