FPA Annual Conference 2019 takeaways: How the human element impacts your RIA practice management and marketing

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By Ann Marie Gorden and Melanie Yuill

The future of financial advice has a human face. Financial advisers today know they are not just number crunchers, but can make a tangible difference in the overall health and well-being of the clients they serve. That was one of the big takeaways from the FPA Annual Conference 2019 this month in Minneapolis.

Discussions focused on changing family dynamics and how advisers can help people through critical life junctures. Financial planning is no longer one-size-fits-all when mapping out retirement goals and balancing a client’s risk tolerance. This year’s event offered a lot to learn both in terms of practice management and how that impacts the way advisers market their practices.

Mass adoption of fintech tools began about a decade ago and has continued to revolutionize the way planners do business. But as Facet Wealth Chief Evangelist Brent Weiss pointed out, technology developed to problem-solve 30 years down the road doesn’t help clients with the problems they are facing today.

Authentic interaction

In 2020 and beyond, the industry will need to embrace technology in a way that frees up time for more face-to-face, genuine human interaction. Tomorrow’s clients want an adviser who is with them at all stages of life and plays an integral part in their journey. Take a look at some of the enlightening stats shared at this year’s FPA conference:

  • Although the cost of college has more than doubled in recent decades, the amount of a federal student loan has remained unchanged.
  • 29% of households that include people 55 years of age and older have no retirement savings or pension.
  • The rate of “gray divorce” has doubled in the past 30 years, and those who have divorced possess 77% fewer assets than single people.

That’s all pretty scary, which is why there has been a seismic shift centered on the human element. Clients want and need help addressing issues like college funding, navigating a late-in-life divorce and longevity planning, as many people are now living 20-30 years in retirement.

Technology as we know it today lacks the element of human empathy and judgment, which is where the financial adviser of the future needs to focus. While some visualized technology replaces the financial adviser, the reality is that technology has served to make advisers more effective at addressing clients’ needs. What does this reality of practice management mean for how practices are marketed?

Advisers of the future will build a human-first foundation through the way they deliver online content and advice. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but below we offer a few simple takeaways from the FPA Annual Conference that you can implement today to position your firm for the future.

Humanize web content and marketing collateral: Consider the perception of your message. Is the content that your firm distributes to clients and prospects full of buzzwords like cash flow, fee-only, assets under management (AUM), commissions and so on? Think about revamping the language to be less transactional and more real, relatable and relational. When you send someone a message, make sure it isn’t a sales pitch but rather an authentic expression of who you are.

A strong, clear value proposition converts more prospects into clients. A great way to nail this message is by conveying how you solve problems or improve situations for your clients, not by promoting your products or services. Instead of pitching what you do, address how your services meet your clients where they are in their financial lives. Advisers need to reframe their marketing to illustrate how they help clients navigate the intersections of life and money. If you have a particular strength in preparing clients for a life event like college planning or gray divorce, emphasize that and let people know what specific benefits they can expect from you.

Focus on the human elements of advice: One presentation brought to light the value advisers can add by developing interpersonal relationships with each client. Truly getting to know who your clients are, as well as understanding their financial goals, will create a deeper level of trust. This provides clients with the peace of mind to stick with their financial plan, as well as the confidence that their adviser will be there for every step of the journey. Additionally, another presentation at the FPA conference by Asset-Map highlighted that advisers should be empowered to use A.I. — “adviser intelligence,” which is human knowledge that can be applied to find better solutions for clients.

Mentor the next generation of financial planners: It seems like every day, there’s another headline reminding the industry that one-third of financial advisers plan to retire within the next five years. So how can you recruit the next generation into this profession? Again, by being a real, relatable human. Many young Americans want a career that they feel has a purpose. Financial planning can provide this by helping people through life’s unexpected — and expected — transitions. Consider these stats shared at the conference: 70% of Americans say the number-one cause of stress in their lives is finances, and financial worries may raise the risk of a heart attack 13-fold

Financial advisers are in the best position to ease this stress, and not only improve a person’s financial health but also their physical health. Advisers have the ability to empower someone to be their best human self. Just remember to act like a human, yourself, to break through the noise and bring the client — or talent — on board for the ride.