As a coaching company that serves successful financial advisors, one of our observations is that client onboarding is critical for successful financial advisors and teams. Indeed, client onboarding is emerging as a major focal point for financial advisors who want to establish themselves as “best-in-class.”
To this end, we offer 11 key principles that underpin an exceptional client onboarding approach:
- Developing trust is a core principle that underlies an effective onboarding approach. Moreover, client onboarding is the leading indicator that foretells the quality of client service that is yet to come.
- Stand out from the crowd. The reality is that financial advisors match each other closely in terms of financial service offerings and product innovation. Client onboarding therefore presents a real opportunity to distinguish a financial advisory team by creating a high-quality first impression.
- Competitive differentiator. Client onboarding is a competitive differentiator, not just a routine “back-office” function. Client onboarding presents an enormous opportunity to build relationships.
- The client lifecycle. The client lifecycle can be viewed as having three functional areas, which often meld into each other. They are: client acquisition, onboarding optimization, and client retention. Client onboarding can be seen as a natural continuation of the client acquisition process.
- Client onboarding team. A fragmented onboarding process is the enemy of a seamless onboarding function. To counteract this fragmentation, some successful financial advisory practices establish “client onboarding teams” who are granted complete ownership of the entire onboarding process.
- Consistency. A consistent client experience should be achieved throughout the onboarding process, i.e. every client touch point should be infused with a “client-centric” focus.
- Dashboard or Checklist. The key to ongoing success for a client onboarding strategy is the ability to present information to key stakeholders that offer real-time views of the status of onboarding integration. Build a dashboard or checklist that provides an accurate snapshot of what's been completed, and is yet to complete.
- The First 90-Days. Research has shown that the first 90-days are paramount to the success and duration of the client relationship. For example, one study has shown that 75% of all cross-selling opportunities will occur within the first 90-days.
- Client feedback. A critical piece of the onboarding process is actively soliciting feedback from the client(s). This can be done in a survey process, or through direct conversations. Importantly, clients should be given the opportunity to freely articulate any concerns or frustrations, before the issues become more serious sources of friction.
- Gather the data. The onboarding process offers the best opportunity to get a full view of the clients’ financial picture. Financial advisors who ask for the full view at the outset of the relationship, portray themselves as interested in the client from a larger, comprehensive, universal-planning perspective…as opposed to the more piecemeal approach. (Many affluent clients work with multiple advisors and/or have assets elsewhere. Client onboarding is THE time to learn about these relationships, regardless of whether or not these accounts are “in-play.”)
- Introductions and referrals. We observe that the first 90-days are also a prime opportunity to identify clients who enthusiastically provide referrals. One of the key determinants of clients who refer is that they value and appreciate what you do. To this extent, the onboarding process uncovers those clients who love what you do, and are willing to share this approval and pleasure with others.