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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode:

  • How Reese’s company is bridging the gap between data and an emotional connection.
  • The importance of having a human connection in most professional jobs.
  • Why financial advisory will likely always require a human element.
  • How to connect to the emotional side of financial planning.
  • Why communicating frequently with your clients is key.
  • How to make the communication piece as easy as possible.
  • The benefit of listing out each functional job that you do.

Micah and Matthew often discuss the importance of going above and beyond for your clients, ensuring that they are receiving massive value from an advisor that isn’t like anyone else. One way to do this is to learn from other advisors in the industry who are making a difference and have seen the success that you desire. So, in this episode, Matthew is joined by Reese Harper, the founder of Dentist Advisors and someone who is making a big impact in the advisory space.

Listen in as Reese explains how his company is providing long-term advice that goes above and beyond the status quo, as well as the importance of bringing human connection into financial advice. You will learn how to make communication with your clients even easier, why you have to list the functional jobs that you do, and the benefit of being as efficient as possible.

Podcast Article:

Strengthening Client Relationships With Reese Harper

Are you missing out on these important opportunities to connect with your clients?

When it comes to being a successful financial advisor, Matthew Jarvis of The Perfect RIA podcast knows it’s best to learn from the success of others. He spoke to Reese Harper of Dentist Advisors and the Elements Financial Planning System, who experiences the industry from both sides: as a successful advisor in the trenches and as a software provider who serves other advisors. In this article, Harper demonstrates how financial advisors can grow their businesses by forging stronger client relationships.

Action Items in This Article

  • Don’t just refer to what you do as “financial planning”—make your value tangible by explaining to your clients just how many little jobs you really do for them.
  • Look for ways to connect with clients on a social and emotional level. That’s where you really deliver the most value.
  • Become an expert in your clients’ industry. From that vantage point, you can develop unique solutions that will make your business the obvious choice for them.

Solve the Problems Only You Can Identify

“What can I do differently from everyone else in my field?” That’s the question Reese Harper asked himself as he was growing his wealth management practice. He answered that question by focusing on a specific niche market—dentists—and the shift propelled him to success in that market. And that’s when the magic happened.

Once Harper became the expert in his particular field, he discovered his clients had certain needs that just weren’t being met yet. “What I learned, inside of that experience, was that we were missing something that lives in between financial planning software and CRM and the cell phone. How can I communicate with my client and deliver consistent value and touches—we call them micro-interactions—to my client through mobile tech?”

Harper knew the younger generation trended toward mobile-based solutions for their needs, and dentists were no exception. He had uncovered a need that no one had paid attention to before. And he realized other advisors were likely experiencing the same disconnect in their own client communications.

That’s why he created the Elements Financial Planning System. “Elements was an attempt to simplify a really complex set of forecasts and cashflow models into just a dashboard of KPIs,” Harper explains. It’s a project management tool to make planning simpler, a scorecard that tracks key metrics like retirement, cash flow, asset mix, investments, and estate status to help financial advisors understand the greater picture, bring down their cost of support, and be more efficient with their client interactions.

Most importantly, it helps financial advisors reach their clients right where they live: actions are easy for clients to accomplish, and a prompt or personal touch is just a message or push notification away. Hundreds of other advisors conduct their practices by logging into their financial planning software, downloading a PDF of a giant report, and sending it to their clients. Elements make it possible to do things differently. This unique approach to a problem no one else was solving helped Reese become the perfect solution for a large section of the market.

Communicate With Your Clients

In his book Jobs to Be Done: Theory to Practice, Anthony W. Ulwick explains that there are three categories of jobs: social, emotional, and functional. Harper’s own research supports this idea, indicating that advisors who focus only on the functional aspects of their work are overlooking opportunities to connect with clients on a social and emotional level.

“I found that that’s the difference between really engaged clients and clients who are just struggling to engage. If you’re always reaching out with functional stuff all the time—Can you send me this? Can you give me that? Can you update this?—it just kind of burns them out after a while because it’s not that interesting. They want to story-tell and hear stories. They want to feel a connection to their advisor more than they want to get functional jobs done.”

Think about it: if data were all clients were really looking for, they could do a Google search. But while Google can tell them how much they should convert to a Roth IRA, it can’t tell them how to do a Roth conversion that will help them accomplish a certain personal goal for their kids. That’s where advisors can truly deliver the most value.

Explain What You Do

To impress his value upon a client, Harper doesn’t tell them he’s helping them with comprehensive financial planning. That might be why they’re in his office, but that’s not really the job they want done. In reality, the client has seventeen little jobs in mind, ranging from emotional to practical. Part of the financial advisor’s responsibility is helping every client understand what goes into each of those little jobs—and the value the advisor provides by managing each one.

Harper explains to clients, “One of the things I do is monitor the change in your net worth on a quarterly basis so that I can identify if we’re trending in the right direction.” He walks them through the basics of how he does that job, and he makes sure they understand why it’s important to do it. Then he does the same with his estate planning work, his insurance work, his approach to debt, and all the other important tasks that touch the clients’ account.

Don’t gloss over all the things that make your financial planning business special. By disclosing each of the jobs that make up the service you provide, you’ll make your total value more tangible to your clients, and they’ll value your services more than ever.

 

Read the Transcript Below:

This is The Perfect RIA, in case you didn’t know. Bringing you all the strategies to help your business grow. Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? Sit back and listen in while you feel the beat. Another myth bites the dust…

Matthew Jarvis:   Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The Perfect RIA podcast. I am your host, Matthew Jarvis, and with me today is not Micah Shilansk, but instead Reese Harper, who you may know from Kitces.com episode 184, you may know him from Dentist Advisors, you may know him from Elements Financial Planning software. Reese, really an honor to have you here on the podcast today.

Reese Harper:    Matthew, good to be with you, man. I’m excited to just release the episode me and you recorded at XYPN recently. And people of course, downloaded it like crazy and loved it, so I’m excited to chat, man.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. That was a lot of fun. We did that there in the lobby of XYPN Live, which is always a fun event, so that was a lot of fun. Reese, I’m excited to have you today because you’ve got a double angle on the advisory world, right? And Micah and I always talk about do what works, right? We want to model success. And so you have got your own RIA, Dentist Advisors, which is a wildly successful practice, very tight niche, which we can talk about. And then of course, you’ve got your financial planning software, which I think is a little too vague of a term for what you’re doing, but you’re seeing this from both as an advisor in the trenches and then as somebody who’s serving advisors. Tell us a little bit about that, about your backstory, about what you’re working on?

Reese Harper:    Well, I’ve got an RIA that I’ve been the founder for a long time. A great team over there and bringing on hundreds of clients a year right now and it’s growing nicely. Not a hundred percent year over year growth, but %35, 40% top-line growth and kind of sustainable profitable growth, right? Which I like. I’m not probably smart enough to do a hundred percent year over year growth and still figure out how to go skiing. So I try to find a little bit of balance there, but our teams figured out how to serve dentists and build a really nice niche RIA around that. And I think a lot of the topics that you talk about in your show are, what do you do different that nobody else does?

And for me the easiest way to answer that was just straight up, pick an occupation and dominate that occupation. I know that’s challenging and it’s not the only way to build a business, but that’s why people come to us, right? Dentists come to us because we’re probably the loudest and most right now, at least until some young guy or girl starts to outmarket us and outcompete us. We’re probably the most well known dental specific fiduciary that’s in wealth management and that helps, especially for the younger generation. So that’s my background there and I just really enjoyed building it. It’s been a blast.

And then with what I learned inside of that experience, I was getting to the point where I was like, “Man, we’re missing a new type of tech in wealth management.” We’re missing something that lives in between financial planning software and in between CRM and the cell phone, how can I communicate with my client and deliver consistent value and touches and, we call them micro interactions, to my client through mobile tech? I mean, that was just a big gap for us in our RIA and email and PDFs and having people log into your planning software.

All of that stuff is okay, but people are on their phones and if we can’t engage them there, it’s going to be really difficult to scale across more clients. As fees continue to kind of get pressure and we have to deliver more value, you’ve got to find a way to get more revenue, you’ve got to find a way to decrease costs, and you got to get more efficient. I mean, those are the three ways that I’m trying to, that’s what elements is trying to do. Find a way to help advisors increase revenue, bring down their cost of support, and be more efficient with their client interactions.

Matthew Jarvis:   Well, that’s a pretty interesting observation you mentioned about email and PDF, right? I mean, if you and I surveyed a hundred or a thousand advisors and asked them, how are you communicating with clients? They’d say, well, I log into, insert name of big financial planning program here. I PDF a giant report and I email it to my clients. And you and I, Reese, we look at that and say, well, that’s what every other advisor is doing, right? If you’re going to a prospect, whether you have a niche or not and saying, guess what I’ll do, I’ll generate a hundred page report that any other advisor will do, or you could buy the software yourself and just generate it and save a lot of money. That’s not value. So I love how you looked and said great, our group, especially our younger group, they’re mobile centric. How could we be mobile centric? And then how do we get past just, let’s review your statement together?

Reese Harper:    Yeah. I mean, I think it’s really good news for the advisor. I mean, honestly, if I felt like going direct to consumer with financial planning would’ve been a smarter play, I would’ve already done it. I mean, I had a big consumer audience in dentists that weren’t my customers as advisory customers. Of the 200,000 dentists in the country, a big chunk of them are going to be self-directed like DIY customers. And so I saw really quickly that it was really hard to get someone to be accountable and stay motivated to actually do the steps to get their financial life organized and take next actions. But if you insert a human in there, it’s like a really, really important power up in a lot of cases to get people to sort of pay attention and care.

And you see that in a lot of industries, whether it’s nutrition or personal training or medicine, you take the professional out of the picture and the industry kind of just, it dies. There’s more value in the industry when there’s a human involved especially in financial planning. So what we found was that a lot of times the communication that’s required isn’t as sophisticated as you would think. It’s just very simple stuff, but it needs to be from the advisor. It needs to be personalized. It has to be thoughtful.

So for example, it could be as simple as a push notification or a message out to the client that says, I just noticed your youngest turned two years old. I don’t want to intrude and I don’t want to get too personal if this is uncomfortable to ask, but what’s your family plan going forward? Do you guys think you’re going to… Is this two kids seem like we good? Or do you think three? Do you mind sharing a little bit more with me about any plans for the future of your family? And it’s that simple and it’s bridging the gap between data and an emotional kind of connection that you can make with a client. And they care a lot about these emotional support related jobs. They care less about the functional stuff. The Roth IRA conversion is meaningful, but they really actually want to know that you care.

I did this big project after reading a book five years ago by Anthony Ulwick, it was called Jobs to be Done. He has a consulting company in Silicon Valley called Strategyn. And it’s basically Anthony, Tony Ulwick, and Clayton Christensen, a Harvard business school professor, worked together to come up with this theory about what jobs consumers are trying to get done from their products that they buy or their service providers. And there were three categories of jobs, functional jobs, emotional jobs, and social jobs. And if you look at that in financial planning, a social job would be like, I want to look good to my friends, right? I want to look good and not look like I’m out of control with my money or I want to look like I’ve got all my crap together, right? That’s a social job. You’re queuing to people around you that you’ve got your financial house in order. There’s a ton of social jobs like that.

There’s emotional jobs which are like, I want to feel like I’m headed in the right direction. I want to feel confident that I’m moving towards the right end game. I want to feel like I’ve got a smart person in my pocket that I can just reach out and call. And then you’ve got these functional jobs like, I’ve got to open an account for my kid’s 529. I want to convert my Roth IRA. I want to be able to put money into retirement plan. And the functional jobs are what they expect from their advisor a lot, right?

So of course, you’re going to be managing my account and doing my investing and you’re going to be talking to me about all these expected things that I’ve heard as part of your job, but what they don’t expect are when you connect the emotional kind of side of financial planning and you kind of cross that boundary just a little bit in a way that feels really human and really valuable. It could be asking a question about values, it could be determining someone’s life plan in a little bit more depth, right? Clarifying a question about, “Hey, tell me a little bit about why you bought that property. Tell me, what does that property mean to you, if anything? Is it a residence you’re going to kind of turn over and dump? Tell me about, when you bought it and the story behind why you bought it and what that location meant to you, why that city?” You’re getting past the value of the asset itself and you’re getting into the why, the emotional kind of side of each thing on their balance sheet.

And I found that, that’s kind of the difference between really engaged clients and clients who are just struggling to engage. If you’re always reaching out with functional stuff all the time like, can you send me this? Can you give me that? Can you update this? Your account’s not linked, can you link it? It just kind of burns them out after a while because it’s not that interesting. They want to story tell and they want to hear stories and they want to feel connection to their advisor more than they want to get functional jobs done. Anyway, I just wanted to share that and see what your reaction to that might be.

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Matthew Jarvis:   Well, I think there’s several things to kind of spin out of that, right? One, I love this idea that the best advisors know the stories to ask, right? Because that’s ultimately why people hire us, right? Reese, if they were just looking for data, Google already has all of the data. There is no data that Google does not have. To your example, how much should I convert to a Roth? Google can tell you the answer to that. What Google can’t tell you is how much Roth conversion will help me create whatever to accomplish my goal for my kids. We’re thinking about having our third kid, right? What impacts does that have? And I think that’s again, where we need to focus as advisors, that’s where we can deliver value.

Also on technology, a thought came to mind. Sometimes we rely too much on the technology in the sense that we expect the technology to do all the lifting. To your point though, it’s only that functional piece. I love what you’ve done with Elements and tell me if I’m positioning this wrong, where advisors can use the technology to support them going deeper. So instead of me spending the time saying, “Hey, what’s your debt to income ratio or what are these different things?” The software can tell me that and then I can help the client understand the story behind that. That again, is where my value comes in as an advisor. It’s not, here’s another report from Orion or from Morningstar whomever.

Reese Harper:    Yeah. And we think it’s really important to customize all of that communication rather than having it be system generated. The product we’re building is a really big product in terms of its breadth. It’s very expensive to build and it takes a lot of time. This is the first year, we started last year with our web development and we started a little bit before that with mobile development to test a prototype. Because we wanted to really kind of understand, we were architecting the system in a unique way, which is called native mobile development where both the Android and the iPhone applications are custom-built for the platforms themselves. They’re not a web product that’s kind of crammed down into the mobile device.

And the reason you would choose to do that is because it’s snappier and kind of more responsive and it feels like it’s a real piece of software on the device, which is, it’s a lot more expensive, but it also, if your goal is engagement from the end user, you have to be really careful about latency, about refresh times, about what it feels like to them, does it feel like it? If they’re like an Android user and they love Android and they download an app and it feels like it was built for the web or it feels like it was built for iPhone, they notice especially millennials and Gen Z, especially, you know what I mean? It’s a different market now.

So we built it on mobile and we started by saying, there’s three main components that we are going to have to address. Financial planning software is a beast. I mean, e-money is 20 plus years old, right? It’s had tens if not a hundred million dollars plus in development that’s gone into it, right? And so it’s also too complex and it’s got a lot of features and it’s been overbuilt in a lot of ways and it doesn’t do the bare minimum you want it to do sometimes, which is like, just get me accurate data on my client. I want to know if that net worth is trustworthy. I want to know if that house is trustworthy. I want to know if I’m missing any assets or debts.

And so Elements was an attempt to simplify a really complex set of forecasts and cashflow models into just a dashboard of KPIs. So that’s one component of the software is making planning simpler, turning a real complex future looking state into just a set of KPIs that kind of when you look at that scorecard you’re like, “I know exactly what I need to tell my client. I don’t have any questions.” Because the scorecard hits retirement, it hits cashflow, it hits their asset mix, it’s hitting their investment mix, their insurance mix, their estate status, that kind of stuff.

The second thing we knew it needed to do is we have to find a way to be able to communicate with the client through the tech. We got to be able to like push through mobile to them something because they’re texting a lot, but it’s tough to archive all that. We can’t consolidate all that communication very easily when it’s in 50 different channels. And so we thought, “Okay, look, let’s focus on mobile communication.” So it’s a communication and it’s planning.

And then this third component that we knew it needed to be was, it’s kind of got to be a project management system. It’s got to tell you what next thing to do, right? What you’re missing, where the gaps are at, what’s wrong, what’s something that data can identify? And that’s where these value ads come in, for us is we haven’t accomplished this yet and we’re going to have our first version of prompts. We’ve been testing them this quarter for the first time with a small cohort of customers where we send the customer an email with a copy in it and allows them to customize it if they want or just push send.

So it’s like we have all the data, we craft the communication and see, we didn’t tell the advisor to send it. We just said, here’s 10 insights that you could push send on if you want and send them to your client. And what was interesting for me, I wasn’t sure it was going to work because I thought advisors are going to spin their wheels and redo the copy and change everything. And I found most of them were just like push and send on almost everything just going like, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing. I was like, “Okay, this is interesting.” If the data is good and the copy is rational, they’ll just push and send.

And if we do this inside of a mobile device instead of doing it inside of email, the likelihood of the client actually paying attention to it and noticing it could be higher. You could do it in both places, but that’s the area we’re exploring right now. It’s like, how do we surface the next action to the advisor? It could be the dumbest simplest thing, like I said earlier, that one insight about family or, “Hey, it looks like you still haven’t put a life insurance policy in the system. I want to have a chat about that.” It could be like, “Oh, this document is 12 months old and that meets my aging standard for when I want to replace that document. Can you kick over to me a new one?”

But we’re trying to make it so the advisor can just push out a ton of communications across their whole clientele with really smart cues rather than one by one having to look at the whole case and think of the whole case. It shouldn’t be our system telling them what to say, but we should suggest what to say. Let them decide if they want to customize that or if it’s just simple enough to let it go and then just allow advisors to communicate more frequently about smaller stuff that lets their client feel the pulse.

Now, I don’t know that this is as applicable to a clientele of 15 or 20. You’ve got a pretty unique practice yourself, Matthew, where you’ve got pretty high net worth clientele, pretty high income, pretty high revenue. Maybe the frequency of touches you’re going to want to make be less frequent and kind of back off on that or maybe you’d love to have more touches that are just lightweight, that aren’t so heavy for you to deliver.

Matthew Jarvis:   Well, recently, I—

Reese Harper:    I’m still trying to understand where this applies in the market most because I know it applies in this world where people don’t have millions and millions to manage, but they’ve got 500, they’ve got 750, they got 250, they got nothing but a high income. They’re a Henry. It’s a great fit in that market. Some advisors just don’t want to communicate at all because they’re like, “Dude, if my client doesn’t say anything is wrong, I don’t want to start anything.” So I’m curious what your thoughts are about all that.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. I mean a couple things come to mind, right? Historically the retention rate in the industry, Kitces just published this again was like 90% to 95%. You could really do nothing for decades and you’d still keep your clients. And I think recently, I’d be curious about that, I think that’s shifting, right? Clients are expecting more and more. So advisors who are telling themselves, “Hey, I don’t communicate with my clients ever and it’s not a big deal.” That ship is salient. That will not always be the case. That’s where you’re going to see guys like Reese and I taking all your clients.

The other thing… I’m just throwing out there. The thing comes to mind, Reese, is how easy you made it for the advisor. An example of that, for our practice, we had for years talked to clients, “Hey, make sure you pull your credit report once a year and look at that kind of stuff.” And nobody did it, right? Nobody did it. And then last year Alex did this one pager showing clients step by step how to do it and then telling them, “Hey, if you’d like, we’d be glad to just login with you and do it.” And we had dozens of clients respond. They said, “Yeah, I did it.” Or, “Hey, could you login with me really quick?” But I like this idea of, how can we make this as easy as possible? So instead of telling your clients, “Hey, have a meaningful discussion with your kids about what happens when you die.” Give them this document that says, if I die call Reese and then do this and then do this. How can you make it as easy as possible?

Reese Harper:    Two things there that I want to respond to. One, I think that on your first comment, what’s happening is retention rates are probably going to stay high. What’s not going to happen is the percentage of the market that’s willing to work with an advisor, the people you never see because they’re never going to come talk to you, that’s going way up right now. I’ve done a lot of consumer research anecdotally and with my own testing and blogging. And I know that 10 years ago when I started people that I would talk to in their late thirties, mid thirties, the volume of people that are willing to work with an advisor then was much higher than today. They’ve got Wealthfront, they’ve got Betterment now I guess, they’ve got UBS. I think UBS just bought Wealthfront for like $1.5 billion last week.

Matthew Jarvis:   Really? Wow.

Reese Harper:    Someone bought them. I think it was UBS. Anyway, there’s a lot of direct robo platforms and people are getting used to them. Greenlight is freaking awesome. Have you guys seen Greenlight.

Matthew Jarvis:   Uh-uh (negative).

Reese Harper:    It’s like a kid’s savings credit card and debit card.

Matthew Jarvis:   Oh, actually, my kid was telling me about that. He wanted one.

Reese Harper:    They’re taking off. They’re a multi-billion dollar company in six months. There’s a lot of digital first solutions and you’re just not going to switch people away from those either. It’s hard. The people that come to you and say this, I know everyone has examples of people switching over to you from robo, but that’s because that customer was not a robo customer type anyway. They were someone who was probably most likely going to be an advisory client once they got enough assets, once they had enough complexity. But there’s this middle road of tens of millions of households, I just don’t think are going to be as likely to come to an advisor unless you’re saying, “Yeah, you can do this on your own, but here are 17 jobs I do during the year.” Right?

This is how I talk to my clients if I’m trying to sell them on my value. I’ll be like, “Well, one of the things I do is I monitor the change in your net worth on a quarterly basis so that I can identify if we’re trending in the right direction.” That’s one job I’ll describe to them. I’ll be like, “Here’s how I do that job and here’s the point of it and here’s why monitoring that is important.” And then talk to them about my estate planning job, talk to them about my insurance job, talk to them about how I look at debt, talk to them how I look at… I just list the jobs. I disclose the jobs and kind of make them more tangible to the client so that they know like, oh… Because comprehensive planning, I’m sorry, it’s not a job the client wants to get done.

They’ll never say like, “I’ve been looking for a comprehensive plan.” It’s like, no. They don’t want to do that. In their brains, they have little jobs they’re trying to get done and some of them are emotional, some are social, and some are functional. And so if you list the functional jobs out that you do like, one thing that I do every year is I make sure that I have a savings plan for the entire year mapped out, which account it’s going to go to, what percentage of our income we’re going to put away and we make sure that we hold ourselves to that savings plan so that at the end of the year your savings rate is high or high enough for your income level. And then I compare that to your peers and I give you some feedback on whether I think you’re saving enough money for your income level.

Now that’s a tangible job in their mind and they’re going like, “I don’t do that on my own. I’m not going to do that one.” And so if you can frame these in terms of jobs that you’re going to do, then the customer is likely to say, “Well, Wealthfront doesn’t do that.” Okay. But if you’re like, “Well I do index funds and I do portfolio management or I do comprehensive planning.” Well, Wealthfront’s website says comprehensive planning too. It’s got a tab there that says that and it’s free. Vanguard does that.

So my point was, to your first kind of aside, I don’t think that retention rates are going to go down a lot because once someone makes a choice to work with someone, it’s hard to leave. They just like you and there’s a lot of social kind of reasons that they worked with you and it’s a complex decision. So if you’ve got a clientele and you’re full and it’s good, then I think it’s more about efficiency because you’ve got to either generate more revenue today, you’ve got to bring down your cost, you got to be more efficient in one of those three. Anyway, we kind of went on and side on the first point. What was the second thing you talked about besides advisors leaving clients? You kind of went onto something else.

Matthew Jarvis:   It was about, make it as easy as possible for the client to implement. So if you say like, “Hey, we’ll get estate documents.” I don’t even know why I’m getting estate documents. I don’t want to call attorneys. I don’t want to figure this thing out.

Reese Harper:    Well, and for me I found that same thing with the advisor.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yes. Yes.

Reese Harper:    If I queued up something that was like, “Have a conversation with your client about the change in their net worth.” They’re just like, “I can’t. I can’t do that.”

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. Where do I start?

Reese Harper:    But if I sent them a message that said, Tom’s net worth went up $62,000 in the last three months, one of his assets makes up 70% of his net worth and it’s a manual entry. He hasn’t updated it in eight months. Ask him what the value of this asset is. Here’s the copy, push send. Then they’re just like, boom. And I’m like, “Okay.” I can’t just tell them generally what to do. I got to be real specific. And the minute we started doing that, it was like, “All right, it’s working.” And it’s hard because as an advisor, I felt that pain in my practice as well. And I guess it was natural for us to kind of figure out the solution to that, but I don’t want to have to think about what to do. I just want to be told what to do and I’ll do it and make a little bit of customization, but if you tell me like, “Go execute this big plan.” It’s really hard for me to do that.

So we’re not trying to ensure comprehensive planning happens all up front or we’re not trying to be too dogmatic here. What we’re trying to do is get activity to happen between the client and the advisor all the time. And so if somebody doesn’t log into their app and it’s been like four days, I’m going to prompt the advisor with a custom message that lets him ping the client and say, “Hey, we still haven’t been able to finish building your net worth. Net worth is really important to me for these reasons. Can you add an asset by clicking this button?” And just give the client the freaking button? Give them the button.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. Right there. The link in the email.

Reese Harper:    Yep. In our case, the prompt I was just describing, that’s a text message with an actual button in app that they’re just going to go like push, add the asset. Anyway, that’s the type of work that we’re experimenting with is communication, next actions, and then a simplified planning system so that we’re not doing this big, heavy lift every time to get started because no one really cares about that. That’s an advisor tool. These forecasts, these Monte Carlo simulations, these are advisor tools. They’re not client facing tools. They just weren’t designed to be used that way in the beginning.

Matthew Jarvis:   Something we touched on lightly at the beginning of this episode and you just mentioned again, it’s kind of the technology you need to make you more efficient, right? I was talking to a group of advisors recently and we did this informal poll and they were saying that it was taking them up to 90 minutes to prepare for a client review meeting. 90, that’s just longer than the meeting itself. And I’m more in the 10 to 15, probably less range, but what we realized, they were spending all this time to manually think, all right, do I need to talk to them about estate planning? To manually think, is their net worth up to date? To manually think, are they logging in?

And it sounds like that’s a real power of Elements, is to say, great, here are these cues. If you’re getting ready to walk into the client meeting, here’s 17 cues, these 17 jobs you spoke of, Reese. You’re not going to talk about all 17 in the meeting, but here’s three to highlight. So I love this idea of handing over some of that heavy brain work to the technology, but don’t think that the technology is replacing you.

Reese Harper:    Yeah. My vision, honestly, for the way meetings are going to work is the meeting is a place where you’re going to go explore the emotional jobs with the client, right? You’re going to go and just enjoy a conversation. All you have to do is show up because in the background, guess what’s been happening the whole time, data has been being maintained, little push notifications have been being sent to the client. We’ve tackled jobs throughout the year periodically so we’re not having to do them all in a meeting. Meetings can now become, like when you do your surge, your surge is yes, you might have a particular value add, but most of the time you’re just trying to build emotional connection with these clients. And you’re not stressed out about like, what are we missing, are we behind on stuff because you’ve got a system that you trust behind the scenes that’s always identifying when a job is aging.

So a job has an assignment date and a time and if it ages, then you’re going to complete it at the time it’s aged. You’re not going to wait for the next meeting. You’re just going to get the job done and your staff can do the job, right? And you don’t have to do it all. So a savings plan, we’re not going to talk about that in the review meeting. We’re going to talk about that when it expires and when it’s time in the calendar to accomplish that for the client. It’s going to be a simple push notification task of, this is what I think we’re going to do this year. Does that seem good to you? Yes or no, and comment.

Matthew Jarvis:   I love it.

Reese Harper:    That’s kind of what we envision, but that’s a world that’s still, I’m painting a picture that’s 12 months out from now, man. I’m like, “In three months, I’m going to be able to finally get a job done of some kind in the system because we’ll finally have Android and web and iPhone.” And it’s exciting, but this stuff, the software that has lasted in wealth management, I don’t know if people realize this, but it’s not a giant software market. This is a small market.

Matthew Jarvis:   Very small.

Reese Harper:    It’s a max, $3 billion in spend market and that’s why there’s only two or three big companies. And the reason there’s not a bunch of little ones is your product has to get to a certain place before anyone can even use it. It’s like, do you have integrations? No. You’ve got 50 questions as a baseline, you got to dump millions into it before you’re even possible to use. So it’s just a tough market.

Matthew Jarvis:   I had read one time, this was years ago and it was pointing out that Microsoft has a bigger beta test group than our entire industry, right? Their beta test group before they roll out the next version of Excel or whatever it is, that’s bigger than our entire industry. So you’re never going to get an Excel or Office 365 version of financial planner. There’s just not a market for it.

Reese Harper:    There’s not a market for it. And so you have to have another way to monetize in order to get the scale that you need. And one of the things that we’ve been seeing work that’s different about our platform is advisors are using this on a one to many relationship. Meaning, they’ll host coaching consults once a month, do webinars with a client on a topic, but you’re not committing to do private wealth services for that end customer. They’re managing money with you, they’ve got smaller assets, but you’re coaching, you’re training, they’re self-directing. You’ll ping them once in a while and keep them going in the process, but you’re not committing to do all the jobs for them and you’re not committing to be a private wealth counselor because you’re building… Right now the problem in our industry, the funnel of wealth management practices is super narrow. We don’t have a big funnel up top.

In marketing what you want to do is have a big open funnel at the top, tons of possibilities and then slowly push people down to the bottom of the funnel. And in wealth management, the funnel at the top is tiny. It’s like, you got to have this much in assets and this much in AUM, got to meet this profile. You got to be willing to do it all with me, all or nothing, turn it all over. And so you don’t have a very big pool. So what we’re trying to do is say, you can have a pretty big prospect pool. You could have a fairly significant coaching pool. You could have a private wealth pool that’s your smallest segment. You don’t have to turn away people just because they’re small. Why don’t you just give them less? Why don’t you just commit less?

Don’t commit anything personal to them. They don’t get a one on one relationship, but they get a one to many. And we’re seeing that work really well. You’re seeing it work in a lot of other platforms too, like Origin. There’s a lot of 401k kind of market stuff where advisors are doing one to many advice and they’re monetizing it really efficiently. It’s better than their private wealth, profitability in some cases. So I just think that’s the future more efficiency and less bottlenecking.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. Reese, I’ve loved this conversation. It’s really a lot of fun. This podcast, as you know is all about taking action. So I want to highlight a couple of quick takeaway action items that advisors can implement right away. And I got to say the number one that I just wrote down in our conversation, and this is actually number one. I love this idea of explaining to clients, I have 17 jobs. In my mind this is a version of the dishwasher roll. So I wrote this down on my page to say, “Hey clients, one of my jobs is to do this. One of my jobs is to do this.” To highlight for them that you’re not just rebalancing their account once a quarter, that you’re not just doing this vague, opaque comprehensive financial planning that nobody is actually wanting. If they ask for it, it’s only because they’ve been told to ask for it. Yeah. So that would be my first action and take away is articulate to clients, your 17 jobs or whatever vernacular you want to use for that.

Reese Harper:    Yeah. And if you want to learn more about that, go get the book Jobs to be Done by Anthony Ulwick. Chapter three talks about how to write out a job map, how you would describe the job. There’s a different way to describe it for yourself than the client. The client wants to hear it in sort of a desired outcome, what it’s going to feel like when the job’s done. And so you could just read a little bit more about that, but even if you hack it and you just write a job and that’s it, you’re going to do better than describing it in general terms, because advisors most often don’t break down their jobs into the concrete, small things they do. One of the jobs is I maintain an accurate net worth statement for you so that when we make decisions we’re not doing it blindly. Say that. That’s a stupid, simple job and they do actually value it because if you show them what that looks like, they’ll be like, “I’ve had trouble kind of keeping up on that myself.”

Matthew Jarvis:   Last action item throw out there is to go check out Elements, Reese, do you guys do a webinar every month that’s available to the public? And really looking at this from a lens of all right, again, how am I communicating these jobs? How am I giving clients these nudges? How am I letting technology doing the heavy lifting so that I can spend more time in those stories?

Reese Harper:    Yeah. I would say, go listen to the podcast that Matthew was on. Our podcast is called Elementality. You can go to our website and get it and then it’ll cue you of when the webinar hours are happening. Those happen every month. You’ll just learn a lot from that. We’re really trying to just share what’s worked at my RIA and we’re not perfect. And we’re working really hard to build a different type of product. My team is really excited about the traction we’re having. We’ve got over a hundred firms that are using it right now and independent RIAs. The types of firms we’re working with really are the future of the industry. And it’s fun to see big firms, small firms, solo startups, large enterprises, it’s working across the spectrum. As we get more features built into the product, it’s just going to be a layup. I really feel like we’re building the right thing.

Matthew Jarvis:   That’s Great. Well, Reese, thanks so much for your time. Thanks for these insights. Again, articulating the jobs to clients, I’m really excited to start implementing that in my own practice. Everybody, thank you for listening. Reese again, thanks for your time and until next time, happy planning.

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