The 5-step financial planning process for the digital advisor

July 1, 2016 by Brian Sasaki

About the author:

Brian Sasaki

Account executive

Brian started his career working for a large insurance and investment company located in Milwaukee, WI, where he was one of the top financial representative interns in the country.

The five-step financial planning process set by the CFP Board has been the foundation of financial planning for many years. As our industry changes and adapts, so must our processes and workflows. At Advicent, we believe everyone deserves a financial plan, and we provide technology that enables advisors to bring their financial planning practice into The Digital Revolution with state-of-the-art tools. Let’s break down the five-step financial planning process as a successful digital advisor would in today’s market.

Establish needs

People do not know what they do not know, but people want to try to figure things out on their own first. The gap advisors need to fill is being able to educate someone visiting their website or LinkedIn on the current financial situation with a call-to-action that makes them want to speak with the advisor. Advicent introduced a tool called LEADS a couple of years ago to help banks get more traction from their online banking clients to their wealth management arms. The LEADS assessment helps referrals and prospective clients identify a goal they want to assess and after answering a few short demographic questions, they can see what the track they are on for that goal and even do some “what if” scenarios with slider bars. The purpose of these assessments is to identify and educate prospective clients on potential gaps in their goals and plans, while allowing the advisor to qualify and learn about potential clients’ interest.

Gather data

New developments have made data gathering much easier. The LEADS assessment also starts the data gathering process for the advisors. Advisors get to see information that the client inputs, and some of that information will get directly fed into our planning tools. With the introduction of our client portal and its account aggregation capabilities, we can start to gather held-away accounts and feed those right in to the plan. We can trust that, based on the way Quovo aggregates, the data is accurate and up to date.

Analyze and develop

Advicent offers a variety of planning tools to help analyze and develop plans for clients. This era of the financial planning process is still dependent on the financial advisor and their expertise. However, through technology, advisors can make this a collaborative experience using a tool like Figlo to help build their plans. Figlo is different from existing systems on the market today. The entire platform was designed to be used in front of clients and is full of visuals. There are still advisors that look to traditional planning, in which they build the plan, make behind-the-scenes recommendations, and deliver reports. With Figlo, these reports can be taken into the digital realm and be presented live in client meetings.

Implement

When it comes to financial planning, there is not always one right answer to helping someone achieve their goals, and in today’s world we often need to compare multiple scenarios side-by-side to determine which one makes the most sense. When you add in stress test capabilities with Monte Carlo analysis, yellow pads and Excel spreadsheets become obsolete.

As an advisor, there is only so much one can do when it comes to implementing a financial plan. The client needs to do their part as well. One of the biggest breakdowns in financial planning comes from lack of clarity between the advisor and their clients. Many of today’s most successful advisors adopt action plans or to do lists, and they keep those lists in places like client portals and document vaults so both parties can see them.

Monitor

The final step in the five-step financial planning model is to monitor the progress of the implemented plan and to make adjustments accordingly. Giving clients access to portals allows them to monitor their plans on their own, but sometimes that is not enough. We never know how clients are going to react in a down market, so Advicent developed the ability for advisors to do progress reporting for their clients. In our industry, we tend to focus heavily on the future and we tend to forget about the past. Through progress reporting, we can start to link previous plans and future goals together to illustrate to our clients just how far they have come over the years and how much closer to their goals they have gotten through collaboration with their advisor.

The five-step financial planning process never ends. As we approach the monitoring phase, our needs begin to change. We start to get updated information through integrations and aggregation, and the process starts over again.