A new Approach to the Wholesaler Role
The following is based on one of Equisoft’s clients. All of the names and telling details have been changed to preserve client privacy.
Competition for advisor business, disruptive tech, regulatory changes and increased client expectations are changing the role of fund company wholesalers. The old ways of working with advisors—networking, marketing, and product presentation—aren’t dead. But true relationship building requires the wholesaler to add real value to the advisor’s practice. That was the challenge faced by wholesaler, Lisa Fleming
The changing face of wholesaling
As a wholesaler for Hamilworth Mutual Funds, Lisa has a complicated role, with several different, not always complimentary aspects. She’s charged with developing new advisor relationships, while also maintaining and strengthening relationships with the advisors she already works with. Yet she also needs to build advisor awareness and usage of her company’s products.
As she told me, “The challenge for all of us is that advisor attitudes and behavior have changed over the years—they are much less interested in giving you time to present product information than they used to be. Pretty much anything they want to know about our funds or our company can be easily accessed online these days. They just don’t see a lot of value in sitting down and listening to a presentation. I can’t just show up with a PowerPoint deck and a giveaway, like a pen or a golf-shirt, and hope to impress them. Those days are gone. In fact, it’s getting increasingly difficult to get advisors to even agree to a meeting.
“And, I understand why—advisors are facing their own challenges. Their clients have higher expectations than ever before. The ever-changing regulatory landscape, fee pressures and the rise of robo-advisors and other technologies are putting pressure on them to offer better, faster and cheaper advice and increased value in order to satisfy their clients.
“What advisors are looking for is a relationship with a wholesaler who is able to help them meet those challenges. They want support in delivering better advice and more suitable solutions for their clients. With today’s fee disclosure requirements, Advisors want to work with wholesalers who will help them enrich the value-added services they bring to their clients. .
“Given all of that,” she said. “How can I separate myself from other wholesalers and gain advisor’s attention and interest?”
Redefine your offering to the advisor
“The key to successfully embracing the changing wholesaler role,” I told her, “is to reframe your approach to the advisors, and use the right technology to deliver the value they’re looking for. For instance, you use the WealthElements Wholesaler solution. So, consider how you, as a wholesaler, could leverage that technology to help advisors better serve their clients.
“Rather than asking for a meeting to do a product presentation—which has little appeal for them—you can position your approach as an opportunity for them to take advantage of a great new service you are offering—portfolio design and analytics. Offer to analyze their portfolios to provide them with recommendations for optimizing them to better suit their clients—enabling them to deliver better advice and increased value to their clients. You’ll be acting as a partner in helping them grow their business, a much more interesting proposition.”
Conduct portfolio reviews
“I’d suggest selecting a small trial group from the advisors you work with. Reach out to them with a message that you want to understand their business from a portfolio design perspective and offer guidance on realizing the full potential of their model portfolios. If they are interested, ask them to send you their portfolio models for their various investor profiles (e.g. conservative, balanced and aggressive clients). You can quickly and easily run the portfolio holdings (whether they be stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, separately managed accounts or a combination thereof) through WealthElements Wholesaler and the user-friendly, web-based platform will create a report showing how to optimize the portfolio. The results can be presented in a PDF or on-screen via desktop, laptop or tablet). An optimized portfolio will enable the advisor to better serve his or her clients, and you’ll be able to show how one or more of your products fits nicely in the mix—reducing portfolio downside risk or improving after-tax yield for example. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
A breakthrough for both the wholesaler and the advisors
The following quarter Lisa and I sat down again, this time to review her experience with her trial group of advisors.
“First of all, approaching advisors with an offer to provide a new service that can help them grow their business was far more effective at getting their attention, than requesting a product presentation meeting,” she told me. “I was able to engage eight of the ten advisors we approached, whereas in the past that number may have been much lower—maybe two or three.
“The advisors who were interested in portfolio optimization sent me their model portfolios. I was able to easily enter the advisor’s models into WealthElements Wholesaler. The application analyzed the models, automatically matched suitable replacements from the our product shelf, identified product strengths and selling points I could speak to, and then generated a PDF report I could share with the advisor.
“The results were great. First of all, I was able to develop a new relationship with an advisor I’d been trying to work with for a long time. Using the new approach demonstrated I was interested in more than just bringing in new assets, I was able to offer something they could see would help them in their client relationships. The advisor didn’t know about our emerging markets fund. But, using WealthElements Wholesaler, I was able to demonstrate how that fund would help geographically diversify their portfolios and reduce overall risk. Just what many of his clients needed. He’s now made it part of his portfolios and recommends it to all of his clients who fit the scenario.”
“What were the results like with the advisors you were already working with?” I asked.
“Excellent. My advisors have sent me portfolios for some of their prospective customers. I was able to use WealthElements Wholesaler to help them win new business by showing the strength of their recommended portfolio compared to the prospect’s current portfolio—all backed by data and analytics. Additionally, the optimization process enabled me to show them how some of our other products could enhance their portfolios and help them grow their businesses. I think in every case they were interested in my recommendations, and really responsive to the fact that I was working with them to better serve their clients and, ultimately, grow their business. It’s such a different approach to the whole relationship—partnering rather than pushing product, and they appreciate that.”
A new, systematic approach to wholesaling
“The trial was so successful,” Lisa said. “It made me think about how I could use this approach and WealthElements Wholesaler in a more systematic way to benefit all the advisors I work with.
“One of the great things about WealthElements Wholesaler is that it solves a problem I’ve long struggled with. It used to be that we’d commonly recommend the latest high-performing fund to an advisor. Which was great—until it wasn’t. Funds often regress to the mean, and today’s high-performer could become tomorrow’s average solution. That didn’t benefit the advisor or their clients in the long term. But this portfolio optimization—the analysis behind it—is a different approach. I’m partnering with the advisor to offer better solutions that improve their results and their relationships with their clients over time. And that builds trust and advisor confidence in me and what I am able to do for them. My relationships are deeper and stronger. Now, I’m finding that in many cases advisors are reaching out to me for advice rather than me trying to chase them down.”
“Because you were instrumental in helping them overcome some of their biggest challenges,” I pointed out.
“Going forward I’m going to make portfolio reviews a recurring activity with my advisors—an on-going process rather than a one-time event,” she said. “WealthElements Wholesaler saves the advisors’ portfolio models, so I can be proactive when it comes to systematically reviewing and updating the models, review the analytics and reach out to each advisor to revisit the allocations. So now I have a system in place for consistently developing and deepening advisor relationships over the long-term. In fact, management noticed the success I was having with this approach and helped me and my colleagues become even more efficient by integrating WealthElements with our CRM platform. Now my reports are automatically uploaded and a follow-up task is automatically created in the CRM.
“Based on the success of this trial, I’m rolling out my approach and using WealthElements Wholesaler to optimize portfolios to the rest of the advisors I work with. It’s a win for all concerned.”
To learn more about WealthElements Wholesaler, and how it can help you drive sales and position investment products more effectively in an advisor’s book of business, download the brochure.
Or, schedule an online presentation by contacting the Equisoft Business Development team.