Shop for groceries? OK. Throw a party? Sure. Drive a client to Mexico? No problem

How far would you go to make a client for life and get talked about in their exclusive circles?

Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:14 am

By Liz Skinner

Would you spend five days helping a client drive to Mexico? How about completing hours of passport paperwork for clients headed to Italy, or shredding a car-full of old documents?

Advisers have done all these and more to “wow” their top clients.

Successful advisers pull out all the stops when it comes to pleasing clients, and consultants say that kind of personal touch — for no extra fee — is needed if advisers want to create clients for life who refer lots of friends and relatives.

While many wealth management firms offer “concierge” services such as evaluating an assisted living facility and even negotiating the sale and purchase of a new home, some clients put no limits on making a client happy.

“Nothing is off the table with us,” said Steve Hutchinson, founder of Hutchinson Private Wealth and Hutchinson Family Office. “If a client is truly a good client and we enjoy working with them, I can't recall us ever saying no.”

When a top client asked him to ride along from Dallas to the client's vacation home in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico — a 1,600-mile international journey in a Ford Explorer — Mr. Hutchinson said he didn't think twice about accepting.

“That's a long time to spend in a car with a client,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “You are either both going to fire each other by the end, or you'll enjoy a long-term relationship.”

Some of the other things Mr. Hutchinson has done for clients aren't as radical, but do show efforts above and beyond handling investments, such as providing a car and driver for a widow during the three or four days after her husband's death.

“We instill in our team the importance of thinking of ways to throw out a random act of kindness every day or even once a week,” he said.

Mr. Hutchinson's staff has ordered clients a subscription to the magazines they enjoyed in the office and grocery shopped for older clients during inclement weather.

Every year after tax season, financial adviser Todd VanDenburg of VanDenburg Capital Management hires a paper-shredding truck to come to the office parking lot so clients and other professionals he works with can safely destroy old documents.

He recalls one year helping a client who brought an entire car full of old documents from a family-run medical practice that needed to be shredded.

Mr. VanDenburg said he doesn't discriminate by providing individualized service only to his wealthiest client.

“I want to give equally great service to all our clients,” he said.

Advisers today are pretty much expected to provide clients — especially the wealthiest ones — with personal touches like cards for birthdays, anniversaries and a grandkid's arrival.

But throw the happy couple a surprise anniversary party and that's an experience they're likely to brag about to friends, said Robert Sofia, co-founder of Platinum Advisor Strategies.

“You have to be a little over the top to make an impression so people will talk about you,” Mr. Sofia said.

He works with advisers to help them make their clients feel special, from having parking spaces available just for clients, to having the receptionist know clients by name and remember precisely what their drink preferences were at their last meeting, he said.

Todd McDonald of Broadstone Advisors said his staff completed all the passport paperwork for clients planning a trip to Italy just to “make their life a little easier.” A package arrived at the couple's doorstep two days after he had spoken to them about the trip. It contained all the paperwork ready for their signatures and instructions on where to go for passport photos.

The gesture drew raves.

“You don't know how much your stock rose in my wife's eyes when we received that package,” the husband told Mr. McDonald.

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