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The End of the “Annual” Review

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The End of the “Annual” Review

I’ve got a big question, and it needs answering.

See, this is one of those articles where I’m trying work my way through one of those, “Why the hell do we all do it this way anyway?” type conundrums.

And before anyone replies throwing FOFA or contractual law in my direction (not that I don’t love it), I’m coming at this from a philosophical viewpoint first, legislative second.

You see, I don’t understand why anyone would want what we all call a Review, delivered on the anniversary date of their plan being implemented, as opposed to:

  • A Review when it’s requested, or
  • A Review when the client believes it’s needed, or
  • A Review when the adviser believes it’s needed
  • A Review when some serious shit has gone done and it’s damned obvious to everyone that something needs to get fixed fast.

So, the question I’m asking is.

What’s stopping us from delivering reviews on an as needed basis? 

I feel like there’s a good reason for this, borne from personal experience

Years ago I adopted the flawed approach in my coaching of having regular monthly or fortnightly coaching meetings, or whatever it was, with every single one of my clients.

Sometimes it all worked brilliantly. We’d come together and it would be just what the business needed at that point in time. We’d work through some stuff and, bingo, value would be added.

Other times, the need for help was more urgent. We’d end up on a phone call or booking an extraordinary meeting early because there was a real problem that needed to solving. No problem there either. We just adjusted the schedule to suit.

But there were times where we’d all just turn up and kind of go through the motions.

“Are you implementing what we’d planned”

“Absolutely”

“Great. Any issues along the way?”

“Nope. It’s all going to plan”

“Any big wins?”

“Yep. Big wins on fees, revenue and great conversation with a long term client who came across to our new service model”

“Fantastic. So anything else you need right now?”

“Nope. I’m super clear. All is going well. Can’t wait to finish implementing the plan we created, then get stuck into our next project”

And then we’d fill the rest of the session with conversations about stuff, stories and the same old automatic scripts people seem to run on autopilot (“Oh yeh, really busy. No, make hay whilst the sun shines. Yep, you gotta roll with the punches…”)

Don’t get me wrong, I like to be social. I also like doing work that adds value when it’s needed.

Then some really smart people showed me a better way. Now I help people on a “just in time” basis.

I think this is how Reviews should be.

If you need help from me as your coach, you get it. We may review the past, but most importantly we talk about the future and come up with a plan of what happens next. The deal from there is next time you ask for help we’ve either done what we agreed we were going to do, or we’ve hit an obstacle that needs to be cleared before we can move forward.

Here’s the point as it relates to your review offering. In most service propositions, firms make dispensation for an annual review.

(Some make dispensation for quarterly reviews, but frankly unless you’re dealing with some seriously detail-orientated high net worth CFOs paying you a motza to actively manage their affairs, most firms or clients do not need this. It leads to service fatigue, both for you and the client. You can have too much of a good thing).

But I don’t get why we need to have an “Annual review”. Why don’t we just have a review as and when it’s needed? 

In other words, when either you and/or the client think/agree it’s needed, you go ahead and book it.

Ok. Fair point. There’s a pricing challenge in there. Having an “As Needed” review offering opens you up to correctly estimate what might be asked for.

Frankly though, when I do pricing, estimation is pretty much what we’re doing for a lot of the inputs anyway (e.g. time, expenses, % of your time that is actually client-related). Truth is that unless you want to do hourly time sheets, estimation is an inescapable part of the exercise. There’s only so much pure science that can guide you before you decide to get good at the “art” part of it.

Related: The Zero Dark Thirty Guide to Workflow

Maybe another relevant concern might be that if we’re not going to do an annual review, how can we rely on the client to know when it’s needed? 

Fair call, and this is one massive opportunity to get better at communicating with your client base.

One of the many tools on The Leveraged Advice Firm program we have is a PDF flyer called the “LET US KNOW list”.

It’s an infographic that lists 16 life events that can happen which would necessitate clients making contact with their adviser so they can both assess whether or not the plan is still relevant. I reckon sending this out to each and every client every six months, preferably via a email marketing tool that can track activity, is a no-brainer.

Similarly, we’ve built service models based on having touch points – with you, your team or even outreach via SMS, email, video, whatever – to provide the opportunity to check where things are at. Some of these can be 90% automated.

You see, in this environment, wouldn’t it make more sense to say to clients, “You know what, if we need to sit down and review the plan, we’ll do it. But you’re not paying me for my time, you’re paying me to help you get an outcome. Plus you’re busy. Instead, let’s maintain quality communication and contact, and make sure we’re keeping an eye on the events that may necessitate a review.”

In other words delivering value, instead of stuff.

Thing is I don’t actually know if that’s possible in this environment of heightened fear of non-delivery on ongoing service requirements.

I get the need for some reform, but this idea that everybody has to sit down on an annual basis to have a meeting whether they want it, need it, desire it, or not, it just doesn’t make any sense.

If you’re in the know about this – maybe you’re a compliance person, or an advisor who does this (would love to talk about running a webinar perhaps) – I would love your input. Is there anything to stop advice firms offering annual reviews an as needed basis, supported by an effective communication programme, so both the advisor and the client are fully aware of the circumstances that would necessitate having a review?

Please, email me, let me know. To me this makes more sense than much of what we’re doing now. I think it’s a key step to making reviews a more valued part of the offering, instead of just ticking a box to avoid the wrath of the regulator.

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