Financial advisers looking for new ways to find clients should consider whether the “look right under your nose” approach that's worked for a couple successful advisers would work for them, too.
David Edwards, president of New York-based Heron Financial Group/Wealth Advisors, has turned his love of sailboat racing into a business development tool that's helped the firm build assets under management by 69% in 2013, to $122 million. Heron Financial sponsors sailing races and at those events Mr. Edwards meets many prospects. The firm raffles off a case of rum and a case of champagne, a process that collects names and contact information.
Typically the firm will capture about 400 to 600 contacts during an event, Mr. Edwards said. Even though a third of those contacts immediately unsubscribe from their distribution list for market commentary and notes about future events, the rest are potential prospects. For every 100 contacts the firm's four professionals pull in, about 10 become prospects and about three go on to become clients, he estimated.
“To distinguish oneself from others, you have to give them a reason to like you more than somebody else,” Mr. Edwards said.
Recognizing that no one does business these days with someone they haven't examined first online, he makes his sailboat passions and other hobbies clear on his public profiles.
“I want them to think I'm someone they'd like to get to know, I want them to see me doing good and interesting things,” he said.
Mr. Edwards also uses sailing analogies to explain complex financial topics, such as comparing an overly aggressive portfolio with a high-performing sailboat “that would shatter into pieces” if it hit a storm. Heron, which has a $1 million minimum, helps create “all-weather portfolios,” he explains to clients.
Libby Dubick, president of adviser consulting and marketing firm Dubick & Associates, said she always encourages advisers to focus on serving a particular type of client or niche, and areas they are interested in or know well are a great place to start. She described a jazz musician who became a financial adviser and specializes in planning for musicians.
“It makes a lot of sense for advisers to look at their own interests, clubs they may belong to, charities they are part of, anywhere that they have an affiliation,” she said. “These are areas they'll have expertise that they can bring to bear and they become the adviser of choice within that group.”
Another adviser, Abraham Ringer of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Boston, has built a niche business serving accounting professionals, a group advisers more commonly consider part of their own centers of influence and use for referrals, as opposed to prospects. He offers them comprehensive financial plans, as well as help setting up retirement plans for their practices.
Mr. Ringer, a former accountant himself, said his experience offers him a window into the long hours and other “struggles and frustrations” a certified public accountant goes through in business. He recognizes accountants are used to paying attention to details, and Mr. Ringer goes into all his meetings with accountants prepared to discuss even the smallest intricacies of their financial plans.
Working as an adviser to accountants also has helped him garner more referrals from CPAs.
“If the CPA is your client and you've done well for them by demonstrating and providing value at each interaction,” then that accountant has more confidence recommending the adviser to their clients, Mr. Ringer said in an e-mail.
“They know what to expect from you because they have experienced it themselves,” he said.