August 2, 2023

The “Why” Behind Accountability Charts for Servicing Teams

Written By Charesse Spiller

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This article goes over creating accountability charts for your servicing team is critical, how to structure your servicing team for increased efficiency, and how to track success.

This was originally written for and published by NAPFA: The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Most financial planners got into the advice industry, or founded a firm because they’re passionate about helping their clients. Unfortunately, being a business owner means wearing many hats. Part of growing a sustainable business that continues to serve clients well is learning to hire and grow an effective team. Firm owners may feel uncertain about what their servicing team should accomplish – and how to track their growth or success in their role. Today, we’ll go over why creating accountability charts for your servicing team is critical, how to structure your servicing team for increased efficiency, and how to track success. 

Why create accountability charts? 

An accountability chart is a summary of a clearly defined set of roles and responsibilities that are performed within your firm. They help employees stay organized and give managers a snapshot of what’s expected. This level of organization also makes it easy to onboard new team members and fosters a deeper understanding among existing members about their individual roles impacting the firm’s unique client experience. 

Developing accountability charts for your firm provides you with five unique benefits:

  1. You start to focus on positions, not people. Relying on “Jack” or “Jill” to accomplish specific tasks in the day-to-day may make sense, but what happens if that person leaves the firm? Or if they get promoted? Accountability charts allow you to look at a role and what it needs to accomplish to move the needle forward for the organization. It helps you to create scalable processes and a consistent client experience.

  2. Career path development becomes clear. When you build accountability charts, your team members can see exactly what they need to accomplish, and where they need to grow if they want to advance in the firm. 

  3. Team morale increases. Every team member should see that their efforts matter. Non-advisors, because they work behind the scenes, may feel less than others – and advisors may perpetuate that feeling unknowingly. Accountability charts help everyone to see how their work is interconnected, and it builds a solid culture and team approach.

  4. Hiring is a snap. Whether someone leaves the firm, or you promote an employee, you have a ready-made list of responsibilities you’re hiring for.

  5. You can focus on where you shine. Advisors are excellent practitioners – and that is the only role they should focus on in the business. There are many more responsibilities that need to be handled, and accountability charts help to delegate these responsibilities to your team so you can focus on what you do best!

Before you get started

Ready to dive into creating your own accountability charts? First, it’s wise to take a step back and think high-level: 

What are your firm’s goals? 

You may be looking to create accountability charts to: 

  • Clearly define roles

  • Check to see if you are over (or under) staffed

  • Change responsibilities

  • Redefine the roles of the owner or partner of the firm

  • Start outsourcing a component of the business 

Once you define what you’re looking to accomplish with your accountability charts, you can start to evaluate your current team roles and their corresponding responsibilities. Start with a survey of all existing team members. This can help you to identify gaps if and where they exist, and highlight skill sets you may not have been aware were necessary for a specific role. Questions in your survey might include: 

  • What does your typical workday look like?

  • How are tasks usually delegated to you?

  • Are there communication or operational areas you’d like to see improved?

  • How do you feel about and/or utilize the firm’s systems and technology?

As you collect responses, you can go through the process of organizing your servicing team based on the tiers of service they support. For example, if you split your servicing team by different service offerings (financial planning, investment management, etc.) their roles may look different across the firm. 

Building your client servicing team from the ground up

Remember – during this process, you’re focusing on positions, not people. In that sense, you’re truly building your servicing team from the ground up. You can place team members in their appropriate roles when you’ve completed the process. 

Advice & Expertise

Your “advice and expertise” team members provide expertise on financial planning topics. These should be team members licensed to give advice – senior advisors, for example. These roles often also take on some leadership or team management duties. This could include overseeing plan implementation, monitoring, delegating tasks to relevant team members, etc. 

It’s helpful to view the “advice and expertise” role in two buckets: 

  1. Behind-the-scenes work. This could be a behind-the-scenes expert, like a paraplanner, who is making recommendations and preparing a client’s plan. It could also be an Enrolled Agent (EA) who is preparing tax projections for clients. Keep in mind that some of these behind-the-scenes roles may be a hybrid of operations and administrative if you have a smaller firm.

  2. Client-facing work. This could be a lead financial advisor, firm founder, or associate advisor, who coordinates client communications and develops relationships with clients through meetings and presenting their plan.

Responsibilities might include:

  • Delegating plan management.

  • Delegating paraplanning.

  • Plan review, analysis, and running scenarios prior to client meetings.

  • Implementation of a financial plan (or overseeing implementation). 

  • Areas of focus or specialty (example: junior advisors who are licensed to may prepare recommendations, but the lead advisor approves the plan). 

  • Client relationship management via email and meetings.

Operations

Your operations team’s primary goal is to execute the client service calendar. Their role responsibilities may include:

  • Managing execution of client service calendar 

  • Tech stack management and evaluation

  • Focusing on new tech integrations to streamline processes

  • Monitor KPIs and overall firm performance 

  • Makes recommendations on areas of improvement

  • Ensures firm is compliant

  • Higher-level operations professionals may manage team members.

  • Training and onboarding new team members

  • Spearheading hiring or growth initiatives

Administration

Your administration team focuses on the details of your client service calendar and execution. 

Their responsibilities might include:

  • Answering client service requests

  • Coordinating with other professionals or outside agencies (think: marketing, paraplanners, operations professionals, estate planning attorneys, CPAs, etc.)

  • Manages the client support role and gathers appropriate data to execute an exceptional final presentation to the client (whatever that may entail)

  • Handles paperwork and account management

How do you measure success in each role?

It goes without saying that you’ll expect each person on your team to execute their job function – and execute it well – to continue to grow in your firm. But what does it look like to have a team member who is fully ready to level up and move forward in their career path? 

You can use the accountability chart to hold team members accountable to their standard job functions, but you can also include “WOW” factors that each role is responsible for. These can be a way for team members to show they’re ready to take on new and exciting challenges and responsibilities within the firm. 

Advice & Expertise: Personalized client experiences for this role is key. These can encompass small details such as commemorating significant milestones with your clients (such as purchasing a house or retirement), as well as more extensive personalizations such as designing a scalable communication and education plan for both team members and clients as the company expands.

Operations: Operations professionals should focus on consistency and execution of service, as well as technology as their “WOW” factors. This could look like auditing the firm’s processes and tech stack for inefficiencies, researching technology integrations, and eliminating unnecessary steps through automation.

Administration: Administrators on your team should focus on presentation and follow-through as their “WOW” factors. This could be organizing brand deliverables and making them accessible to team members and clients. It could also look like consistently auditing the “to do” list of the firm to ensure that tasks are being accomplished and that clients are moving through the service calendar seamlessly. 

What if your firm has a role that does double duty?

Many firms have a small but mighty team where team members may wear multiple hats. That’s okay! These roles don’t have to be siloed. You may have an advisor who also acts as the lead operations manager or an operations professional who runs the ops side of the business and also executes administrative client service work. 

If this is the case, it’s important to still define what each role in your firm is and if one team member is doing double duty. You can even go so far as to audit how many hours the team member spends on each area of their job role. This can help you if the team member moves on, or gets promoted, to know what to hire for (even if it’s a part-time position to fill the responsibilities they’re leaving behind). 

Get ready to implement

Remember: accountability charts often mean shifts in job roles, and how your service calendar is executed. So, take your time when going through implementation. Give both your team members and your legacy clients plenty of notice if changes are happening. Communicate proactively so that everyone is on the same page and is clear on who is taking on which position in the firm. It’s important that a strong facilitator spearheads this project to ensure that communication stays consistent, and that both internal and external “to do’s” are executed well.

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