5 Ways FAs Leave Money on the Table, Under-Serve Their Clients, and What To Do About It

By Bill Bachrach

The experts on achieving goals say the first, and a very important step, to achieve a goal is deciding to. My hope is that this article points out some opportunities for you to make more money and serve your clients at a higher level and that you decide to do something about it.

The 5 ways FAs leave money on the table are:
1. Not charging a fee, or charging too small of a fee, for up-front planning and advice work.
2. Not consolidating your client’s assets.
3. Unimplemented advice.
4. Referrals.
5. Wasting time.

1. Not charging a fee, or charging too small of a fee, for up-front planning and advice work.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard an FA say, “I do the planning for free in the hopes of getting some of their assets” I’d have a lot of nickels. This is an amateurish approach. Instead, charge a fee for quality planning work that stands on its own merits, whether the client implements with you or not. And if they do choose to act on your advice with you then you deserve to be paid for that as well. How is this better for the client? Because when a person pays for advice they tend to be more inclined to act on it. And it’s acting on advice that produces results. No action. No results.

How much should you charge? A good starting place is $5,000 - $10,000. If your spine is still under construction or the idea of charging an up-front fee for planning and developing your advice freaks you out then at least start with $2,000. Just make sure that your fee doesn’t make you look like a weenie. Eg: quoting a $2,000 fee to someone who has over $1,000,000 will make you look like a weenie. And don’t charge by the hour either. Charge for the value of your advice, not the hours it takes to create it.

The bottom line is that you must have confidence that the work you do is valuable in order to expect other people to value you and your work. It’s business. Value is measured by money. Stop leaving this money on the table and under-serving your clients. Charge a fee for up-front planning and developing advice.

2. Not consolidating all of your client’s assets in as few accounts with as few institutions as possible. It’s common knowledge that most people, especially financially successful people, have their finances and investments spread among several advisors and institutions. Multiple advisors are not diversification. There is no actual benefit to a client to have their money with multiple advisors and more institutions than necessary. In fact, the opposite is true. Multiple advisors and institutions can create the illusion of diversification and security, creates more complexity in their life, and could be a real nightmare for their heirs when they die.

When you advise your clients to consolidate their finances into as few accounts as possible you make more money, their life is simpler, and it’s very likely that there is now less risk to their plan and a greater probability they are on a track to achieve their goals.

Stop leaving money on the table and under-serving your clients. Consolidate.

3. Unimplemented advice. How many clients do you have who have only partially implemented the plan you created for them or advice you have given them? How much did you get paid for that? Probably nothing. How much value do they get from your unimplemented advice? Definitely none.

I wrote Values-Based Financial Planning so people would learn how to tap into their inner, personal motivations to be inspired to act on all the necessary financial action items to achieve their goals. You may find this book helpful in motivating your clients to act on all of your advice. (

Give your advice with more conviction so your clients implement and stop leaving that money on the table and under-serving your clients.

4. Referrals. The research on this subject is consistent over my almost 30 years in this business: most clients are willing to refer and most advisors don’t ask.

My informal research indicates that most people have between 200 and 500 contacts programmed into their mobile phones. (The smallest number I’ve heard is 67 and the largest is 2,500.) When your clients come to your office they each bring their mobile phone. Subtract the overlapping contacts in each of their phones, the automobile club, and their favorite Chinese takeout and you have two people sitting in your office at every client meeting with dozens, maybe hundreds, of names with contact information of people you could be profitably helping.

You owe it to yourself to ask for referrals, get warm introductions, and become effective at converting referrals into appointments. We don’t have space in this article for a workshop on building your business by referral.

How is it good for your clients for you to build your business by referral? Because all other forms of client acquisition are more expensive and time-consuming. Expenses that you have to pass on to your clients or time that’s taken way from serving your clients due to excessive time spent prospecting and marketing or the time you spend with the extra clients you have to take on to pay for your expensive prospecting and marketing methods. (eg: advertising, direct mail, seminars, dinner meetings, etc.)

By not developing a way to ask for referrals and orchestrating a warm introduction you are leaving money on the table and under-serving your clients. Stop it!

5. Wasting time. Yes, time is money. Work time that is. And wasted work time is wasted money. There’s a big difference between being in the office and working. Working is being productive. There are the obvious time-wasters like doing $15 / hour admin work and watching too much finance TV. There are also many less obvious time-wasters like failing to outsource the writing of the plan or more effective use of turn-key asset management programs rather than personally designing asset allocation strategies, selecting investments, and dropping tickets. Do even a small amount of soul-searching as to where you spend your time and you will come up with many personal examples of how your time can be more productive.

Two very powerful ways to the shift your client relationship to a higher level where they will be more willing to pay for your advice, consolidate all of their assets with you, more quickly act on your advice, and introduce you to their friends, family, and colleagues are:
1. Add more value.
2. Deepen the relationship to a greater level of trust.

Adding value can often be accomplished by doing more of the fundamentals of financial planning that most FAs don’t do. For example, what if you created an action item for all of your clients to review their personal umbrella liability insurance policy to be sure that it exceeds the value of their assets? The typical asset gathering investment advisor might react to this suggestion by saying, “That’s not what I do and I don’t get paid for that.” I suppose that’s one reason why the typical asset gathering investment advisor only gets some of their client’s money to manage. Don’t be typical! The conversation could sound something like:

FA: It occurs to me that I’m working hard to make sure your portfolio is as successful as possible and is as protected as possible. While I am doing so you may be unwittingly taking risks that could either wipe out part, or all, of the very portfolio that I’m working to build and protect. Would you like an example?

Client: Yes!

FA: Something we have not talked about is how much umbrella liability protection you have. Do you have an umbrella liability policy?
Client: Yes we do.

FA: What is the total coverage amount?
Client: Off the top of my head, I’m not sure.

FA: It’s possible that it’s not enough. Here’s an action item for you that will make us both feel a lot better once you have eliminated this risk to your money. While you are at it, I advise you to review all of your property and casualty insurance: fire, home, auto… the works, to be sure that in the event of an accident or that you are found at fault or liable that you won’t have to liquidate your portfolio or sell other assets to satisfy the judgment. What do you think about doing that in the next 30 days and then we can have a phone appointment to confirm that it’s done?
Client: I think that’s a great idea and I think you are the most amazing and caring person I’ve ever done business with. The fact that you care enough to advise me to get this done even though you don’t get paid for it speaks volumes about your character. Our relationship has moved to a new level. I trust you more than ever. Can I pay you a fee for financial planning, bring all of my assets to you, implement everything you recommend, and would you mind if I introduced you to my richest friends and tell them to hire you?

It could happen…..

Sometimes adding value will shift the relationship, as in the example above. When you do something you don’t have to do that’s good for a client you move the trust dial in the right direction. What else could you do to add value?

The other idea is to deepen the relationship by asking better questions and having better, deeper, and more meaningful conversations. Having a list of questions is not good enough. It’s important to develop skills for having meaningful, deep conversations. I have written articles on this subject for this publication. January 2010: What’s New in High-Trust Client Relationships and July 2011: Speaking the Language of Trust ( that will give you specifics about how to do this. How else can you strengthen the relationship?

These ideas will improve your business in any economy, under any market conditions, no matter who’s the President, or whether it’s a tax or a penalty.

Focus on what you can control and go get clients!

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