Let clients take the wheel

Through collaborative planning, advisers discover benefits of developing plans with clients instead of for them

May 21, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

By Liz Skinner

Advisers using collaborative planning techniques are finding that their clients are more engaged in the process and are more committed to the decisions they make in pursuit of their goals. The practice even has led some clients to discuss certain assets they've previously kept hidden from the adviser.

Software programs such as MoneyGuidePro and Instream Solutions allow advisers to sit down with a couple and create a financial plan that projects how well they will be able to meet goals and live during retirement based on income, spending and risk-tolerance factors. The systems account for needs and allow clients to choose "wants" and "wishes," such as an annual visit to relatives in Greece.

Many advisers find the software most effective when used with a large screen in their offices.

"When clients see their life playing out across the big screen, and see how they are moving toward meeting their goals, they become much more involved in the plan," Dave Patchen, Raymond James' director of private client group education and practice management, said in an interview at the Raymond James Financial Services national conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Raymond James makes a tweaked version of PIEtech Inc.'s MoneyGuidePro available to its 3,288 advisers. Their advisers used this collaborative approach to create about 50,000 plans last year. About 70% of the firm's advisers have created at least one plan using the system, and 42% are active users, Mr. Patchen said.

Van Pearcy, a Raymond James adviser in Midland, Texas, said clients react to the visual nature of the collaborative planning process and "are taking action quicker," in terms of making spending and other decisions that will set themselves up for success.

"It's been the most amazing thing for me," Mr. Pearcy said at the conference Tuesday. "People seem to act almost immediately and are ready to do something right then and there."

The software creates graphics that show whether the clients are on track for financial success. Many disclose that they have assets held away from the adviser because they want to their plan outcome fall into the green zone on the chart, which signifies success, he said.

Advisers can allow clients to make changes for themselves. After they leave the office, clients can immediately see the impact of moving their retirement date up or down, increasing or decreasing monthly spending, and other shifts.

The advisers who have chosen to allow clients this access "are really liking that," John Catalano, director of advisory process and planning software for Raymond James, said at the conference Wednesday. Advisers find clients become even more engaged in the process when they can test out all different scenarios themselves, he said.

Advisers with clients who own businesses said showing those clients the impact that the sale of that business will have on the success of their own retirement really deepens their relationship and gives the adviser a way to suggest some business development planning, Mr. Catalano said.

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