While navigating through the restrictions of the coronavirus hasn’t been easy, it has produced a lot of learning and some good business outcomes.
I run a top 50 RIA headquartered in California. We have 80 advisers spread across 14 offices in seven states.
Except for April, we’ve added new clients every month this year and, even after accounting for the market rally, we’ve increased our AUM. Further, we’ve had very few clients leave our firm. (In fact, we are experiencing the lowest client attrition we’ve ever had.)
And all of this occurred with our physical offices closed and our advisers working remotely.
The primary reason we’ve had such success is the robust communication plan we’ve employed. This includes:
Client calls. This seems like such an obvious thing to do, but amazingly there are advisers who never took the time to reach out to their clients. Our goal was to retain every single client. We had to take a few steps back in order to move forward, though; to give our advisers the time to call every client, we stopped taking new clients for a three-week period, provided some talking points for our advisers to use, and audited each adviser to ensure they made the calls.
Personalized emails. Sending out mass emails while giving them a personal touch was tough, even aided by our marketing team. To be efficient, we provided a template for each communication and had our advisers write something personal at the start of the email.
As an example, an email from me would have begun with, “Hi Susie: I’m writing this to you as I’m working from home right now. It’s a strange time for everyone, with my college-age kids back home attending classes remotely. I think Valerie is kind of enjoying having the kids back around, but I’m not sure they are as excited about it as we are. Anyway, I wanted to reach out to you because …”
Videos, podcasts and webinars. We reached out to our clients almost every week with a new communication piece examining a key topic. For example, we put together a video of historical fluctuations in the stock market. We produced virtual webinars on topics such as creating “furloughed financial plans” and “forced retirement plans.” And we delivered a podcast each week that examined what was transpiring in the financial markets.
It was this level of communication that encouraged our clients to continue with their investment strategies and not pull out of the market or switch to another firm.
Given that most of us are still working from home, and many clients are not yet comfortable visiting in person, we worked diligently to create a great remote client experience. This goes beyond merely being proficient on Zoom and incorporates things such as sending a personalized email or text both prior to and after a remote “visit.”
For context, we’ve conducted more than 4,000 virtual appointments with clients and perspective clients since the pandemic started. We’ve become good at it. The result is that we now have lots of clients who prefer remote appointments to having to drive across town and meet in a physical office. Among other previously unrealized advantages, this enables us to match clients with advisers who have more capacity and who might even live in a different part of the country.
Part of the reason we’ve continued to thrive is due to the nature of our business model. We aren’t like a restaurant or a corner mom-and-pop store. We sell ourselves and provide education and financial guidance. So while our storefronts (offices) were closed, we were able to quickly upgrade the virtual experience, increase our relevant communications and then emphasize the advantages of remote meetings. Simply, business changed and continued moving forward.
While everyone wishes this terrible illness had never happened, out of necessity, COVID-19 has made us a leaner and more versatile organization. And much of our response, rather than merely being temporary until things return to normal, has, I believe, for us created a better business normal that’s here to stay.
[More: Growing your firm for the future]
Scott Hanson is co-founder of Allworth Financial, formerly Hanson McClain Advisors, a fee-based RIA with $8 billion in AUM.
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