How one LPL advisor fit financial planning into an already busy practice

LPL financial advisor, James Luongo, has taken a two-pronged approach to growing his business – offering more financial planning and leveraging webinars to attract prospects.

He’s also incorporating digital tools and experiences into his practice and even hopes to one day have an entirely virtual practice. James is already experiencing business growth today and expects 2021 to be a banner year due to his planning.

Engaging a coach

James had some very specific business goals and knew he needed someone to help him develop the right plan to reach those objectives. As a result, James decided to hire a business coach.

“I knew I needed some guidance to refine my value proposition and help me accelerate my practice, and it was a great decision,” he said.

They tackled the website first, making it more specific to his target demographic – pre-retirees and retirees. Then James’ coach encouraged him to take specific action to incorporate more financial planning.

Why financial planning?

Financial planning is something James had wanted to incorporate for a couple of years, but he just hadn’t found the time.

“About two years ago, I was at a meeting in Philadelphia, where I heard that advisors need to do financial planning to remain relevant. That message finally hit home and really resonated with me,” he said.

Considering the competitive landscape and the technology available, James felt the secret to continued relevance — and growth — lay in planning.

“I knew just how important planning would be to the future of my practice, but I didn’t know how I was going to fit it into my already busy schedule. Then last year, my coach spurred me to figure out how to do it. Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic happened, forcing me to become a virtual practice overnight and giving me more time in the office to do planning.” 

Leveraging technology and a pricing structure to make planning work

To fit planning into his already busy schedule and processes, James needed a user-friendly financial planning technology that fit his and his clients’ needs.

“In the past, I was doing some basic planning, and when I first came to LPL, I started using WealthVision, with the hope of doing more comprehensive planning. But while WealthVision is a useful, sophisticated tool, it offered much more than I needed. I’m not an analytical person, and neither are my clients,” he said.

“I probably spent three months researching the available tools and obtaining guidance from the LPL Financial Planning team. After trying several financial tools, I concluded that MoneyGuidePro was the best fit for my clients and me.”

Once he had the right financial planning tool, James set up his pricing structure, which includes four different types of service offerings:

  • Wealth management plan: Includes a financial plan and investment management
  • Financial plan only: For the client who doesn’t want ongoing asset management
  • Financial review: For the client who doesn’t want a full-blown plan but want to review where they are today
  • Hourly consulting: For the client, who want one-time advice

Planning menu in place, James started working his way through his top “A” clients and is now on his “B” client group.

“I’m doing financial planning with clients more for defense than offense. I want to retain my clients. Most of my clients are paying an advisory fee, so I want to give them more value for the fees they are paying. And it’s working. Last year, I didn’t lose a single client,” he said.

However, James also sees the potential for future growth through planning.

“Right now, I’m doing financial plans for existing clients as part of their fee, but going forward, I will charge new clients a fee for financial plans, so I believe I’ll start to see some additional revenue as a result.”

Repurposing regular reviews to fit in planning, one step at a time

While fitting planning into his schedule was a concern, James takes it one step at a time.

“I’m essentially fitting planning in slowly over time by working plans into regular reviews. I tell clients that while I’ve been managing their money for a number of years, I think it would be important to find out where they stand in terms of their retirement plan, and suggest going through the planning process,” he said.

At first, James gave clients access to his financial planning portal and asked them to input the information themselves, but found it wasn’t a winning strategy.

“I concluded that I need to walk them through the process. So now, once I have the review meeting, I’ll schedule a Zoom meeting for the input process. So now, during a review meeting, I’ll schedule another Zoom meeting for the input process and email them a checklist of items they’ll need to have available for the meeting.”

During the financial planning input meeting, James simply shares his screen with the client and inputs the details alongside them.

Health and wealth

In fact, financial planning fits perfectly with James’ value proposition, which is to help clients have both fiscal and physical health, so they can enjoy their lives to the fullest.

To help clients with this goal, James decided to write a book, which he finished last year, called A Comprehensive Guide to Health and Wealth Management for a Worry-Free Retirement.

“I wanted to give my clients practical ideas for how they could work toward the type of retirement they’ve always desired. While health coaching is not my primary focus, in my book, I suggest some tips I’ve learned during my education process and that I use for my own personal health. I’ve had a lot of great feedback from my clients.”

By combining health and wealth management and layering in financial planning, James has a compelling value proposition he’s preparing to market in 2021.

“I want to use the book as a cornerstone for my marketing efforts next year. I plan on creating a webinar that goes along with the book and advertising it to attract new prospects,” he said. “I plan on creating a webinar that goes along with the book and advertising it to attract new prospects.”

To kick off his approach, he’s handed out his book to existing clients, prospects, and centers of influence, who he hopes will pass the book along as well. 

Moving to the Digital

While there are many challenges in the current digital workplace, James has adopted practices that have helped his business – which he plans to carry forward, even after in-person contact becomes the norm once again.

For example, the inability to travel or have in-person meetings actually gave James time back in his day, which helped enable him to work financial planning into his already packed schedule. In addition to the time saved, James has found walking through financial plans is a lot easier through Zoom, as he can share his screen while clients are in their own homes with access to all the financial data they need.

“Overall, video meetings have truly enabled me to spend more time with my clients and more time doing financial plans. I plan to continue offering virtual meetings moving forward and hopefully using them as my primary touchpoint with clients,” he said.

The other tool James says is making a big difference in his practice these days is MyRepChat, which allows him to compliantly text with his clients.

“Texting is an easy way to get a short answer from a client. I find clients respond quicker to texting than to an email, which is useful when I’m working on a financial plan and need a missing piece of information from someone. Plus, we all get hundreds of emails a day now, so emails often get lost in the shuffle, whereas clients see texts and respond quicker. Not to mention, you can be more conversational and less precise in a text, so it’s easier to do,” he said.

Lastly, James has been using the LPL Proposal tool to show prospects portfolio recommendations.

“I think it’s helpful to give prospects something they can look at and review, and the Proposal Tool allows me to do that. As a result, I’ve won some business with it.”

With the help of these digital tools, James is considering moving to an entirely virtual office.

“If I have a virtual practice, it doesn’t matter from where I’m holding meetings, which would enable me to spend time in Florida and avoid the Northeast’s cold winters. It would help me to live my ideal, balanced life, something that I regularly discuss with my clients.”

In fact, James sees this type of business arrangement becoming more common, even after the pandemic ends.

“I think some of the changes we’ve experienced are going to be permanent. I think people will continue to work from home. This will give them more time to focus on improving their health, as well as their finances. I also think many people, including my clients, will continue embracing video conferencing.”

With his plans for the future in motion, James is optimistic for what 2021 will hold for both his practice and his home life. He’ll continue to focus on financial planning and helping clients think about how to live a more balanced life, which, he believes, will not only help clients, but also propel his business to even greater success in the New Year.

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The views and opinions expressed by the LPL Financial Advisor may not be representative of the views of other Financial Advisors and are not indicative of future performance or success.