Advice360° is a series designed to help advisors increase their productivity using our digital wealth management software.
In this installment, Steven Niedzwiadek, Advisor360°’s Product Manager for Compliance, shows financial advisors how our Annual Client Review capability can save them time and keep them in compliance.
Client touchpoints are perhaps the most important hours an advisor will spend each week. Preparing for annual review meetings, being fully engaged with the client, and then documenting the interaction are critical steps to building positive and long-lasting business relationships. It really is where the rubber meets the road in the financial planning process. Yet, annual client reviews are laden with regulatory requirements, and today’s busy wealth managers need the most effective and efficient software tools to streamline these meetings so that they can spend their time deepening the advisor-client relationship.
Providing value to clients during these meetings is the easy part. The onerous task is properly detailing client conversations, life events that alter risk and return objectives, and listing takeaways for both the client and advisor on top of maintaining a yearly schedule for the reviews and preparing for them. It used to be, and still is for many practices, that these annual client reviews can be fraught with poor recordkeeping and disorganized follow-up notes.
Our client portal features new enhancements, including the Annual Client Review capability which is designed to benefit three stakeholders: the advisor, the back office, and the firm. The hours saved documenting client interactions not only support the advisory business to grow at scale, but also help ensure proper compliance with Reg BI and other Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules.
Benefits to the advisor
Our portal simplifies several essential facets of the annual client review process. First, it provides reminders on when each individual or family is due for a planning update. The advisor can then easily review notes from past annual reviews in one place to prepare for their next planning session. This sets the stage for thoughtful conversations and actionable advice come meeting time.
Our tools then streamline the meeting review process, automating repetitive tasks such as:
Populating essential fields
Updating contact dates
Automatically tagging an advisor to the account
Post-meeting, the Annual Client Review capability includes a section with selectable boxes indicating the major types of client situation changes such as:
Liquidity need changes
Reducing tedious data-entry activities allows advisors to focus on strategic client interactions. Risk tolerance shifts, portfolio moves, and other notes are simple to document. Users can upload relevant statements and files, such as investment reports or recommendations, directly into the portal. This creates a centralized repository for all documentation related to annual client reviews—a big win should regulators come knocking at the door. This process also adds value to the client by ensuring their best interests are always kept in mind related to their portfolio.
Then, several meetings down the line, each client or household has a history at the advisor’s fingertips. Another feature advisors will appreciate is that each Annual Client Review capability has a specific question asking the advisor if any recommendations were made and if the client declined any of those recommendations. These are critical items should clients or regulators ask about portfolio construction decisions.
Benefits to the back office
Along with simplifying the data entry process for advisors, the Annual Client Review capability is a big hit downstream, too.
Back-office operations are made easier through robust functionalities. For instance, employees tasked with performing quality checks on advisors’ interactions with clients are empowered to devote their time to certain high-priority clients and accounts. Rather than sifting through potentially thousands of reviews and touchpoints, our Annual Client Review capability can work like an X-ray allowing supervisors to take a risk-based approach to reviews and target potential problem spots.
The back office also saves valuable time with robust reporting features that provide insights to the in-house compliance department by maintaining a real time tracking of completed annual reviews and those that are still outstanding. Additionally, a central repository of important financial documents, including summaries, recommendations, and statements, is ideal for comprehensive reporting. In situations where the client is unable or unwilling to meet, the advisor’s notation is crucial for compliance purposes, and it helps the back office demonstrate that appropriate steps were taken to engage with clients.
Benefits to the firm
There are broader appeals to the Annual Client Review capability. For example, this section of the portal allows advisors to associate accounts with a specific annual review, making it easy to track and manage reviews for multiple clients. It also supports shared responsibilities among advisors, making it a true team effort across the business. Moreover, from a supervision perspective, the Annual Client Review capability maintains a full history of past reviews, providing a quick summary of associated accounts, changes made, and recommendations. This not only aids in compliance but also helps advisors and other team members, perhaps a CPA, estate lawyer, or behavioral coach, prepare for client meetings by reviewing past discussions.
Big picture, the portal’s tools enable the identification of trends and performance metrics, such as completion rates for annual reviews. This evidence-based approach informs decision-makers on where to allocate resources for compliance supervision or if assigning another advisor to a particular client is worthwhile. And as more data is collected, broader trend analysis may be applied across the organization in a proactive approach, enabling management to address risks before they grow too large.
The bottom line
Our Annual Client Review capability introduces significant efficiencies and improvements to the client meeting process, benefiting advisors, back-office operations, and the overall firm. Compliance tasks are made easier for all stakeholders to ensure that regulations are met while the client experience is improved. The Annual Client Review capability is designed with efficiency and scalability top of mind so that the advisor’s actions are fully documented, the back office has the tools and transparency necessary to perform checks, and business executives can make thoughtful, tactical, and strategic decisions to grow.
Steven Niedzwiadek is Product Manager for Compliance and defines and oversees product features that improve broker-dealer, advisor, and investor performance and efficiencies in the banking, investment, and insurance industries.
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