One of the key steps in the financial planning process is presenting the plan to the client, which has traditionally been done as part of a single ‘plan presentation’ meeting that takes place once the advisor has gathered and analyzed all of the client’s data. While this approach may have made sense in a time when the ‘plan’ itself was mostly limited to investment recommendations (which the advisor would be able to go on and implement themselves since they were managing the client’s assets), financial planning has come to cover more and more areas of clients’ lives, with a widening breadth of financial planning recommendations in kind – to the extent that trying to cover the entire plan in 1 session can result in an exhausting and overwhelming ordeal for both the client and the advisor.
In this article, Kitces Senior Research Nerd Meghaan Lurtz writes about what the most recent Kitces Research study on Advisor Productivity reveals about how advisors deal with the challenge of delivering more and more information to clients, and how it’s possible to keep clients engaged in the process of presenting financial plans… without resorting to longer planning meetings.
As the latest Kitces Research reveals, advisors are increasingly turning to collaborative financial planning software, which – at least in theory – can help to keep clients engaged by turning the planning meeting into a back-and-forth discussion versus a 1-sided lecture. However, the danger of relying on software to facilitate collaborative financial planning is that if either the advisor or the client isn’t familiar enough with the software to leverage its features, the software can instead be a blocking point for the advisor in delivering the information (making it less likely for the client to implement the advice, since they may not fully understand it in the first place) while eating up valuable meeting time focused on the technology… and not the client or their plan.
One approach that can help create a more engaging and productive plan presentation is to ‘flip’ the meeting so that some (or most) of the information is presented in advance rather than during the meeting itself. By sending meeting materials (including recommendations) in advance up front, clients can absorb and reflect on the information on their own time, freeing up meeting time to focus on questions the client has (which will presumably be more thoughtful and relevant after spending some time to think about them, versus ‘on-the-spot’ questions that arise immediately after the advisor presents the information). Not only can sending user-friendly materials (such as short video clips recorded in apps such as Loom) help clients better engage with the financial planning recommendations, but they can also help clients establish a baseline knowledge of the technology required for key analyses (e.g., Monte Carlo analysis) that might otherwise be difficult to understand when first encountered in a plan presentation meeting. This allows the advisor to focus on the client’s plan and recommendations instead of on how the tech is used.
Ultimately, sending planning and educational materials to clients in advance helps advisors transform the plan ‘presentation’ meeting into a plan ‘engagement’ meeting. And because materials sent in advance only need to cover the basics, they don’t necessarily need to be personalized – meaning that the advisor can create a handful of broadly applicable videos to use over and over again to educate clients before diving into the details in the meeting itself. The net outcome, then, can be not only to reduce the amount of time needed for meetings themselves, but also to make the time spent in the meeting more engaging and valuable for the client!