Financial Adviser Tips for Client Review Sessions

Review sessions are an opportunity for financial advisers and their clients to look at progress, understand changes and set future expectations.
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Client review sessions are an important part of the relationship between financial advisers and their clients. Beyond simply reviewing their investment results, these sessions can be a great vehicle for reviewing a client’s overall situation, understanding any changes and getting to know them better.

Here are some tips for conducting effective client review sessions.

Have an Agenda

Like any type of business meeting, be sure to have an agenda for the session. This can be done via a formal document sent to the client in advance, as part of the discussion materials or as something that is built up over time by having roughly the same format for each meeting with the client.

The point of an agenda is not to stifle discussion or client questions. In fact, a good agenda should have a section for this. Rather, a proper agenda will make sure that you are able to communicate everything to the client that you feel is important for the meeting, and it will provide an open and comfortable platform for the client to ask their questions. Moreover, it will structure the meeting in a way that will allow the maximum amount of back and forth communication in the time allocated for the session.

Send Discussion Materials in Advance

The review session is not about surprising the client or overwhelming them with a lot of information when they show up for the session, either in-person or virtually. Having a chance to review the information prior to the meeting allows the client to become familiar with the material and to formulate their questions in advance.

Some clients will go through the materials in advance and be armed with questions, others may only look at the materials briefly. While you can’t mandate your client’s actions, encouraging them to review these materials in advance may provide the nudge some clients need to do this, making the review session a bit more productive for them.

Make it About Them

While you need to be efficient as possible -- especially if your practice includes a high number of clients -- it's still crucial to make each review session about the client. While there is a degree of standardization that makes sense, each client is different. They have different levels of understanding regarding financial and investment information, different concerns, different levels of risk tolerance, different goals and other unique characteristics.

Moreover, clients come to a financial adviser to help them with their needs. On the surface, many types of clients have similar situations in terms of their age, the size of the portfolios, their general goals, etc. Your practice may even be focused on clients in specific occupations such as medical professionals or educators. Their comfort level with investing and financial matters may vary widely.

Doing Nothing is an Action

Your clients look to you for knowledge and expertise in financial planning, investing and related areas. They also look to you, whether they realize it or not, for an objective, detached opinion on their situation. In periods of market volatility this may be the most valuable service that you can provide.

Clients may come to your review session with the idea that they want to jump all in to the stock market or pull out completely. Sometimes doing little or nothing is the best action for your clients to take. Sometimes this is a difficult message to deliver, but that’s what they pay you to do.

Look Ahead

Client review sessions shouldn’t just be about reviewing what happened to their portfolios over the past quarter. These meetings are great opportunities to learn about new developments in your client’s lives that might impact their financial situation.

It’s also a good time to review elements of the financial planning that you’ve already done for them in terms of any upcoming actions they may need to take, and for setting their future expectations.

Financial planning is an open-ended, fluid process. While you don’t do a full-blown financial plan for a client every time you meet, client review sessions offer a great time to revisit portions of the client’s financial plan and discuss what’s on the horizon for them.