(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a
columnist for Reuters.)
By Robyn Post
CHICAGO May 23 Many folks hired to be financial
planners may not be planning their time well, a number of
studies show. But those who do are more successful and tend to
grow their firms with fewer drawbacks, such as stress and
Successful firms stand apart from their peers in three key
areas: They have a clear target client; they have efficient
systems, such as for scheduling and delegation; and they reserve
time for planning.
Sunit Bhalla, who spoke at a recent National Association of
Personal Financial Advisors conference about better business
planning, says advisers simply need to spend time on the right
A Fort Collins, Colorado-based adviser to engineers and
technology professionals, Bhalla said good planning allows him
time for family and volunteering, and more revenue and profit
than he ever imagined.
He said he focused on infrastructure first, putting revenue
and profit aside to invest in technology. He chose software
programs, for example, that integrated well and eliminated most
manual data entry that takes up an adviser's time.
"I never type a client's name or Social Security number even
once," he says.
Instead he has clients use an online questionnaire to enter
their personal information. That data is then used to fill out
investment, insurance and advisory forms, as well as his
financial planning software. His account and data aggregation
tools, ByAllAccounts and NetX360, feed the data into his
performance reporting software, Black Diamond.
"Every morning, I find up-to-date balances in my clients'
accounts, ready for a meeting," he says.
Richmond, Virginia-based adviser Dave O'Brien calculated
that technology frees up 30 percent of his time. While Bhalla
uses his free time for family, O'Brien uses it to take on more
clients, generating more revenue.
"It also establishes trust when clients see how efficiently
I handle my own business," O'Brien says.
O'Brien and Bhalla's approach underscores a 2014 study by
the Financial Planning Association showing that the 13 percent
of advisers who report being in control of their time average 50
more client meetings per year.
Debbie Whitlock, a Seattle, Washington-based adviser who
recently sold her firm and now mentors advisers, found that
taking time to plan has been key. In her practice, work stopped
30 minutes early so everyone could plan out the next day.
"Where we fall apart is waking up and flying by the seat of
our pants," she says.
Odenton, Maryland-based adviser Jim Ludwick, continually
implements new systems for productivity, which is how he
produces annual revenue in excess of $300,000 without selling
products or managing money, he says.
He also eliminated free consultations because they weren't
converting into business. He now charges $100 for them, and he
said nine of 10 prospects become clients.
He also shaved time off meetings by using Google Drive, an
online storage tool, so he and his staff can review projects and
prospects together weekly in real time.
Because of his systems, he'll soon be able to work remotely
from Italy part of the year.
"My life is satisfying," he says.
(Editing by Tim McLaughlin and Linda Stern)