Jan 03 2023 / Round the Table Magazine
Practical advice for growing your A-list
By Timothy Inklebarger
It can take years for a financial advisor to develop the business acumen and connections to successfully prospect for high-net-worth (HNW) clients. They advance their business knowledge, develop a strong marketing presence and work hard to grow their business, but those top-tier clients remain out of reach.
While cultivating relationships with HNW individuals might not come quickly, the time spent can mean moving your business to a higher level down the road. We spoke with experts in the field who have worked with a number of HNW clients and learned that their success didn’t happen overnight or by accident. They each revealed different tactics they’ve used to court these coveted clients, in some cases putting in years of work with unrelated organizations to expose themselves to the world of HNW individuals.
Where to find them
Developing a long-term strategy requires building strong relationships with other members of the community. That means joining organizations and nonprofit groups
HNW individuals are associated with, according to Bryce M. Sanders, president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc., a consulting firm that trains financial advisors to develop relationships with HNW individuals.
Sanders recommends joining at least three organizations, such as an animal rescue, museum or local chamber of commerce. These groups will hold monthly events — attend at least one a month with the objective of meeting at least six people while you’re there, according to Sanders.
Glory Xavier, a 15-year MDRT member from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, gives similar advice, emphasizing the importance of building trust over time. “You become part of their family, and that leads to a very long-term relationship,” she said. She’s built her business of HNW clients in part by gaining exposure to them by playing in golf tournaments. Her success on the green increased her recognition and brought in new clients, she said. “I won a lot of tournaments, and people look you up and want to know what you do,” she explained.
Another approach to prospecting for HNW clients involves something most financial advisors already do: asking current clients for referral leads. But who you ask matters, according to Bill Cates, CSP,CPAE, a referral coach for financial advisors. Referrals from clients are typically for prospects who are in a lateral financial position at best, Cates explained. So, referrals from C-tier clients will likely result in C- or D-tier prospects.
Cates contends that teaching clients more about what you’re looking for in referrals is key to narrowing your search to HNW individuals. “So, if you approach this by saying (to your clients), ‘Let me tell you who I’m looking for,’ that’s OK, though that is an advisor/agent- centered approach. I recommend you shift that to a client- centered approach and say something like, ‘I’d like to tell you who my process is designed to serve the best.”
Having a sense of what your ideal client looks like is key to focusing your efforts, says Tristan Karl Robert Hartey, an eight-year MDRT member from Chester, England, UK. That’s why his firm conducts an annual review of their ideal client profile. The net worth of the client profile typically increases 10% to 20% every year, Hartey said. This gives their advisors a clear idea of what to say when prospecting for referrals from their top 50 to 100 clients.
He added that advisors also must make a point to talk about it with their clients. When making presentations, for instance, he tells them the amount of assets their ideal client has. Over time, when clients see that threshold increasing, they understand the kind of prospect the advisor is looking for.
How to treat HNW clients
Finding A-list clients is just the first step in building your business — advisors will likely need to change their approach to how they manage and treat these special patrons. Like Xavier, Diana Zhu, a 13-year MDRT member from Singapore, advises to go beyond the role of financial advisor.
In one example, Zhu set up a health exam for one of her clients who was concerned about the well-being of their elderly parents. “So, basically, I helped to arrange for a full medical examination for my client and his extended family,” she said. This is the kind of connection that transcends the client-advisor business relationship. While this is something that may have only taken a few phone calls and emailing to coordinate everything, it was a gesture that was really appreciated by my client because it made him feel that beyond doing business with him and beyond the policies that I am advising him on, I’m also able to help him with his other areas of worries and concerns.”
Developing a long-term strategy requires building strong relationships with other members of the community.
She also advised never to push for a sale with a HNW client and always maintain their trust. This requires maintaining their privacy, even to other family members in some cases, she said. “Most high-level individuals are very private people in certain aspects of their life. When you can maintain their privacy in a way that they appreciate, they are more likely to share more of their personal life with you.”
Finally, Zhu says these top clients are busy and often distracted with other obligations, so get to the point quickly and keep things concise. “They always like to hear the big picture, the big concept, something simple, something straightforward,” she explained.
Keeping A-list clients
Finding HNW clients is only half the game — advisors must understand how to keep them. In most cases, these wealthy individuals have everything they want, so it can be difficult to find a gift for them to show your appreciation, according to Adam Thomas Rex, CFP, AIF, a 12-year MDRT member from Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. Rex suggests donating money to their favorite charity as a way of showing your gratitude. “They need a picnic basket like they need a hole in the head,” he joked. Many of his HNW clients are involved with various charities, so his firm contacted all of them and asked which nonprofit is their favorite, and why they love them. The firm then made donations to that charity in their own names and referenced the clients as the connection to the charity, which allays any gifting-to-client concerns. Sometimes they add a twist to this approach by way of a friendly wager. During March Madness season for U.S. college basketball, the firm will offer clients a challenge. “We’ve done a competition with some other ultra-wealthy clients of ours,” he said. “And we’re giving to their charity. If we win a round, then they give to a charity of our choice.”
For those looking to not only keep their A-list clients but also grow them, work to find ways to connect those in your existing roster.
It’s these kinds of details that lead to stronger connections and build loyalty with clients. “They see that we’re giving out our money, which we are, and so it helps them also connect with us to be able to say, ‘Oh, these guys aren’t just in it for themselves.’”
But that’s not the only way to grab your clients’ attention, according to Rex, noting the importance of paying attention to anything a HNW client reveals about their personal lives and using that information to make stronger connections. One client, for example, mentioned that their 50th wedding anniversary was coming up in four years. Rex put it on the calendar, and four years later, the client was greeted with a “happy 50th anniversary” banner when they showed up to the boardroom. “They were like, ‘How in the world did you know that?’” Rex said.
For those looking to not only keep their A-list clients but also grow them, Zhu suggests working to find ways to connect those in your existing roster. Building relationships between these clients establishes a “mini-economy” among them. “It allows them to form friendships with people in the same industry or beyond, and also it will help to boost their business in some way,” she said.