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Successful onboarding of clients is down to one word… communication

Brett Davidson, chief executive of FP Advance, suggests ways to ensure the onboarding process for new clients is always excellent and has the client front of mind

When you’ve signed a new client to your firm and, having been guided through the various processes, they have agreed to proceed with your recommended strategy, it’s a pretty exciting time. To get to this point has involved a lot of work and you have pretty much given them as much as you know in terms of intellectual capital that is relevant to their situation. So it would be a shame to blow it here. The question is:

• Is implementation the end
of your client engagement process?

• Or, is it the commencement of your lifetime relationship management process?

Pretty obviously it’s both, but you wouldn’t always know that when you see how some firms treat this part of the engagement.

The salespeople, who view it more as the end of their client engagement process, are keen to get this done without fuss so they can get paid. Remember most advisers haven’t charged the client anything to get to this point so they are hungry and tired by now.

The true advisers may
well have charged a fee, which they can now invoice (or invoice for the balance outstanding if they collected some upfront). However, the upfront fee usually hasn’t covered all their costs either, so they are also keen to pick up the implementation fee as soon as possible. Even more importantly for this group, the client has probably agreed to move onto the ongoing review service at say 1% of assets under management (or some other retainer), which is where most of the value is, in the lifetime value of the client to the firm.

So you would think this part of the process would be given huge emphasis within advisory firms. Not always.

Where it goes wrong
Done badly, the client fills in the paperwork (either with some help in the office, or via post), which is then submitted. Some aspects of the job can take weeks to get finalised, either because they require more input from the firm and client (in the case of some insurance work) or because something has gone awry (e.g. lost or delayed paperwork, mistakes at the provider end, etc.).

During these weeks this is how the client sees it:

• I came and saw this adviser who seemed competent and a nice person.

• They showered me with energy and affection for a couple of months to get my business.
• I just cut them a cheque for a lot of money (my life savings in fact).

• Now it’s all done I haven’t heard from them for three or four weeks.

At the very least you might feel a little less important than you did throughout the advisory process.

At worst, you might be downright nervous that your adviser has disappeared with your money. I know that might sound far fetched to some because you and I know most advisers don’t actually hold client funds, so this isn’t really a possibility, but most clients don’t know that.

Constant contact
The best way to avoid this (easily avoidable) situation is to structure a simple weekly contact programme, updating the client on progress, even if there isn’t any.

When the paperwork is completed the first thing is to set the client’s expectations as to how long things will take and how you will communicate with them. If you believe that things usually take two to three weeks tell the client it will be four to six weeks.

Each week someone in
the firm, usually one of your administration team, should be in contact providing an update on progress. Many of these communications can be prepared in advance; so standard wording can be created to make it easy for your administration team. For example:

Week 1:
Communication method:
Sender: Administrator
All paperwork has been sent off to [insert Wrap provider name]. We’ll keep you updated as monies are received from your existing pension fund and are invested.
We also lodged the application for your income protection cover with [insert insurance company name] and will let you know any next steps or requirements from them as soon as we hear anything.

Week 2:
Communication method:
Sender: Administrator
Just to let you know, we haven’t received anything yet from
your existing pension provider, but I spoke to them and
they confirmed receipt of our withdrawal request.
Also, [insert insurance company name] has requested a medical and blood test as we expected. I will call you this week to arrange a time and venue that is convenient for you.

Communication method: Phone
Sender: Administrator
Your administrator calls the client directly and arranges
the medical, forwarding confirmation via email or hard copy (whichever the client prefers) including venue address, directions, time, whom to ask for etc.

Week 3:
Communication method:
Sender: Administrator
Still no monies received from your existing pension, but I have been on the phone to them twice this week hustling things along.

Week 4:
Communication method: Phone
Sender: Adviser
You call the client personally and reassure them that these sorts of time frames are a
pain, but certainly not unusual. You can reiterate that your team have been engaging in
a coordinated programme of harassment directed toward the offending company.
The client mentions they have attended their medical and you tell them you would expect
to hear something from the insurer in the next week or so.

Week 5:
Communication method:
Sender: Administrator
Some good news; we have received a first payment
from your existing pension of £187,000. This was received today and will be invested today into a selection of the recommended funds discussed in your financial plan. We
are hoping to receive the outstanding balance (£359,000) by Monday, but I’ll confirm receipt and re-investment with you early next week.

Week 6:
Communication method:
Sender: Adviser
You call the client personally and tell them that all the monies have been received and invested and that written confirmation of that will arrive from [insert Wrap provider name] in the next week or two. If they have any questions about any of that you instruct them to call you directly.
You also advise that their income protection cover has been accepted and is now in force. They should receive written confirmation of that and policy documents within the next week or so as well.
Their first review date is scheduled for xx/xx/xx and one of your team will call them prior to that date to schedule the meeting. “Welcome aboard and if there is anything that comes up between now and then just call me. Or drop me an email.”

Even in a week where nothing has happened it is important to communicate with the client. Silence is always bad.

The business can use a variety of communication methods to break things
up a bit, or better still, to communicate with the client using their preferred method. For example, some people never seem to read their emails, but might be happy to receive text updates. For that type of client, when you have more detailed information to send, you might text them and say: “I’ve just sent you an email with the subject line: Important Information, which you need to read and respond to please.”

You could also Direct Message (DM) someone on Twitter or Facebook if that is one of their preferred communication options. Some people still like to receive a letter in hard copy – so be it.

The frequent communication really matters. You know the feeling yourself if you have ordered something online and it has to be delivered. Sometimes you chase this stuff up and the person on the phone explains where things are up to in their process as if they knew this all along (which they might have). The feeling is often: “Well, why didn’t you let me know then?” Don’t be that type of business and set up a process for great communication as you onboard your new clients.

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