Strike when the iron is hot to build deeper client relationships
There’s no better opportunity to open the door to a robust client relationship than by scheduling a post-tax season financial review meeting when presenting completed tax returns.
“You should strike while the iron is hot,” said Duncan Gates, EA, CFP®, a practice management consultant with HD Vest Financial Services®. “If you wait until May to try to schedule a meeting, it could be hard to pin the client down,” he added.
While you might also try to schedule a meeting to explore a client’s broader financial needs when you present the tax returns, with your time at a premium then, you would need to be very selective about which clients to schedule at that time. “That’s when you segment clients according to which ones appear to offer the greatest potential for a more substantial relationship,” Gates said.
Have ideas ready
In either scenario, you’ll need to have some important agenda items at hand to propose when you ask the client to pick a time to meet. The client’s completed Form 1040 will yield plenty of issues to raise. You can probably also pick up a few more just from asking a few basic questions about how things are going in your client’s life.
“There are five big life events that will have significant financial repercussions for clients,” says Gates -- a birth, death, marriage, divorce, or a job change in the family. “By just asking a client what’s going on in their life, if any of these has occurred or is expected, you’ll probably hear about it,” he added.
And when you do, you can be ready with some ideas for them to think about -- and discuss with you in a subsequent meeting. For example, if the client is about to have a new child, you can raise the topic of tax-efficient ways to save and invest for that new family member’s future college education.
According to Gates, “You can begin by taking small steps and focusing on tax-planning opportunities.” It’s important that clients view you as someone who can help them mitigate future tax liability, and not just deal with the consequences of actions the client has already taken.
Tax planning is a perfect segue into more holistic financial planning and investment strategy development. For example, if a client is reporting significant taxable interest income on Line 8a of the 1040, in today’s low-interest rate environment, that might indicate that the client has significant dollars tied up in CDs or other low-yielding instruments that could be improved upon.
Similarly, a client with a large liability associated with short-term capital gains could be ripe for an investment review. Questions that naturally arise include whether the client has personal cash flow challenges, doesn’t understand the tax implications of selling securities within a year of purchasing them, or whether their investment account is being churned by an investment advisor.
Without casting aspersions on their current investment advisor’s motives or competence, you can invite the client to come back soon “for a cup of coffee and a second opinion” on whether their investments are being managed optimally, Gates explained: “You can explain that you don’t want the client to get hit with a larger tax liability than is necessary the next time around.”
If the client is married, try to get their spouse to join them for the next meeting. If the client is elderly, it might be prudent to ask whether there is a child who will ultimately be assuming responsibility for your client’s financial affairs. If so, you could ask whether the client would like to have that child attend the follow-up meeting.
Finally, remember that under IRS guidelines, you’ll need to get the client’s written consent before delving into their financial information for purposes other than preparing their tax return.
What ultimately comes of such a meeting is unpredictable – but you won’t discover the results if you never set the appointment.
For more information about HD Vest Financial Services and how they can help you transfer a client’s wealth, visit hdvest.com/join or contact a Business Development Consultant at (800) 742-7950. HD Vest Financial Services® and its affiliates (collectively, “H.D. Vest, Inc.”) do not provide tax or accounting services. You should consult your tax professional regarding the tax implications of any investments.
The views and opinions presented in this article are those of Duncan Gates and not of HD Vest Financial Services® or its subsidiaries. HD Vest Financial Services® is the holding company for the group of companies providing financial services under the HD Vest name. Securities offered through HD Vest Investment ServicesSM, Member SIPC, Advisory services offered through HD Vest Advisory ServicesSM, 6333 N. State Highway 161, Fourth Floor, Irving, TX 75038, 972-870-6000.