By Daniella Rand
How much do you know about the wealth management process?
Although every wealth management professional is different, and every pro worth his or her salt applies a proprietary “secret sauce” to the practice, the basic contours of wealth management are not some closely held secret.
Indeed, the wealth management process follows a well-worn path that, for many, includes five basic steps: prospecting, onboarding, analysis, planning, and implementation. Here’s what you should know about each.
1. Prospecting (Finding and Signing Clients)
You can’t manage wealth without clients, so prospecting comes before all else. Naturally, clients don’t see all the hard work that goes into marketing, lead generation, and pre-signing cultivation. But they can get a general sense of the process from what they do see: in particular, the 30- to 60-minute free consultation that most wealth managers offer prospective clients. (Many go even farther, offering multiple pre-signing consultations, but one 30-to-60 is a safe baseline.)
2. Onboarding (Gathering Data and Qualitative Information About the Client)
This part of the process involves gathering a host of quantitative and qualitative information about new clients. Advisors need this information both for their own administrative purposes and to incorporate into the next three steps. After all, the contours of a 20-something’s financial plan are going to be very different from those of a 60-something’s plan.
3. Analysis (A Comprehensive Look at Clients’ Financial Picture, Life Plan, and Risk Tolerance)
This part of the process demands a detailed look at the client’s current financial position, current investing strategy, earning potential, near- and long-term goals (including education and retirement plans), and investing risk tolerance, among other items. The analysis phase’s work product flows into the next phase: developing a financial plan
4. Planning (Developing a Financial Plan)
Developing a financial plan means different things in different situations. In a project-based planning scenario, a client may hire a financial advisor solely to produce a plan document that the client can then implement on his or her own. In other cases, the client may need help with specific planning goals, such as retirement or education. In still others, the client may need a comprehensive plan that touches on every aspect of his or her financial life.
5. Implementation (Where the Rubber Meets the Road)
In long-term wealth management relationships, this is the longest and most consequential phase, wherein the advisor implements the plan he or she has devised and ensures it remains on track.
Trust the Process, But Only If You’re Comfortable
The modern wealth management process is a well-worn one that’s served countless clients over the course of many decades. Iterative improvements notwithstanding, its basic contours haven’t changed much in living memory. Many thousands of successful, well-regarded financial advisors and wealth management professionals apply it every day.
Does that mean you, as the client, should trust the wealth management process without reservation? Most financial advisors would surely say that, yes, you can and should trust the process.
More sophisticated financial advisors, of course, know better than to give such unqualified advice. While the wealth management process described above works in the vast majority of managed accounts, it’s important for clients to go into the process with a basic willingness to trust it.
If you’re not willing to do that, perhaps you’re in need of a different approach to wealth management. That may well mean a do-it-yourself wealth management program, which requires tremendous discipline and carries extensive risk.