Mastering Client Review Meetings: Focusing on 'The Why, The What, The How and the Most Important – Where?

Mastering Client Review Meetings: Focusing on ‘The Why, The What, The How and the Most Important – Where?

Sitting in my position as an almost 40-year veteran in the Financial Services industry, a trailing edge boomer, and someone who has hired a professional advisor to do investment and financial planning for my family and me, I certainly have my perspective on many things as it relates to the Client/Advisor relationship.  We spend a great deal of time at Diversified discussing better ways to serve and engage our clients.  But to me, the ongoing service, specifically the client review meeting, is key in building a stronger relationship by understanding what the client wants to hear instead of what you want to say.

Why, What, How and Where?

If you have a review template that you use or a system that works leading to high client engagement, increased trust, and multiple referrals, by all means, keep moving forward with what you have.  But in my experience, the review meeting is typically one of the last things in which advisors create workflows or build the necessary steps for success. 

As a client, the review process comes down to four basic things that I (and my spouse) want to know. The Why, The What, and the How and most planners stop there but the Where is just important.  Below is a suggested process and a sample flow – feel free to copy or expand

Reinforcing “The Why”

The first step in any client review should be to revisit “The Why.”  It is easy to jump into numbers, balance sheets, or charts but there is no context when you start with the numbers.  Step one begins with reminding the clients why they hired you in the first place.  Whether it is to secure a comfortable retirement, save for the kid’s education, or manage investments (inducing a retirement income plan), reinforcing the goals helps clients feel validated and reassured.  It also allows you to frame the discussion with the context of the client’s broader life goals as well as discover new information

Key points to Cover:

  • Review of initial goals: discuss the client’s original objectives and priorities.
  • Life changes: inquire about any significant changes in their lives that may affect these goals
  • Reaffirmation: Reaffirm your commitment to helping the clients achieve these goals

Clarifying “The What”

With the context firmly in place, it is essential to delve into the what – the specific strategies and tools being used to achieve the goals.  Clients need to understand what measures are in place and how they contribute to financial success.  Focus on explaining the planning tactics and investment strategies in a clear, jargon-free manner.

Key points to cover:

  • Current strategies: outline the current financial plan, including investment, savings, and risk management tactics
  • Performance Review: Provide an update on the performance of the strategies.
  • Adjustments: Discuss any necessary adjustments including rebalancing to align with markets or life changes

Evaluating “The How”

Finally, evaluating “the how” involves assessing the progress made so far and ensuring the plan remains on track.  This is critical as too often; I feel that advisors show performance (the what) and leave off how it fits into the overall plan.  This part of the review is data-driven, providing clients with evidence of their progress while also setting the stage for any potential future planning.

Key points to cover:

  • Progress tracking: Use performance metrics and benchmarks to show how the plan is progressing relative to goals
  • Success probabilities:  Discuss the likelihood of achieving the goals based on the strategies and markets – “Progress to goals” is a key outcome of the review
  • Next Steps: Outline the steps to be completed before the next review.  Engage the client with notes, and follow-up notes as the steps are completed.

But you do that (so far) – Adding “The Where”

The “Where” in the client review process addresses the dynamic nature of a client’s life and the evolving landscape of their goals and circumstances. It’s not just about reinforcing past decisions or validating current strategies, but also about charting the future course in response to life’s changes.

This is a fun discussion, and this aspect of the review is crucial as it grounds the conversation in the client’s present reality and future aspirations. By focusing on “where,” you ensure that your planning is not static but evolves with the client’s life journey and challenges or creates new goals. It involves a deep dive exploring any new priorities and recalibrating the plan to reflect these shifts. This helps ensure that the client’s financial plan is always aligned with their life’s trajectory, making the review process not just a formality, but a meaningful and forward-looking engagement. Key points to cover include:

  • Current Position: Are they confident so far in their relationship with you and your firm?
  • New Priorities: Discuss any new or shifted priorities and goals. Think about adding open-ended questions challenging the status quo.  What if’s and “if you could… are a great way to start.  Ask about tradeoffs between “I want to”
     and I have to.
  • Future Path: Outline the revised direction and steps needed to align with the client’s evolving life journey.

By integrating “where” into the review process, we transform routine check-ups into proactive strategy sessions that continuously align with the client’s life changes, ensuring their financial journey is as dynamic and resilient as their life and that you have the tools and capabilities to

By focusing on “The Why,” “The What,” “The How”, and the broader discussion “The Where” advisors can ensure their client reviews are thorough, client-centered, and effective.  The approach not only helps in achieving financial goals but also strengthens the advisor-client relationships, fostering long-term success and satisfaction. 

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