7 Tips for Advisors Handling the Client Onboarding Process

One of the most difficult parts of being a financial advisor is landing new clients, so it’s understandable that many advisors sink significant time into marketing and lead generation. However, winning over a prospective client is only the first step in starting a new client relationship, and savvy advisors are already thinking ahead to how they can build on that confidence established in prospective client meetings.

Here is where things can get interesting. What’s the best way to onboard this new client? What information is needed to begin the relationship? There’s no faster way to derail a new client relationship than by having a piecemeal onboarding process.

A well-thought-out onboarding helps to establish trust early. A disorganized process does the exact opposite. To avoid the pitfalls many unprepared financial advisors fall into, here are seven tips advisors can use to improve their client onboarding process.

Get Organized

Using a checklist or onboarding template can help financial advisors organize the steps in the onboarding process. There are internal firm documents, external custodian or broker-dealer forms and other regulatory check boxes that must be handled.

Without using this framework, it makes it hard to know if everything has been covered. The last thing anyone wants to do is to constantly have to reach out to clients for additional information or potentially missed signatures on documents.

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Maintain Structure, But Stay Flexible

The heavy lift in most new client engagement starts at the onset. It’s here where a series of steps including data gathering, client documentation review, uploading information to financial planning software and review meetings take place.

Clients can experience a mountain of emotions that can delay getting you the information needed. It’s recommended to have a clear onboarding framework in place, but also important to stay flexible to accommodate clients. With a framework in place, clients can get a clear picture of the necessary information that is needed from them, so there isn’t any miscommunication along the way.

Be Clear on the Services You’re Providing

If you’re providing comprehensive financial planning services or a combination of investment management, there are unique considerations for each service line.

Case in point: Comprehensive financial planning covers taxes, investments, insurance, retirement, employee benefits and estate planning. Each of these core areas can have a unique service deliverable. In your early meetings with clients, it’s helpful to identify these deliverables in the prospective client phase. What this helps to establish is all the upfront work that will need attention. It can also help establish timelines of when the onboarding will be completed.

[ Read: How to Become a CFA ]

Set Realistic Timelines

Beginning a new engagement is often an exciting time, but that excitement can lead advisors to underestimate how much time it actually takes to fully onboard a client, get access to their accounts, transfer assets and ultimately deliver the financial plan.

When the entire onboarding process is laid out, soup to nuts, it paints a better picture of how long a new onboarding can take. Advisors need to coordinate everything and are often dealing with multiple signers, custodians and outside parties. It’s best to underpromise and overdeliver here. You’ll give yourself and your team a fighting chance to get it all done and keep client expectations in line.

Frame the Engagement With Client Service Standards

A point of frustration for many financial advisors and clients alike is unmet expectations. An advisor can assume clients fully understand the nature of their working relationship, only to find out later that the assumption was wrong. This creates frustration for everyone involved. It also can reduce client confidence. A formal document that shares what the client can expect from their advisor and what advisors expect from the client can lay any unrealistic expectations to rest.

[ SEE: 14 Things to Know Before Becoming a Financial Advisor. ]

Bring in Your Team Early in the Process

When working with a team, virtual or in-house, informing them of what’s going on can help facilitate the onboarding process. Teams that have full visibility of where prospects are in the sales funnel can help to speed things up. For example, briefing an assistant on what documentation to prepare in advance of a meeting can help streamline obtaining signatures digitally or asking for certain documentation in advance.

Maintain Communication With Clients Throughout the Process

This is a big one. Clients have a variety of priorities and distractions that can arise at a moment’s notice. During the onboarding phase, it’s not uncommon to over-communicate to let clients know you’re on top of all the moving pieces. As soon as the account opening process begins, they’re going to receive a barrage of emails from their custodian of what’s happening. There’s no greater peace than to hear from their financial advisor directly on what’s happening at each touch point. Here’s where advisors can really show that they’ve got things under control.

The client onboarding process is a necessary step in any new engagement. It should be handled with both care and consistency from start to finish. Financial advisors who can develop a strong onboarding process can then use what’s been developed over and over again and will benefit from systematizing the process. Look for areas where automation can streamline the onboarding process and free up time for more quality time with clients, which will contribute to a better experience overall.

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7 Tips for Advisors Handling the Client Onboarding Process originally appeared on usnews.com

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