One of the best opportunities to deliver value to clients – the client review – should not be squandered.

Arch Capital director Nigel Baker tells Professional Planner client reviews are important lens into the world of finance for many.

“You may only have a few hours with clients each year, yet they see the media and hear about finance from so many other sources,” Baker says.

“The review is your opportunity to show you understand them better than anyone else and that you are their key contact for all matters around their wealth management.”

For his part, Baker advises sending an agenda before the meeting and asking clients if there is anything in particular they wish to achieve from the meeting.

“Be super prepared and ensure the basics are done exceptionally well,” Baker says.

“This includes how they are welcomed. Ensure your staff say hello. Remember their coffee order and have a room organised. These little things matter.”

Baker believes in starting the meeting with personal questions. “Show that you care and have read the file notes from the last call or meeting.”

Focus on the client

Woodward Nhill Financial Planning financial planner Paul Bilson says advisers often try to project themselves into the conversation instead of listening or they focus on investment issues.

But he says clients want to know that you’re interested in them as people. “The focus has to be first and foremost on them and then on products,” Bilson says.

“You can cut it down to just the important parts they need to know about or be available for questions, but really, the review is about how clients are going with their journey, how they are going to get to where they want to be and what’s changed since your last conversation.”

LBW Business + Wealth Advisors senior financial adviser Aaron Hitch says it’s crucial to avoid dominating the meeting and setting your own agenda.

“When a client speaks for most of the meeting, they will feel heard by their adviser,” Hitch says.

Saikal-Skea Independent Financial Advice founder Andrew Saikal-Skea agrees. “An agenda full of ‘adviser topics’ leaves little room to alleviate the concerns of clients and help them through challenges,” he says.

“Naturally, we cover everything we need to as comprehensive advisers. However, tailoring discussions to focus more or less time on certain topics leads to a better client experience.”

Visis Private Wealth founding partner Chris Smith warns against getting too technical.

“That can result in too much focus on the details of underlying investments and not on what’s interesting or meaningful,” he says.

“Information needs to be simplified and distilled. Every jargon statement, financial term or opinion given should be followed by a ‘so what this means is…’.”

Smith recommends finding an easy-to-understand way of showing clients they are winning. “It’s the emotional response to success they will remember, not the internal rate of return on the portfolio.”

Like others, he endorses being transparent and honest. “If you underperform, explain clearly why,” Smith says.

Saikal-Skea cautions against long meetings and trying to cover too much during the meeting.

“Clients have a limit to what they can digest and a long agenda affects their understanding,” he says.

“It can also feel like a checkbox exercise to clients which isn’t a great outcome.”

Use the right tools

Baker believes in using interactive projection tools and visuals. “Clients love visuals and pictures especially those that can provide comfort on how long their money will last,” he says.

Saikal-Skea isn’t a fan of using a computer in client reviews as it breaks the human connection but has recently introduced e-ink paper tablets that look and feel like writing on paper.

“Our meeting notes are immediately uploaded, and clients can sign pre-loaded PDFs on the spot,” he says.

“This means we are delivering a more frictionless experience and cutting down our use of paper.”

Tying loose ends

Saikal-Skea advises taking good notes after meetings to avoid accidentally asking the same questions in the next review.

He also believes in asking clients how they feel at the end of reviews. “In my experience, this is a powerful question that leads to deeper understanding and the ability to create a stronger connection and trust,” he adds.

Likewise, Smith supports asking clients for honest feedback. “Also, share the glory with staff,” he says. “They want to feel like they contribute to the client’s success. Let them take some of the praise.”

Meanwhile, Hitch notes that something often overlooked is asking clients for a referral at the end of a review. It might make you feel uncomfortable, but this is the ideal time to do this, he says.