I keep up as best I can with the news, trends, and inside workings of the Financial Planning industry. I consider it part of my duties as a professional financial planner. I read a lot. Over time I have found some authors with whom I typically agree, and, of course, authors with whom I typically disagree. Bob Veres is a fellow with whom I find a lot of common ground. I particularly like one of his most recent articles that appeared in Financial Planning Magazine entitled The Winds of Change. (The online version is called Advisers Ignore These Trends at Their Peril.)
In this article Bob Veres highlights the trends in the financial advising industry that are forcing professionals to adapt and evolve. Those who cannot adapt and evolve will likely see their practices wither and decline. I sum up the trends he notes as follows:
The Rise of The Fiduciary Standard. Through a variety of means, the public is becoming educated on what a fiduciary standard of care means - and they want it. People want financial advice from someone who is putting the interests of the client ahead of their own personal interests.
Rational Fees for Service. Technology has made portfolio management highly affordable. This makes paying commissions on sales objectionable. Paying advisers a percentage for managing assets no longer makes much sense either. Hourly billing or a flat retainer fee for continuing service are much more reasonable fee structures in today's world.
Service to the Middle Market. When an adviser's compensation was directly tied to commissions and percentages they naturally pursued high net worth clients. The evolution of fees to retainers and hourly charges makes a client's net worth less important. Service can now be provided to people with incomes, not just people with assets to invest.
Growing Desire for a Collaborative Experience. Millennials grew up with the internet. They are accustomed to having instant access to near-limitless information and they don't mind doing some of their own research. Mom and Pop might have been OK with an adviser handing them their financial plan after a single meeting, but this generation is not. They want a knowledgeable guide, but they also want to participate in the preparation of their own plan.
Specialization. Stealing straight from Bob Veres - how happy would you be talking to heart specialist about your skin rash? Would you be happy to know he was willing to take you as a patient just because he knew you could pay, even though it meant he would be spending a lot of time on Google looking up your condition? People want a specialist. They want someone who has detailed knowledge coinciding with their personal financial situation.
I think many financial firms and professionals will have trouble evolving to these changing trends in client expectations. They have a business model that has worked for decades and they will find it hard to embrace a new model. Recent reporting indicates some advisers are getting out of the business for those very reasons.
Fortunately, I don't find myself in that position. I designed my business to be the financial planning firm I wanted to find 20+ years ago - and it incorporates all of those elements. I strongly embrace the fiduciary standard of care. I charge on a fee-only basis through retainer or hourly fees, and I keep those fees at a level that is affordable to the middle market. I put the word "Partners" in the name of the firm to highlight the collaborative nature of the financial planning process I employ.
And I specialize. My target clientele are military families/federal employees, with an additional niche carved out for people with special needs. I have many years of direct experience with these segments of society and I believe I have the most to offer people in similar situations as my own. While I can (and do) provide service to anyone whose trust I have been privileged to earn through my tax practice, most of my new financial planning clients will come from those communities. We speak the same language.
My children would be shocked to discover I was on the cutting edge of anything, but as a financial planner I think I qualify. If you'd like to have a new experience with a financial planner, give me a call.