Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Consumer Dependence on Professionals: Trusted, Qualified Helping Hands Needed

Finding trusted professionals for your clients

I like to think of aging as starting with birth, transitioning into the life-long learning stage, then adding the earning stage, and when we are ready we evolve into the stage of wisdom (hopefully) and influence for societal good until we breathe our last breath. The trajectory can be upward and positive throughout life and assistance from the right professionals can make life easier.

If your existing clients or new clients are approaching or at the end of their earning stage; the demand for high quality resources is ever present in the thinking of these consumers of today, as well as, their families and caregivers. They are tech savvy and Google has turned us all into researchers, but the information can be overwhelming for the consumer.

Let’s take a look at the financial sector’s past to demonstrate the current need for professional advice. Since I do not have a financial background, I am going to make a huge assumption here based on personal experience and a little research. After the 401k was established in 1978 and through the 80’s and 90’s as pensions started to disappear the 3 legged retirement stool went from a pension, social security and 401k and turned into a 2 legged stool of social security and 401k. Once this happened it put more of the burden for retirement saving on the individual. The individual found that saving in a bank or investing in CDs was not going to cut it. The money needed to grow faster. The middle class in America knew nothing about investing or finding and dealing with professionals who supposedly did know how to make money grow.

While all this is taking place the complexity of life in the U.S. is greatly increasing. Taxes, investing, insurance, estate planning, medical bills, home ownership, auto payments, insurance, registration, upkeep, and more filled our simple lives with the “job” of life management which is on top of our regular day jobs.

This is the point in American history where average middle class citizens began hiring professionals in the fields of accounting, tax preparation, law, and financial planning. Prior to this time, the wealthy were the majority users of professional services. Life was simple enough that individuals and families were able to take care of their own affairs and did not need to pay a professional to assist them.

I remember the point in time when we changed our own oil, tuned up our own cars, replaced the carburetor and it was simple. Now we open the hood of a car and would not even know where to start. Professional services are now part of the fabric of life in the U.S. for many, not only the top 1%.

As professionals became more and more in demand and their businesses grew, they may not have felt the need to expand their professional network of resources. I have spoken to several professionals in finance, insurance, and law and I asked what professions comprised their network. The answer was finance, insurance, and law. They are not alone; many professions have operated in silos limiting their network of resources.

These industries are finally starting to realize that keeping a narrow focus on resources for their clients is starting to hurt business. Law firms are starting to hire case managers. Certain financial institutions are losing up to 66% of their business as clients pass away because the financial institution did not have an intergenerational program in place. Insurance companies selling annuities are experiencing effects of negative press due to claims of financial exploitation targeted at older adults.

Older adults and their families or agents need help. They are looking for help beyond the particular area of expertise of the professional they have come to. This does not mean that they want every professional to advise beyond their area of expertise or to be an expert in everything, it is quite the opposite. Consumers are looking for the professional they trust to provide them with highly qualified vetted resources. They just want to be steered in the right direction because they are drowning in information and they don’t know what is trustworthy and what is just good marketing.

How do professionals build a network that works extremely well for them and for their clients? How do they prevent liability issues by locating highly qualified resources? How do they vet these resources to ensure the best outcomes?

Here are 10 steps that can make you and your professional network stand out:

  1. Know your target client and ALL the issues that this demographic faces today as well as their history. For example, in the case of senior clients, study Working with Older Adults: A Professional’s Guide to Contemporary Issues of Aging.

  2. Determine all the resources needed by you in your business and by your client in their lives.

  3. Research and locate 2 or 3 of the top individuals or resources in a particular field.

  4. In each field, determine the definition of the job, the scope of work, the credentials in the field, and how to locate one in a particular geographic area.

  5. Establish a vetting standard and vet every resource.

  6. Set up a database keeping complete notes on how they meet or exceed your vetting standard.

  7. Contact all resources, interview and get to know and understand them.

  8. Establish a drip program for those that you decide to have in your network to keep your brand in their minds.

  9. Give all referrals out with the vetting information, be transparent as to what you know about them and how you have or have not used them.

  10. Once referred, follow up with professional and client and note results.

We all need a helping hand from time to time, let's just make sure it is the most qualified.

Author -  Judy Rough, CSA

- By Judy Rough, CSA

My passion and my life's work is to change the culture of our society by elevating the status of older adults to a national treasure. The more professionals are educated about the contemporary issues of aging the closer I will get to this goal.


Sources

Your 401(k): When It Was Invented—and Why,” Learnvest.

Three-Legged Stool of Retirement,” June 21, 2016, Melissa Phipps.

The great wealth transfer is coming, putting advisers at risk” Investment News.