Onboarding new clients is make or break time. According to Adviser Ratings, around 50 per cent of potential clients drop out during the onboarding process, if it’s a cold lead, and the average adviser loses 25 per cent if it’s a warm lead. Those stats might not sound too bad, but I put it to you, dear reader, that by the time someone has made the decision to get financial advice, they are committed to the process. So what is going so wrong?

Before learning the above statistics, I was interviewing consumers to learn about their onboarding experience for an inhouse research project. I spoke to consumers who had seen an adviser for the first time in the last year or two. What I found was, frankly, quite worrying.

It turns out, that even after implementing your recommendations, many people are still concerned that they haven’t made the right choice. What if your advice is wrong? What if your product selection is biased? What if it’s not going to all work out down the track?

So putting these two things together, it seems to me that there is a big opportunity to help consumers understand the financial planning process and how you make recommendations on their behalf. They need to see ‘under the hood’ so to speak.

There’s a million different ways to approach this, but here are a few:

1 – Instead of saying ‘we will have your SOA ready for you in 4 weeks’ while muttering about lag times and overly onerous compliance, you could say ‘it takes us 4 weeks to prepare your personal financial plan. The first week we look at your cash flow and goals, the second we consider which products are the right ones for you, the third we write up the documentation and the fourth week is for dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s.’ Doesn’t that sound better, and much more valuable?

2 – You need to really understand your new clients, and to help them to understand themselves. I’m sure I’m speaking to the converted, but I have to say, my research suggests that it’s still not common enough. A deep, shared, level of understanding will build trust like nothing else. And while it’s all well and good for experienced advisers to be able to do this come rain, hail or shine, if you’re newer to the planning profession, then why not look to technology to help you? There’s a number of tech solutions to help you understand a client’s financial position, so there should be tech options to help you understand a client’s mental position and family situation too, no?

3 – You need to keep in touch with clients during the onboarding process, which as we all know, can take months. Since it’s unlikely that you will be able to speed up the process particularly, I would recommend that you instead focus on delivering value and relationship building across the process. Regular communication is of course the key. Most CRMs now allow you to set up pro-forma emails that send at standard intervals or when a particular event happens, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.

So what should you do next?

Well, the first thing I would do is to look at your own onboarding statistics, and see how you are faring. How many ‘good fit’ prospects are you losing each year? For example, if that’s 5, and you charge $4k for advice, then that’s $20k revenue that you’re giving up each year. To my mind, that’s definitely worth some self-reflection and work. Then I would look at where you are losing them – which stage? – and work to improve that step in the process, acknowledging that the basis of the issue might be further upstream. Then, and only then, would I consider some of the ideas above. Ideas are good, but execution is everything.


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