15 Tips to Manage Low-Asset Clients

15 Tips to Manage Lower-Asset Clients With High Expectations

Anyone who has worked in a service industry knows: Clients and customers can, at times, be demanding. Since kicking off The 2024 Externship, we’ve heard from many new planners who say they struggle to manage their clients’ needs and demands — especially when those clients do not have a lot of assets under management.

It’s a reality that many financial planners have to navigate: Clients with lower assets are often the clients who need more of your time. It’s important that your firm or service offerings remain profitable for you, but it’s also valuable to remember that, even though these clients might not bring in a lot of money, their needs are just as important as those with higher assets. 

To navigate a client situation that requires a disproportional amount of your time and energy compared to what you’re bringing in, you need three things: 

  • Clear boundaries
  • An understanding of their unique views
  • Tools to meet their emotional needs

In this blog, we’ll talk about how to lead conversations effectively, manage expectations, and give value without overworking yourself. By being empathetic and setting clear limits, you can keep a good relationship with all your clients and make sure both their needs and your professional boundaries are respected.

Establish Clear Boundaries

Whether your client has a million dollars in AUM or $1,000, there are a few standards that you should set for every client interaction. “Boundaries” can often sound severe or selfish, but they are one of the best ways to show clients how you engage with them and vice versa.

So let’s talk about what kind of boundaries you should set in your financial planning work:

Define Your Scope

Be clear about what you offer and what you don’t within your services. Create a list of inclusions, like the number of calls, how often you will reply via email, etc. You can also include deliverables, such as retirement projections, cash flow, and more so every client knows exactly what they’re getting. This helps prevent clients from expecting more than what you’re able to provide.

Situation-Appropriate Preparation

We hear it all the time from new planners: “I spent hours preparing for this client meeting,” when the truth is the client has a very simple financial situation, and you’ll spend most of your time just answering questions. When working with clients who have simpler financial situations, it’s important to be efficient with your preparation. Instead of spending a lot of time on every detail, focus on the most important parts of their financial picture and anticipate questions they may ask. This way, you can save time and still provide valuable advice without getting bogged down in unnecessary details.

Set Meeting Objectives

Have clear goals for each meeting with every client. Knowing what you need to cover in each session helps manage expectations and ensures that all important topics are addressed. This structure keeps the meetings efficient and productive, benefiting both you and your clients. And if a client asks for a short-notice meeting, make sure you know what they need so you come prepared to the call.

Lead the Conversation

Take control of your meetings to keep them on track. Sometimes, clients might veer off into unrelated topics or have unreasonable expectations. By leading the conversation, you can ensure that the discussions remain productive and focused on their main financial concerns. 

There is a balance here. You may have an agenda, but your clients can bring up some necessary information that “technically” derails the conversation. You’ll need to shift the conversation in the direction you feel is most relevant—and yes, this takes practice! 

Decide How You’ll Manage Additional Requests

While you can’t always anticipate what a client will ask for, it helps to do a thought exercise about what you do and don’t provide to clients. When deciding on your service scope and what you will/won’t provide, ask yourself:

  • What financial planning areas am I most passionate about and skilled in? Focus on the aspects of financial planning where you have the most expertise and enthusiasm. This ensures you are delivering high-quality services that you enjoy providing.
  • Which services provide the most value to my clients and align with their needs? Identify the services that have the greatest impact on your clients’ financial well-being and make those the core of your service offerings.
  • What are the limits of my current knowledge and capabilities? Be honest about areas where you may lack expertise and avoid including those services in your package. This helps maintain a high standard of service and client trust.
  • What services can I provide efficiently and effectively within my available time and resources? Consider the time and resources required to deliver each service. Focus on those you can provide without overextending yourself.
  • Are there any services that consistently lead to overextension or client dissatisfaction? Reflect on past experiences to identify services that often result in overwork or client complaints. Consider excluding or modifying these services to better fit your scope.
  • What legal or ethical boundaries must I adhere to in my financial planning practice? Ensure that all services you offer are within legal and ethical guidelines — and adhere to fiduciary standards if you have your CFP® certification.  

Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes

When a financial planner vents about how much a client needs from them — and how little they’re making on the client’s account — this is most likely because of a difference in perspective.

It’s understandable; planners work with clients who have hundreds of thousands or even millions in investable assets. When you work with someone whose assets are a fraction of that, it can be difficult to justify spending more time on their accounts. 

However, it’s important to remember that what might seem like a low dollar amount to you could be a big deal to your clients. Understanding this helps you appreciate the value they place on your services. By recognizing their perspective on how much money they’re investing with you, it is easier to hear where they’re coming from.

Identify Emotional Reactions and Their Solutions 

After you’ve adjusted your own perspective, it’s also important to ask yourself: “What is my client actually asking for?” If they are calling or emailing a lot to ask questions, they may need more clarity or updates — and that’s a great business practice to adopt for all your clients. They may also have emotions about their money; i.e. anxiety about the markets, which poses a great time for you to explain how market cycles work and why you recommend investing like you do. 

Ask How You Can Help

If you’re not sure what your client needs based on how they’re engaging with you, you can ask: “How can I help you over the next few months?” This helps you understand their needs and clarify your role. It also helps you identify additional deliverables that you may or may not be able to accommodate! For example, you might ask how you can help, and your client may respond, “I need help with my budget.” You can say, “I would love to send you a template/resource to help you build your budget, and then I can review it!” This sets clear expectations and helps clients know what to expect from your services.

Consider Your Client’s Responsibility

Encourage your clients to take responsibility for their financial decisions. Your job is to guide and advise them, not to fix everything. By empowering them to make their own decisions, you help them become more confident and independent in managing their finances. This approach not only helps them grow but also ensures that you are not overburdened with tasks that are ultimately their responsibility.

Refer Clients Out When Needed

Sometimes, clients might need extra help that is outside your service scope or capacity to manage. Especially if you ask a client what they need from you and it’s outside of your role as a financial planner, it might be best to let them know they’ll need to work with someone in addition to you. There may be elements of their finances that they need to work on with a therapist, financial coach, or budget expert.

You can always share your list of preferred experts and explain that it’s important to you that they get the help they need. Plus, you stay within your professional and fiduciary boundaries.

Determine When to Cut Ties With a Client

Now, let’s pretend that you’ve tried everything above… and your client is still a massive source of stress or a drain on your firm’s resources. If they continually push your boundaries, have unrealistic expectations, or require more time and resources than you can provide, it might be time to consider ending the professional relationship. The client may even decide to leave themselves. 

How do you fire a financial planning client professionally? We have a few tips.

Professional and Firm Communication

When deciding to let a client go, communicate your decision professionally and firmly. Schedule a meeting or call to discuss your concerns. Be honest but respectful, explaining why you believe the relationship is no longer mutually beneficial. For example, you could say, “I feel that your needs might be better served by another professional who can dedicate the time and resources you require.” You can refer them to the list mentioned in the section above.

Set Clear Boundaries

Some clients do not take a termination well. If you find yourself with someone who is combative about your decision, reiterate your boundaries and the reasons for your decision. Make it clear that while you value their business, continuing the relationship under the current circumstances is not feasible. This helps prevent any misunderstandings and ensures that your decision is understood.

Follow-Up

After the conversation, follow up with a written summary of the discussion and your decision. This provides a clear record of the conversation and reinforces the points made during the meeting. It also gives the client something to refer back to, ensuring they fully understand the reasons behind your decision.

By recognizing when to let a client go and handling the situation professionally and firmly, you can maintain your integrity and ensure that your practice remains efficient, profitable, and focused on clients who are a good fit for your services.

Navigate Sticky Client Situations With Ease

Managing lower-asset clients who demand a lot of attention can be challenging. However, with the right strategies, it’s possible to maintain a productive and respectful relationship on both ends. By setting clear boundaries, understanding your clients’ perspectives, boosting your emotional intelligence, and knowing when it’s time to let a client go, you can ensure that everyone’s needs are met. 

Remember, effective communication and empathy are key to effective, long-term planning (and client relationships). If you find yourself overwhelmed, take a step back and assess your approach to client management. For more in-depth strategies and practical tips on how to navigate murky client waters like these, join Amplified Planning. Inside our financial planning subscription, you unlock video courses hosted with REAL financial planning clients, designed to help you enhance your planner skills, communicate well, and provide top-notch service to all your clients.

For every video course you complete, you can earn 50 Standard Pathway experience hours toward your CFP® certification.