You Don’t Have a Plan

frank_randallFrank Randall, AIF®, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

People anticipate that they will finish their own tasks earlier than they actually do. Consider the following example. Employees who carry home a stuffed briefcase full of work on Fridays, fully intending to complete every task, are often aware that they have never gone beyond the first one or two jobs on any previous weekend.

The psychological term for this is called “planning fallacy” and it is the reason that we are often a day late and a dollar short. In a phrase, the planning fallacy is the human tendency to underestimate the time and resources necessary to complete a task. When applied to a lifetime of financial decision-making, the results can be catastrophic.

There are a variety of hypotheses as to why we engage in this sort of misjudgment about what it will take to get the job done. Some chalk it up to wishful thinking. A second supposition is that we are overly optimistic judges of our own performance. A final notion implicates “focalism” or a tendency to estimate the time required to complete the project, but failing to account for interruptions on the periphery.

Whatever the foundational reasons, and it is likely there are many, it is clear enough that the American investing public has a serious case of failure to adequately plan. Excluding their primary home value, 56% of Americans either have less than $10,000 or no retirement savings at all. 43% of Americans are just 90 days away from poverty and 48% of those with workplace retirement savings plans fail to contribute.1 Perhaps we think we are special. Maybe we are simply too focused on the day-to-day realities that can so easily hijack our attention. Without a doubt, we may wish that the need to save large sums of money for a future date would just resolve itself.

Solution: Antoine de Saint-Exupery famously said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” and yet the majority (60%) of investors surveyed by Natixis in 20142 said that they had no formal financial plan or goals. If you do not have a formal, updated financial plan in your possession, you lack the road map necessary to begin the journey toward retirement. Most financial planners are happy to create such a plan for a small fee so start today!

For 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has been working with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals.  The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Sources:

1 “Myth of the Middle Class:  Most Americans Don’t Even Have $1,000 in Savings,” www.salon.com, Ben Norton, January 14, 2016.

2 “Getting to the Goal:  Markets, emotion and the risks advisors must manage,” Natixis, 2014

Planning Fallacy

Dr. Daniel CrosbyDr. Daniel Crosby, President, IncBlot Behavioral Finance

Last November, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of Liam, our second child and first son. My wife, who had diligently prepared for all aspects of the baby’s arrival, had been encouraging me to prepare my overnight “go bag” in the case of an early arrival. As I am wont, I put this final preparation off until the last minute, only preparing a very few basic necessities and wrapping them unceremoniously in a Walmart bag rather than the leather duffel I use for most business travel.

Our son arrived without adverse incident (easy for me to say!) and as we hunkered down for those difficult, sleepless first nights in the hospital, I realized that my preparations had been inadequate. I had forgotten my contacts entirely, brought an outdated pair of prescription glasses and packed only enough clothing for one day following the delivery. Needless to say, the discomfort of those late nights in the hospital was only made worse by my lack of foresight. Not only was I sleepy, as is to be expected; I was also smelly, unshaven and outfitted in yesterday’s rumpled t-shirt. Luckily, the miracle of new life minimized my failure to prepare, but the (seemingly millions) of pictures will always tell the tale of just how unprepared I truly was.

Crosby_PlanningFallacy_4.3.14So how is it that I, an otherwise functional person who had been through this experience once before, was caught so off guard? The psychological term for what I had experienced is the planning fallacy and it is the reason that we are often a day late and a dollar short. In a phrase, the planning fallacy is the human tendency to underestimate the time and resources necessary to complete a task. In my case, the damage was limited to a few unfortunate pictures, but when applied to a lifetime of financial decision-making, the results can be catastrophic.

There are a variety of hypotheses as to why we engage in this sort of misjudgment about what it will take to get the job done. Some chalk it up to wishful thinking. To use my example, I was hoping to be in the hospital just two nights instead of the five we spent when my daughter was born. By packing a small bag, I was willing this dream into existence. A second supposition is that we are overly-optimistic judges of our own performance. Extending this line of thought, I might understand that most couples are in the hospital for three nights but most couples are not as fit, intelligent and strong-willed as the two of us (to say nothing of our exceptional progeny!). A final notion implicates focalism or a tendency to estimate the time required to complete the project, but failing to account for interruptions on the periphery. Sure, it may just take a few hours to have the baby, but there is recovery, eating, entertaining visitors, and the requisite oohing and aahing over the new arrival.

Whatever the foundational reasons, and it is likely there are many, it is clear enough that the American investing public has a serious case of failure to adequately plan. Excluding their primary home value, most Americans have less than $25,000 in retirement savings. 43% of Americans are just 90 days away from poverty and 48% of those with workplace retirement savings plans fail to contribute. Perhaps we think we are special. Maybe we are simply too focused on the day-to-day realities that can so easily hijack our attention. Without a doubt, we may wish that the need to save large sums of money for a future date would just resolve itself. But wishing it won’t make it so any more than wishing for my son’s hasty arrival did. I got off no worse than a few bad pictures and some unsightly hair; those who plan to save for their financial tomorrow’s won’t be nearly as lucky.

Views expressed are for illustrative purposes only. The information was created and supplied by Dr. Daniel Crosby of IncBlot Behavioral Finance, an unaffiliated third party. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor

Tech Talk: Adding Value Through Technology

Brendan McConnellBrendan McConnell, Vice President, Business Administration

I recently participated on an advisor technology panel at the 2014 FSI OneVoice event in Washington, D.C. One of the topics of conversation highlighted the number of new technologies available and what technology an advisor should consider adopting. It starts with creating a solid technology foundation.

Financial services, not unlike most other industries, is a competitive landscape where it can be difficult to separate yourself from the pack, so to speak. There are a lot of skilled institutions and personnel promoting similar products and services. Embracing the right technology is one way to differentiate yourself. Adding technology to your practice can be disruptive, but a firm with the right appetite for change finds success in transforming the customer experience. Let’s look at a few tools and concepts you should start considering adding to your business.

Adopt a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
CRM systems are designed to help you manage your business more strategically and efficiently. They serve as the ecosystem where all relevant business data exists—from client contact information and account data, to prospect opportunities and service requests. Your CRM is the hub around which all other technology revolves. Most CRMs are now offered as cloud-based technology, giving you access anywhere on any mobile device and eliminating the need to support the technology infrastructure. The cloud delivery also makes CRM much more affordable. Use CRM systems to automate workflows and eliminate those time-consuming, manual procedures. Set up alerts so that you know when a new proposal is run or an account hits a specific threshold. Have emails proactively sent to your clients when a service case is completed or for an anniversary or birthday. Time is your most valued resource, add more of it through a properly implemented CRM system.

Adopt a CRM SystemIf you are currently using a CRM, your future technology choices should include an evaluation of integration with your system. Think of your CRM like a power strip that all other technology plugs into. This will provide you with a simplified infrastructure with one source and a single log in. If you are shopping for a CRM, take a look at your current core system, software, and platforms and find the CRM that will integrate best with your existing technology. If you follow this strategy it will eliminate the siloed technology approach, which often leads to inefficiencies.

Improve the Client Onboarding Process
As important as embracing technology is to your internal processes and procedures, it’s vital for enhancing the client experience. This is where you prove to the client that you add more value than simply serving their investment needs. A recent Fidelity RIA Benchmarking survey found that 77% of high-performing firms were focused on using technology to enhance the customer experience and satisfaction.

Client onboarding, for example, is an area worth the technological investment. Tools that allow for pre-population of forms, applications that allow secure, electronic signatures, using CRM data to customize templates—all of these enhancements create a unique and personal experience for the client. And we all know the adage “a happy customer is a loyal customer.” In addition, a paperless workflow technology can provide a tremendous amount of efficiency and process standardization that can help reduce resources required (time and money) and help eliminate mistakes.

Customization is KeyProvide Customizable Client Reports
What about the ongoing servicing of existing clients? Client reporting, much like the onboarding process, helps enhance and maintain successful relationships. Each one of your clients has an investing objective that is personal to them. You need to be able to provide them with a custom report that shows how they are measuring against their goals rather than trying to fit them into a predefined template. The one-size-fits-all model is no longer going to meet your clients’ expectations for the evolving world of goals-based investing.

The driver behind successful adoption of technology for any practice is internal participation. You must have buy-in within your organization or practice. Whether a one-man show or a team of 20, everyone has to commit in order to maintain a culture of innovation. With proper adoption of technology, enhanced client experience and satisfaction will be within reach.

Increasing Personal Effectiveness: Tips For Time Management

Beverly Flaxington, The Collaborative

In today’s world, with all of the advancements in technology, it seems advisors have less time in the day, but more to do! The problem is that we operate under the false assumption that if we “only had more time,” we’d be more effective. If advisors had more time, they would probably just fill it with more activities. The key is to look at time management not with the goal of harnessing time, but of becoming more effective at using what’s given to you.

Financial advisors who run their own businesses have a particular challenge – manage the staff, work with clients, watch the markets, find new prospects, figure out the budget, pay the bills and so on. Those who work for larger firms may not need to run the business, but they still have compliance requirements, internal meetings and the like. There are many things that “should” be addressed in any given day. And to-do lists only seem to get longer!

What are some keys to personal management to help advisors become more effective? Let’s look at three of them here:

  1. Take the time to list your goals and priorities. Before your month starts, or your week, or your day, make sure you have taken the time to list the top 3-5 things you simply must accomplish. Once you list them (and make sure you take the time to write them down), list the priorities associated with each one. For example, if increasing client referrals by 15% is a top priority this month, list what you need to do to accomplish this. Don’t leave the steps to chance. Your list could include: Hold an event, send out an email asking for referrals, speak with each client one-to-one, hold a client advisory board meeting, etc. As your tasks accumulate during the day, week and month, be sure that your list always has your top priorities on it also. Do the things that come along, but never at the expense of your priorities. Instead of a general to-do list, have a to-do list in priority order. This can help you to stay focused on the highest-gain things.
  2. Know what you do well and stick to your knitting! Too many times we try to be all things to all people. The truth is that we all have our strong suits in some areas, and our weaknesses in others. Behavioral styles show us that while we may be excellent at data and quality control, for example, we may not be as comfortable trying to close the deal with a prospect. Or, while I might enjoy the camaraderie of being with my team because I am a people person, I may not like filling out the forms for compliance requirements. It’s important to self-identify what you are good at and what you like to do, and then find ways to delegate those things you are not so good at. For those things that are not strengths – or that you simply don’t enjoy – there are many options: Outsource. Identify team members with different strengths than yours and delegate. Determine whether you absolutely have to do the task in the first place.
  3. Be critical of your time wasters. We all have them. There are things you do that you know you shouldn’t. There is the client who doesn’t pay you well but who calls to talk your ear off several times a week. There is the market report you don’t really need to read, but you enjoy perusing. There is the site you find interesting, but that isn’t on your list of priority items. There is your “open-door” policy that employees have started to abuse. It’s important to note during the day where you spend time on things that aren’t contributing to your priorities. Keep a journal. Create an Excel spreadsheet with 15-minute time blocks, and keep track of where your time goes. Review it to find those places when you can steal back some of your own time. Then get rigorous about using your time in the most beneficial ways. You might have to say “no” to things you’d like to do. You might have to make difficult choices in what you focus on. You might have to give up a favorite activity, like reading those market reports. There is time for everything that’s important, but only if you give up those things that really aren’t making a difference to the success of your practice.

Before the next week starts, take the time to think about any or all of these ideas. Can you make a commitment to approach time differently so that your personal and professional productivity rises? Even for the most time-efficient among us, there is always the chance to find new ways to take back your time.

What’s Your Headline? by Beverly Flaxington @BevFlaxington

Gaining exposure through publicity, social media and PR can be very fruitful for financial advisors. In too many cases, an investor does not know how to go about finding an advisor to talk with about their investments – so they may read about someone, or see a financial expert speaking, and decide to contact them. A robust PR and publicity strategy can be a great complement to other business-building efforts.
What’s the best way for an advisor to start a campaign, or infuse an existing campaign with new energy? First, it is important to determine your budget, and decide what exactly you want to do. It is awareness building? Is it positioning yourself as the obvious expert? Is it placing yourself where potential new partners and other industry professionals will see you?
Like any marketing or business-building strategy, it is critical to know – before you do anything – what you are trying accomplish, what forums are best for what you need, and what budget you can allocate to your efforts.
The next most important thing is to understand your positioning. What do you have to say to the media? What’s your publicity platform? What’s the headline you can use that will grab the attention of the people you are targeting and reel them in to learn more about you?
There are many things an advisor can do to get broader exposure. Be sure, before you commit to anything, that you get approval from your compliance department.
Some areas to think about if you want to embark on a broader publicity campaign could be:
Identify opportunities in your local area for press. Could you write a column for a local paper (online or in print)? Could you be interviewed on the local cable station?
Find timely information in the national press and make a comment about it – this can be done on your own blog, or by writing in to a columnist or sending out a press release.
Find opportunistic places for advertising. Broad-based advertising seldom works, but running an ad in the symphony brochure, or at a local play, or for some other event can get your message to a targeted audience.
If you have the time and can do your own radio show, there are many options on Blogtalk Radio and others to have your own show. Or, if you’d prefer not to have to manage your own show, find radio stations you can contact and pitch your ideas about why you’d be a great guest.
Be sure you have an updated LinkedIn profile. Periodically post new information to keep it fresh and interesting.
Consider having a Facebook page for your business. Post interesting information about local activities, or market news.
Scan the Internet for people who are writing and blogging about topics you care about. Post comments and link back to your firm if possible.
There are many ways to get your message out there more broadly. Remember to establish what you are hoping to accomplish, how much time and money you can spend, and what you’d like to see as a result. Then pick the tactics that work best for you.
Remember, though, your headline matters. Stay consistent with your messaging and reinforce your platform points and positioning every chance you get! Repetition matters a great deal in marketing.

Personal and Time Management by Beverly D. Flaxington

Do you ever have a day where you sit and wonder, “What shall I do with all of my free time?” If you are like most financial professionals, that day hasn’t come along in quite a while! Running a financial advisory firm requires client management, investment management, people management and general business management. And with your free time, you can always add in some business development, too!

At the end of the day, you want to feel like you did the most with what you were given in terms of time and effort. Unfortunately, in many cases, the time seem to have slipped away and you are left with a to-do list that has only lengthened!

How do successful people best manage their time and get the most accomplished? Here are 7 tips for maximizing time and personal efficiency for financial advisors:

  1. Have written plans. You need an overall business plan, a marketing and business development plan, a client management plan and an employee development plan for each individual. If you didn’t have a plan for investing a client portfolio, you’d be hard pressed to know which investment selections were right for that client. Similarly, you need a plan for each aspect of your business. Make sure it is written – not just “I know what I need to do.”
  2. Set priorities for the week, and then for each day. Take time to pick out the top three, four, or five most important things you want to accomplish each week, and then for each day. Keep focused on what’s most important.
  3. Eliminate the “fire drill” culture or mentality. If you or your firm seems to constantly be in a reactive, fire-drill mode, it’s time to examine your processes. Employees should have their priorities clear, and your firm should have a standardized approach to dealing with daily events. The unexpected always happens, but if you have processes and priorities in place, they won’t disrupt your firm such that nothing else happens while you respond to them.
  4. Schedule those things you know you need to do, but perhaps don’t want to do. Hate giving an employee negative feedback? Don’t like focusing on sales and business development activities? Hate balancing the checkbook for your firm? We all have something we’d prefer not to do but that needs to get done. Don’t wait for the right time to do it – schedule it in and put it on your calendar.
  5. Outsource and delegate. Find those things you are not particularly good at or don’t enjoy, and find a competent resource to assign them to.
  6. Know your own Achilles heel. We all have behavioral preferences that get us in trouble. Some of us are too quick to act and don’t think enough. Others get into analysis paralysis. Identify your own weakness and plan for it. Don’t be surprised by something you know is going to happen!
  7. Break down your to-dos. Don’t keep a general list with lots of high-level things that need to happen. Break them down into a manageable, step-by-step plan with assigned resources, timeframes and costs. The smaller the task, the more likely you are to do it!

Try just one or two of these things this week and see if you don’t experience more productivity. Keep adding one in each week until you are running your advisory firm like an efficient machine!