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In Turbulent Times, Focus on the Fundamentals
By Collin Cohen, President, NorthStar
October 28, 2008

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This Too Will Pass

Leaving advisors to struggle with client stress and uncertainty on their own is not a winning strategy for wealth management firms. Firms need to support their advisors, providing the training and resources they need to serve clients in this difficult marketplace.

Empowering advisors with tools to improve communication, client service and efficiency will go a long way toward client retention and the acquisition of new business. Another way to support advisors and improve client trust is to strengthen the firm’s brand, promoting an emphasis on values advisors now seek: independence and a nimble business model.

Campbell’s observation summed up the sentiments of the roundtable best: “No matter how tough the times, there are winners.  Now is the time to hit the refresh button. Listen to and inspire your advisors and get customers back on board.”

Summary of Winning Strategies


Key Executive Insights & Recommendations

Improve Client Communications & Service

Clients don’t leave because of poor performance, they leave because of poor service.

Recommendations: Focus on client service, communicate more proactively, relate to client goals, spend more time on client profiling and segmentation, and ensure there is no risk to clients’ must-haves.

Support Advisors & Wealth Managers

The average advisor is 50 years old, and he/she wants money for their retirement — sign-on bonuses, ownership, etc.  At the same time, firms want to steal advisors.  So, this is creating a huge bidding war to retain managers and many are shifting from large to small shops to get their golden parachutes.

Recommendations: To retain advisors given the war for talent requires that wealth management executives do everything possible to increase advisor loyalty and help them retain their client base during this difficult time including arming advisors with a story, listening to advisors’ concerns and helping build up their confidence, and helping advisors provide independent advice versus pushing products.

Improving Competitive Differentiation

Due to increased competition, it is critical to differentiate your firm and your services to both clients and advisors. 

Recommendations: Promote independent advice and what you are good at to clients. 

Use Technology to Increase Efficiency

Technology is the only way to increase efficiency and give advisors more time with clients.

Recommendations: Invest in a single, integrated front-office advisor system, provide 360-degree client views, and the ability to run reports of all client activities to help justify fees.



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