3 Keys to a Lasting Client Relationship

Education, community & service

Many financial planners find that volunteering in their community through such activities as offering basic financial literacy classes can bring significant returns on both a personal and professional level.

“One of the things we like to do is give back to the community,” said Charles (Chuck) Cooper CFP®, owner and president of The Master’s Financial Group. Based in Greeley, Colorado, the firm also operates an office in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) 2021 survey of CFP® professionals found 74 percent of certified financial planners reported engaging in volunteer activities over the past year. Eighteen percent of those responding said they participated in workshops that helped people deal with financial difficulties.

Cooper said members of the firm’s Michigan office began teaching the Dave Ramsey “Financial Peace University” course at their church. Soon afterwards, the Colorado office also brought the personal money management course to their community.

Cooper head“That’s been a real plus for us,” Cooper said. “Now we are being approached by businesses who want us to teach those courses to their employees. Those employees wanted to take the course because they’ve seen the results in some of the churches they attend.”

The Ramsey courses provide valuable lessons on saving money, spending wisely, and investing for the future. However, there are some parts of Ramsey’s overall program that differ from the advice Cooper gives to his own clients. Ramsey provides general guidance, but “one size fits all” does not work for everyone, as many people need customized advice tailored to their individual situation. Ramsey’s guidance that people should not carry debt – including paying off their home mortgage early – can be problematic.

“A couple of years ago, one of the ladies in our class asked me whether I had paid off my house,” Cooper recalled. “I told her I had not and did not plan to do so. She replied, “That’s not what you are teaching us. Dave tells us to have our house paid off; why isn’t yours?” I reminded her that, at the beginning of this class, I told everyone there were certain things in the course that I disagreed with as a financial professional. I could pay off my house and be entirely debt-free, I continued. However, exercising the privilege to pay off my house would cost me around $60,000 in capital gains tax. Also, the money I would use to pay off my mortgage is earning me eight to ten percent a year, but I’m only paying two percent on my mortgage. I don’t know if I’ll ever pay it off. I would love to have my clients pay off their house: that would get rid of a lot of stress for them. But every individual’s situation is different, so each client requires specific advice for those circumstances.”

The importance of education applies to clients and prospects as well as community outreach initiatives to the general public. Cooper said his firm understands it is important to help educate clients about financial matters.

“It does not matter how much education people have when they come to us, but how much we can help them,” he said. “I don’t care if you are someone who has a doctorate: there are many people who don’t have a clue about cash flow and 401(k)s and those types of things. We have to help educate them.”

Since most people seldom discuss or understand finances, Cooper’s team focuses on getting people to talk about what they do know and what they have done in the past. He said the firm trains its people to ask the right questions to draw out new clients. That helps advisors understand the client’s level of knowledge. One priority is using terms and concepts clients can understand while avoiding confusing industry jargon and buzzwords.

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Cooper said the firm uses a couple of different systems to gather information about new clients. For a family, they ask both spouses to fill forms to gather financial planning data. Then the advisor compares the two sets of answers to make sure family members are on the same page before they begin working together.

“I prefer to hire new people and train them into the industry,” Cooper added. “I’ve had people that have come from other firms, and most of the time it doesn’t seem to work well for us. I would prefer to hire a brand new person and train them, especially if they are younger people.”

The Master’s Financial Group also works with people from all walks of life. The group does not have a firm minimum, Cooper said. He said the typical new client probably has assets of $500,000 to $1 million when he begins working with them.

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The need for constant learning also applies to the firm’s employees. The financial services industry is constantly changing, with new products and services being introduced virtually every day. Cooper said his firm relies on partners such as its broker dealer and life insurance companies to help educate advisors on changes in the marketplace. Meanwhile, continuing education required to keep professional certifications and licenses up-to-date helps advisors stay on top of new trends.

“I also stay current through a study group with approximately 20 other financial professionals,” Cooper added. “We used to meet in person twice a year but lately the meetings have been virtual, although we want to get back to doing the face-to-face meetings. On the life insurance side of the financial planning world, we learn a lot from tabletop meetings with the Million Dollar Round Table. I find that between the study group, our broker dealer’s annual meeting, and a couple of other companies that I deal with, we have access to great opportunities to learn more about the industry and the changes underway. We have to educate ourselves.”

Keeping pace with technology is also important. Cooper does not expect recent innovations such as robo-advisors and trading platform apps to have a significant impact on his business now, but it might in the future.

“I have several clients who like to play with a little money,” Cooper said, “so for them, these new apps worked out pretty well for that. But I get the serious money.” He added, “My son has been working with me for five years, and millennials like him are a different breed than those I am used to dealing with. You could see this new technology possibly affecting the younger people more than the boomers.”

Looking ahead, Cooper said his main focus in 2022 will be on continuing to grow the business. He plans to explore some of these new programs that are available and decide whether there is a place for them in the firm’s portfolio. The Master’s also hired several new representatives late last year, so it will be important to get them off to a good start towards becoming successful.

“I really encourage all my representatives to understand that this business is all about your relationship with the client,” he added. “When people call, I want them to return those calls within 24 hours. It seems crazy how much it matters if you don’t do those little things, but in the end, that’s what makes you money.”

For more information on The Master’s Financial Group, visit


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