July 31, 2020

Simplify Your Onboarding Process in 60 Minutes

Written By Charesse Spiller

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Onboarding clients can be one of the most challenging processes for advisors to create in a scalable way. When you first launch your firm, onboarding feels easy. Every client is an incredibly exciting opportunity, and you’re more willing to tailor the onboarding experience to their unique needs. However, as soon as you start to serve more families, that practice becomes increasingly difficult.

Onboarding clients can be one of the most challenging processes for advisors to create in a scalable way. When you first launch your firm, onboarding feels easy. Every client is an incredibly exciting opportunity, and you’re more willing to tailor the onboarding experience to their unique needs. However, as soon as you start to serve more families, that practice becomes increasingly difficult.

It’s critical for advisors to build their onboarding process in a way that leverages automation and creates a consistent experience for all new clients that they welcome into their practice. The best way for you to start ironing out your onboarding practice is to write out each step. From there, you can determine what steps in the process are internal, what steps are external, and who owns what.

External Components of Your Onboarding Process

Your first step is to determine how you want your clients to see your onboarding process. Onboarding is the first experience your clients will have, and you want to make sure that they get the right impression. In a perfect world, onboarding your clients will be virtually seamless.

The only piece the process that they might find frustrating is getting all of their financial documents organized and submitted to you for review, and you can even make that relatively easy!

Your onboarding process should help you guide your clients through the financial planning journey, and leave no question unanswered.

Your onboarding journey should include:

  • Onboarding to your financial planning software

  • Onboarding to your client portal (this may be the same as your financial planning software)

  • Agreements and invoices

  • A getting started guide and video

Although a video isn’t completely necessary, I find it’s helpful to have one (or several!) videos to walk your clients through each part of the process. A tour of your financial planning software, instructions to help them self-onboard to their client portal, and even a video welcoming them to your practice can be a nice touch.

Internal Components of Your Onboarding Process

Internally, your onboarding process may become more complex.

You want your clients to be able to seamlessly self-onboard and allow you to start the financial planning process. However, in order to make this happen, you need to do a little bit of extra legwork.

Let’s go over a few steps you can take behind the scenes to set up an ideal onboarding process for your clients.

Step One: Figure Out What Data You Need

When you ask for client data, you don’t want to ask more than once. Making a list of everything you need to know in advance based on the client’s goals for their engagement with your firm is critical. Remember -different service models will require different kinds of data.

For example, a one-time plan will require different information than an ongoing planning and investment management service.Once you know what type of data you need based on your client’s unique goals, you can put systems in place to gather the information. Review your data gathering forms ahead of time and ask yourself if they’re as succinct as possible.

For example, if you request someone’s pay stub and benefit plan, you may not need to ask them how much they pay for health insurance in a second question.

Try to ask questions that get you all of the baseline information you need, and schedule a “Goals” or “Discovery” meeting to follow up and clarify. You can also gather data that may seem arbitrary right now, like anniversaries or birthdays, to continue to provide a high-quality service in the future.

Remember: the more data you can gather upfront, the more you can improve the client experience down the road.

Step Two: Assign Clients to a Meeting Cycle

As soon as you onboard your new clients, they should be assigned to a meeting cycle. Whether you want to meet with your clients annually, semi-annually, or quarterly, you’ll be able to set reminders for meetings, and for any additional updates you need from them during the onboarding process. This will also help them to know exactly what to expect for the future of your engagement.

Step Three: Determine How You Want to Gather Data

You can either gather data from your clients in-person or digitally. Often, advisors think that the most efficient way to gather data from their clients is to do it in person, or to hand-hold their clients through the process.

However, I’ve found that empowering clients to upload their own documents, and provide some level of data gathering on their own can actually engage them more in the process while freeing up the advisor’s time.

For example, having them categorize their own expenses can lead to a greater understanding of there spending patterns that they wouldn’t necessarily gain on their own. Likewise, having a place for them to upload and their own financial documents can push them to be engaged at the start of your working relationship.

Step Four: Automate What You Can

Although it’s inevitable that some level of human involvement is necessary in your onboarding process, it’s important to leverage automation where you can.

For example, pre-recording welcome and instruction videos as part of your client welcome letter is a perfect way to guide your clients through the process in an automated way.

You can also have new client meeting reminders auto-scheduled when you put them on a meeting cycle in your financial planning software or a tool like Precise FP.

Onboarding and Your Team

Once you’ve decided how you want clients to experience onboarding, what pieces of data you need, and how you’ll gather that data, you can decide what member of your team will own client onboarding.

Often, I see advisors with a multi-member team continue to own onboarding. This can work, but may get more difficult the bigger your practice gets.Don’t be afraid to have an admin or another team member help kick off the onboarding process, or even just be available for client questions as they self-onboard.

The more you can pull yourself out of the weeds during this process, the more you can serve your new clients by diving into their financial plan as soon as they self onboard.

Do you have questions about your onboarding process? Need help streamlining it to improve your client experience?

Schedule a call with me today!

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