“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein
Regardless of how you felt about the late John Bogle, we can all agree on one thing—the mutual fund pioneer was a disruptor. He looked at investing in a whole new way and changed the rules.
One of the things I admired about Bogle’s business model was its unwavering focus on customers. Unlike a lot of organizations––both within and outside of the financial services industry––Bogle’s approach was to always stay focused on what mattered to customers. In Vanguard’s case, that meant low fees, great service, and ease of access. Bogle knew that if he disrupted the financial services industry this way, customers would support his mission to level the investing playing field.
Today, another disruptor is happening in the financial services industry: advisors are refocusing how they practice by moving away from AUM to life-centered planning. Like the Vanguard model, life-centered planning focuses on customers.
There are several parallels between Bogle’s approach to investing and the life-centered planning revolution:
- Doing the right thing pays off. Life-centered planning focuses on understanding clients’ goals, both financial and non-financial. In fact, life-centered planners understand that sometimes less is more—they engage in client-focused dialogue to get to the heart of what their clients want, both philosophically and fiscally. The asset discussion, while still important, transitions to being a means to an end, instead of the end itself. Client conversations are less focused on quantity and more focused on quality.
- Putting clients first pays off. By offering a model that results in less expense to their customers, Vanguard has grown into one of the world’s largest and most respected financial organizations. By putting the needs of their customers first, investors flocked to the organization. Life-centered planners understand this concept as well. They are confident enough in their abilities to know that their sole focus doesn’t have to be ROI. In the end, life-centered planners enjoy a better quality of life because they can focus more on what they love doing—helping clients live the best lives possible with the resources they have.
- Taking chances is worth the risk. Bogle showed us that there are other models for successful investing—he took a chance during a time when many people thought he was crazy for doing it. Similarly, life-centered planners are risk-takers: they focus on putting their clients’ interests first, even if that means advising them to spend more and invest less! They know that ultimately their clients will be there for them and will in turn refer other clients to them. One of the goals for life-centered planners is being able to retain fewer clients—and enjoy a better quality of life as a result.
- Staying the course is essential. Even as Vanguard grew considerably, their focus on customers stayed constant. Life-centered planners never forget their purpose and focus: to help clients achieve the right balance between means and meaning.
Just as Vanguard disrupted the investing world, the life-centered planning revolution is poised to do the same—it’s the future of the financial services industry. As the forces of commoditization heightened regulation, rapidly increasing consumer awareness, and heightened scrutinization of fees continues to mount, financial services professionals are going to have to bring more bang and less buck to the table. It’s no longer enough to promise to seek the best returns possible—that’s a ubiquitous pledge in today’s financial services landscape.
Not only are clients and would-be-clients going to demand more than ROI, the consequences of this money-centered approach are manifold and erosive on your own life as an advisor. Who needs to constantly be under pressure to beat returns, explain your way around inevitable failures because clients are demanding the impossible, serve more clients than you can reasonably handle, and not have enough time in your day to balance personal and professional commitments?
The money-centered approach may have worked in the past, but it’s not long for this world. Just as people eventually flocked to automobiles and gave up their horse-drawn carriages, consumers are going to look for advisors and planners who can offer more than just a focus on ROI.
We all know that the financial services industry has existed largely for one reason: to push products, to push processes that push products, and to push advisors to collect more assets. This is an unsustainable model.
John Bogle saw an opportunity to change the way people invested. Life-centered planners have the same opportunity by moving away from technologically-driven results to a more genuine relationship. We are entering an age of advice where the chief algorithm is emotion-driven, human touch matters––and the chief factor driving success is helping clients capture moments in life with the money they have.
Clients of life-centered planners realize those planners are focused on them more than their money. Advisors practicing life-centered planning are in the enviable position of being able to make promises they can keep––to a manageable number of clients. The results are increased trust, a more balanced life, and clients who are thrilled with the arrangement, happily paying their fees year after year.
Who wouldn’t want that?
Want to learn more about life-centered planning? Click here.
Mitch Anthony advises financial services organizations throughout the world. An industry pioneer, he is a popular speaker and consultant, and the developer of MyFLPTools, a subscription-based service that provides a suite of discovery tools for financial services professionals. He and Steve Sanduski have developed the Retirement Coaching Program and ROL Advisor to help advisors build a Life-Centered Planning™ practice. A regular contributor to Financial Advisor magazine, Mitch is the author of more than a dozen books including the industry bestseller, StorySelling for Financial Advisors and The New Retirementality, now in its fourth edition. Contact Mitch at [email protected] or visit www.mitchanthony.com.
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