Our upcoming 2014 Client Meeting will mark the kick-off to Truepoint’s 25th anniversary. As one of the early fee-only advisory firms, the evolution of Truepoint has revolved around one thing: always striving to serve the client better. And our dedication to continually improving the client experience is as fervent today as ever.
As initially outlined in the January Viewpoint, our most recent major initiative is the development and growth of our dedicated specialist teams in each of the major disciplines of personal finance: investment management, financial planning, tax management and estate planning. These specialists are solely focused on their particular area of expertise, ensuring the delivery of industry-leading expertise for all Truepoint clients. Just as importantly, however, the specialist teams allow each client’s wealth advisor to step back from the technical work and focus on the leadership work.
Yes, it’s true that there are many complex and technical aspects to managing wealth. And, yes, there are numbers to crunch and details to be painstakingly pored over. Assets must be managed, projections must be developed and results constantly monitored. And make no mistake, all of this work must be done to impeccably high standards.
But being an expert at these tasks is not what it takes to be an outstanding wealth advisor. First and foremost, an exceptional wealth advisor must be an exceptional leader. A recent column by Bill Bachrach in Financial Advisor (“The Leadership Vacuum,” April 2014) underscored the importance of cultivating and valuing leadership in financial advisors. “When dealing with financially successful people, you can’t afford to make the mistake of following when they need to be led.” A client’s life – financially and otherwise – is undoubtedly better when there is “one trained professional as the leader of [the] team, coordinating the comprehensive and consolidated organization of [one’s] financial affairs.”
Leaders see the big picture and understand how the pieces and processes have to come together to reach the objective. Our wealth advisors lead clients through the sometimes difficult work of developing clear goals and understanding the discipline involved in reaching them. Of course this is not achieved by being bossy or pushy, but rather with empathy, patience, persistence and persuasiveness – all qualities of an effective leader.
Then, at Truepoint, our wealth advisors lead the process of developing a comprehensive plan based on clients’ own unique circumstances and customized to meet the goals they have developed. Often, this involves assembling a team of in-house specialists with the right mix of expertise in technical areas such as financial projections, investment selection, tax management, estate planning, risk management, etc. – all based on the clients’ specific needs. The wealth advisors take the lead to ensure a coordinated effort in formulating and executing a plan that will systematically move clients from their current realities into the futures they have imagined for themselves. Of course none of this happens through magic, but rather with discipline, determination, accountability and respect – again, all essential leadership characteristics.
Perhaps most importantly, our wealth advisors are thought leaders and a steadying force in times of doubt or turmoil. Clients don’t need advisors who are followers or “yes men.” They expect an advisor to lead the way – especially through hard discussions about things like trade-offs and sacrifices or mortality and end-of-life decisions. As Bachrach observes, “They are especially effective at leading their clients to make smart choices about their money during those times when emotions run high and when making the best financial decisions is counterintuitive.”
The benefits of having a wealth advisor who is a strong leader, rather than just a superb technician, are many:
- A leader will simplify and consolidate, ensuring proper diversification but with fewer accounts and institutions to monitor and manage. This makes it easier for clients and their families to understand and track their financial status.
- A leader will ensure that clients’ plans are comprehensive, rather than a possibly incomplete patchwork of investments and services which may leave them vulnerable to certain risks or scenarios. This provides clients with peace-of-mind and confidence.
- A leader will coordinate the efforts of the various technical experts involved in a client’s financial matters, keeping them informed, creating synergies, and ensuring a collaborative process that yields better advice.
- A leader will also hold clients accountable to implement the plans they have agreed to and to follow the advice they are given. This may be the most valuable aspect of working with a trusted leader who truly cares about his or her clients. Knowing someone is watching and is ready with a gentle reminder is just the extra nudge some clients need to stay the course, maintain their savings schedule, or rein in spending.
It is gratifying to see respected industry leaders like Bill Bachrach call attention to the need for leadership in the financial advisory field. It has long been one of our core principles at Truepoint and at the heart of the integrated, holistic wealth management model we have developed. And we are very proud to have a team of strong leaders in wealth advisor roles at Truepoint who are each committed to the highest fiduciary standards and delivering unbiased, proactive advice and customized service that leads to superior long-term results.