By Damian Hartley
Damian Hartley is an Estplan Practice Mentor in Victoria. He has extensive experience in Financial Planning and Accounting Advisory practices and has run a small business himself. Damian has worked extensively with small and large organizations in recruitment, marketing, staff development and succession planning.
Last week I had an enlightening meeting with a legal adviser. This intelligent articulate and successful solicitor is at the end of his tether with referral partners. His complaint is often echoed through the advisory fraternity that looks at collaboration and networking as a client acquisition tool and also to enable them to offer a more comprehensive service to their clients.
My client says that he found it hard to deal with the following
|1. A lack of reciprocity in the arrangement with complementary advisers.|
|2. The inability of other advisers to appreciate the service he offered.|
|3. Their attitude to collaboration|
|4. The lack of education about what makes for a successful collaborative partnership.|
|5. The lack of knowledge to recognise that clients need an estate review at least annually.|
In this case he found that he was getting sent clients who were focused on a single transaction – developing a will. I should point out that this client has substantial expertise in Estate Planning and a number of complementary disciplines.
When I first met him, my immediate reaction was – what a fantastic resource he can be for planners, accountants and their clients. His service offer will boost what can be offered to the client and everyone will benefit both financially and otherwise.
Unfortunately a recurring theme when an adviser begins to navigate across functional boundaries is lack of understanding and this has a negative impact on the relationships formed.
More importantly, the client is not given offered the opportunity to deepen their engagement with the advisory fraternity.
To collaborate successfully, it is important to understand the lead adviser role, develop the expectations and referral agreements and utilise all networking opportunities to ensure client satisfaction.
I have simplified the elements for a good collaborative arrangement.
- Know your client and fully understand their needs;
- Deepen (or acquire) the knowledge and expertise to recognise which other professionals need to be involved to ensure the best outcome; and
- Work effectively and efficiently to ensure that all of you are aligned and able to deliver the best client outcome.
I have seen firsthand the return that results from careful planning and collaborative partner management. A good collaborative network results in enhanced reputation and client acquisition opportunities that had not existed before. This increases practice value in the longer term.
I recommend evaluating your approach to your collaborative partners and developing a plan to:
- Evaluate existing partners and define requirements for new partners.
- Develop a comprehensive list of requirements and listen to your instincts.
- Define your relationship and specify the lead in every engagement.
- Communicate clearly and consistently.
- All partners need a good understanding of client objectives and required outcomes.
- Review, meet regularly with the partners and refine the process. These meetings are important in order to achieve the right outcome for the client.
The lead adviser coordinates others, and schedule meetings, but everyone involved is contributing professionally, and all need to have the client’s interests at heart.
All estate planning engagements require collaboration. You cannot complete a sound estate plan and implement it successfully without allied professionals. We recommend that you review collaboration as an integral part of your estate planning service. All your partners need to understand that:
- Estate Planning is a process, not a transaction;
- Estate Planning is not just about wills. There are numerous issues that affect the clients situation that require involvement by other Advisors and
- By understanding how to uncover all of the relevant issues you can provide a comprehensive brief to other Advisors and position yourself as the Lead Adviser.
From my interaction with financial advisers – planners, accountants and solicitors, it is clear that everyone wants to do the right thing for their clients. Additionally many of you would like to work co-operatively with each other. My suggestion to you would be to go out and develop quality networks of complimentary professionals, based on the premise that they can assist you with a client’s project, not what they can do for you. Once established if you maintain the relationship, focus on the client and communicate effectively then you will succeed in offering the client a service that meets their wants and satisfies their needs.
Now my only query is what’s stopping you?