Justin Corliss: Where will your future clients come from?

    'Where will my future clients come from?' is a question that has troubled many advisers, writes Justin Corliss. Here, he considers how advisers can future-proof their business by maintaining beneficiaries as clients

    It’s a question that’s troubled many advisers. Is it targeting high net worth, is it specialising in a particular field or connecting with the multitude of clients you’ve acquired through auto-enrolment? Of course all these are plausible solutions, but may involve significant marketing spends, further training or a lot of digging to find a few diamonds in the rough.

    Perhaps the answer lies closer to home, with your own client bank, or more specifically their spouses and children. This isn’t automatic though. Evidence from the US suggests 70% of women considered dismissing their financial adviser after the death of their husband.

    Perhaps this reflects the adviser’s failure to engage with both parties of the marriage. This can especially be the case where one party is more financially confident, or simply has traditionally fulfilled that role in the relationship.

    Further evidence suggests 18% of advisers have never met their clients’ children meaning their children don’t know you, they don’t have a level of trust built up with you, and if they have their own adviser, they’ll probably want them to deal with the assets in the future. Remember, people buy from people.

    Engaging with beneficiaries

    There are plenty of steps you can take to prevent these issues arising, such as:

    • Making sure spouses attend and engage in initial and review meetings. You probably have a few couples that spring to mind immediately, where you regularly only see one party, or one party dominates the discussion and decision making. What can you do to increase engagement with the spouse so they understand the value you add, and see you as an ally if their partner is no longer around? If they don’t feel foolish or embarrassed about exposing their lack of understanding, they’re less likely to seek out a fresh start with a new adviser.
    • Asking clients to bring their adult children to meetings, as they’re likely to inherit their assets. Your client creating a will, or lasting power of attorney are opportunities for this. Provided your client agrees, discuss the inheritance tax (IHT) and income tax advantages you’ve created by keeping a significant amount of wealth in the drawdown plan. The children might not be aware much of this was done with them in mind. They may value your advice more if they know this, and be more likely to stick with this strategy once the assets pass to them.
    • Clients’ children may not have significant wealth to invest at this stage, but they’re likely to have protection needs. This could be an opportunity to begin a business relationship with them.
    • Include children as trustees if applicable. Holding significant roles in the process may encourage them to see you as an advice partner rather than their parent’s adviser.
    • For wealthier parents or even grandparents, gifts out of normal expenditure to a lifetime ISA for first home purchase can help.  Including the recipient in the plan on an ongoing basis may retain them as a client.

    Involving the children in meetings may even uncover surprising plans for an inheritance. The children may intend to pass any unused drawdown funds to their own children. This may mean your client altering the expression of wish on their pension to include their grandchildren. This way, the grandchildren have the option to receive income rather than being limited to a lump sum or annuity. This needs to be done while your client is still alive.

    Future-proofing your business

    Prospecting for new clients may have taken a back seat since pension freedoms, as business has been buoyant for many advisers. However clients age and pass away, with their wealth generally cascading to the next generation.

    To protect the longevity of your business, and ultimately its value, organic growth via existing clients may be the answer.

    Justin Corliss is senior business development manager at Royal London.