Many financial advisors have tried a client advisory board, and different advisors have realized different levels of success.
In my observation one primary factor in the success of a client advisory board, and the degree of impact it has on the advisors practice, is whether the financial advisor utilizes the board strategically.
There are many issues and questions you can ask an advisory board to discuss. On one level there is getting feedback. How do you like our new reports? Is there the right level of detail in our financial plans? Do our portfolio reviews cover issues in enough depth? Do we respond to calls and questions quickly enough? This kind of information is useful, and can help you make some adjustments to improve your practice.
On another level, you can engage a client advisory board in determining how to address an issue that you believe clients may be concerned about. Specifically, they can be critical in designing a communication strategy for a major event like the retirement of a partner, a proposed merger, or changing broker-dealers. Getting guidance from some of your best clients on how to address these kinds of issues can mean the difference between success and failure of the transition.
The most valuable kind of engagement with your client advisory board is in determining the strategic direction of your practice. What kind of client should we serve? Are we providing the right mix of services, or should we add or discontinue some? What should we do with clients who no longer fit our target market? Questions like these can alter the fundamentals of your business plan. That is why they hold the potential to be the most valuable kinds of discussions you can be having with your best clients.
They are also some of the scariest questions an advisor can put before an advisory board. What if the clients want the practice to go in a different direction than I wanted to go? What if the clients recommend that we discontinue one of the services I consider to be most important or most valuable? What if the board urges me to pursue a strategy I don’t believe will work? What makes those issues so scary is what makes them so valuable. Is it more important to you to implement what you think is best, or to run your business according to what your best clients want most? If clients believe you are willing to tailor your business to their wants and needs, and you communicate the changes you make through a newsletter, your website, or correspondence with clients, their loyalty and level of engagement can increase dramatically.
And engaged clients who are convinced you will do anything within your power to satisfy their needs the way they want them served will reward you with more business and more referrals.