Several demographic shifts are getting the attention of financial advisors and their clients right now. Well before COVID-19 began circling the globe, the Great Wealth Transfer was already well underway.
During the last two years, the pandemic has had a measurable impact on life expectancies. In addition to deaths attributed directly to the virus, the U.S. is experiencing increasing deaths due to multiple causes, with the CDC reporting a year-and-a-half drop in the average American life expectancy.1
The pandemic also spurred shifts in employment and retirement. Along with acceleration in baby boomer retirements, other generations have begun quitting and changing jobs at a higher rate.2
While all this change has the potential to increase the demand for financial advisor services, there’s no guarantee that current clients’ heirs and beneficiaries will want to hire you as their advisor.
But wealth transfer doesn’t have to mean the end of client relationships. By taking steps now to cultivate and strengthen ties with clients’ loved ones, you can be better positioned to help heirs make good planning and investment decisions with the wealth they inherit, and to cultivate lifelong relationships that grow your practice.
Lay the Groundwork Today for Tomorrow’s Relationships
Tomorrow’s clients may well be the result of today’s networking and outreach. Here are seven important factors to keep in mind as you create your practice-building strategies centered around today’s client relationships.
1. Start the conversation now.
Waiting for the inevitable puts you at a disadvantage in several ways. First, your clients’ children could already be looking for financial advice elsewhere. Second, illness and death often put families under intense stress. Approaching them to discuss finances at such a time not only creates an appearance of poor taste; it can also lead to unproductive conversations with distressed family members.
2. Focus on people, not just numbers.
As you position yourself to be an advisor to your client’s family, demonstrate your interest in their financial wellbeing. That means paying attention to major life milestones involving clients’ children: graduation from college, first jobs, marriages, home purchases, births of grandchildren and more. You might send a note of congratulations and an offer to talk about options for planning or investing.
Acknowledging the financial impacts of these events is a way of showing that you care and want to help clients by putting your professional experience to work for them. When you extend concern toward their children, you help clients help you, as they can bridge generational gaps and invite their families to engage with you and your services.
3. Reach out to clients’ heirs.
Getting proactive and offering meetings with clients’ children can help you grow your network of contacts. Even if they’re not quite ready for financial services at this moment, you can lay a foundation of confidence and demonstrate your knowledge and willingness to share it. That can help keep you top of mind when the need for a financial advisor arises.
Consider holding specially focused workshops or events tailored to the needs of young people, and ask clients to help you promote them to their families and friends. Offer free initial consultations just to discuss the basics of budgeting, credit, financial planning and getting a head start on retirement planning.
4. Acknowledge important differences between generations.
No two generations face the same challenges, experience the same opportunities or embrace the same outlook on life. Expect to see differences in values and attitudes around money, wealth, education, employment, home ownership and more.
At the same time, it’s reasonable to expect different sources of financial stress and anxiety among heirs. And just because they’re different from previous generations doesn’t mean they’re less valid — or that those fears and anxieties aren’t just as likely to impact their decision-making.
Our award-winning Behavioral Finance Advice program can help you prepare for the conversation to help them make better financial decisions now — and that can help them to be in a position to make better choices when they come into money in the future.
6. Be ready to communicate on their terms and in their language.
As you begin to shift focus toward rising generations, pay close attention to their preferences. You’re likely to find that they’re more responsive to communication styles that differ from their parents’ and grandparents’.
It’s important to be sure your website is not only user-friendly, but also mobile-friendly, as more and more people rely on smartphones for internet access. Ask new clients whether they prefer email or text communications. Mobile apps for professional services have become a standard expectation as well.
7. Demonstrate your readiness to embrace change.
You may discover that the first thing younger prospects do, even after receiving a referral from a trusted family member, is online research. Your online presence is an important part of your networking and prospecting, so invest the time and effort in making sure your LinkedIn profile is current and showcases your financial knowledge in a way that engenders confidence. Likewise, make sure your website (if permitted) is easy to find, simple to navigate and encourages additional interaction either online or in person.
There’s Plenty of Business to Gain — or Lose
You can’t control the future, but you can take control of your approach to growing your business and strengthening client relationships. Get started by tapping into our AccelerationⓇ program. Its modules were created to give you more than just ideas. You’ll get step-by-step guidance to deepen client relationships, build confidence, offer better client services and grow your practice. Click the link below to get started today.
Written by: Sonja V. Hayes, J.D., LL.M, M.B.A., CLU, BFA™
Sonja brings more than 20 years of experience in financial services to CUNA Mutual Group. With a focus on insurance product solutions, Sonja works with financial professionals, CPAs and attorneys to clarify the complexities of retirement and estate planning and income distribution.
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Life Expectancy in the U.S. Declined a Year and a Half in 2020, July 21, 2021.
2Pew Research, Amid the pandemic, a rising share of older U.S. adults are now retired, November 4, 2021.