Retirement Planning

Making a Good Advisor-Client Match


Good rapport important for mutual success

Establishing a solid personal relationship in which financial advisors and their clients are comfortable working together provides the foundation for a successful, long-term relationship.

Fifty percent of financial advisors believe getting to know their clients personally is a critical factor in their success, according to the 2020 Global Survey of Financial Professionals. The survey, conducted by Natixis Investment Management, also found 54 percent cited frequent client communication as a major factor, while 40 percent said it was important to proactively communicate during times of crisis.

Working and communicating with the right clients has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Melvin L. Pope III, managing partner and owner at Financial Partners of North Florida in Tallahassee. The firm evolved from Pope’s insurance background to encompass three practices: investment advisory services, boutique employee benefits, and life insurance.

melpopehead“We want people who want and need great advice and are willing to listen,” Pope said. “One of the keys to having a good/great client relationship is us giving good/great advice and the client taking it. Clients rely on us to provide the best information available in the marketplace. There's so much more to client portfolio management than buying an index fund or following a robo-advisor.”

Building a solid working adult relationship allows all the parties to have an open and honest dialogue about whatever is happening personally and in the market.

“I've never been someone who advertises, because I don't really want to get clients that way,” he said. “I want clients who are attracted to the work we do for others and in our community, and the people that we are. If we're suitable for them for those reasons, then we're going to be a good fit for a long time.”

Pope added, “My minimum criteria for a client is for them to be a really a good person. My clients range from sheriff’s deputies to high-net-worth individuals.

Making sure there is a good rapport is important for both advisors and their clients. When people choose a financial advisor, Pope said, they should approach it as they do with other professionals, such as doctors and lawyers.

“You need to decide: ‘Is this the kind of person I want to work with long-term? Can this person work on my team with my CPA, my lawyer, and my family if something happens to me?’ If you're comfortable with them, then you can drill down to the analytics: What does it cost? What do you do? Who else do you work with?”

Educating clients to improve financial literacy helps support that relationship.

“Simplicity is the key to education,” Pope said. “I use simple analogies to eliminate jargon and make it simple for people to understand. I try to work with them and be a good storyteller.”
He said one challenge he encounters is many people are not saving enough.

“I think advisors are sometimes a little bit timid about telling their clients that they need to save more money,” Pope added. “You have to be frank with them.” Let them know you can’t get there from here” if it is true.

Like most financial firms, Financial Partners of North Florida’s staff moved from the office to their homes in early 2020. His staff pivoted to managing the workflow remotely while continuing meaningful conversations with clients.

Pope said he had not participated in a Zoom videoconference until last spring. As more clients began working from home, the number of Zoom calls increased.

“People at home were doing some introspective planning, which created opportunities we didn't have when everybody was busy,” he said. “We first began getting some smaller life insurance cases. We had already begun handling those online, but we did that much more regularly in the spring.”

The firm also brought some larger, more complex cases to market during the shutdown. Those cases took more time, more calls, and greater attention to client needs and details as those cases moved forward. Pope added the firm decided not to spend time on its “maybe” cases, setting them aside until later.

Another major focus for the practice is retirement planning. Diverse client needs require every retirement plan to be tailored to meet their individual situations. Pope said his firm does not like “one size fits all” programs” that provide a cookie-cutter solution for every case. While that might streamline efficiency, he noted, they can also limit what components are included in the financial plan.

“We believe that people create a number of different buckets, and we like that” he continued. “Those can be buckets of money or buckets of opportunities to improve their long-term planning, such as proper defensive planning with insurance or maximizing an HSA. These tools are all part of the financial web we weave. The more products you include, the stronger the web you create for your financial planning needs. We like to see a lot of different things for our clients – qualified and non-qualified money, college savings, life insurance, HSAs – all in the web. All these tools are coordinated to make a strong financial plan.”

Natixis StatsFor example, Pope said he has recently been using the newer life insurance tools that include long-term care riders to help people protect their retirement savings, and provide the ability to provide a modest legacy and gift-giving opportunity. This approach also helps the firm address the downside risk and costs of long-term care protection so retirement planning can focus more on long-term portfolio growth.

However, the firm does not offer standalone fee-based financial planning.

“If somebody wants to do straight-up financial planning, I'm happy to partner with a fee planner,” he noted. “The name of our firm is Financial Partners and we prefer to Partner and be team players”. “I like to work with others who charge fees, such as having a CPA or tax attorney on the team. We're the investment and insurance professionals, and that's where we're going to stay.”

The practice is an independent advisory firm with its own independent broker-dealer. That creates an Independent dual registration environment with an open architecture, said Pope, who is a dual-registered advisor. Dual-registered advisors can offer financial advice as a fiduciary while also selling investment products that pay commissions as a non-fiduciary. Fiduciaries are held to a higher marketplace conduct standard to always put the best interests of a client first. However, non-fiduciaries are only required to make “suitable” recommendations.

trust502Pope said he and his associates always hold themselves to the fiduciary standard, regardless of the scenario. He added his firm treats its clients like family members, providing advice as though they were his own father, mother, brother, sister, or wife.

“When we put on the broker hat, we're going to get paid commissions,” he explained. “If we're providing financial advice, we’re going to be paid fees. In either case, we automatically hold ourselves to the fiduciary standard. I don't even look at suitability from the compliance standpoint. Suitability is not the standard we work to meet. We always go for the regulatory fiduciary bar when we're helping people.”

Pope also believes that many financial professionals spend too much time focusing on the details of their platforms. He said it is more important to focus on the client and their family and their needs and how to solve them.
“It's our job to know the platforms,” he added. “It’s our client’s job to make sure that I am the right person and that we are the right fit for them.”

Pope said he is at the point in his career where he has accumulated decades of knowledge and experience, positioning him as a “wise old man” whose clients seek his professional expertise. Going forward, Pope says he personally plans to focus less on the benefits and 401(k) parts of his business, and more on life insurance and money management.

“I don't want to spend as much time in those areas as I did when I built my practice,” he added. Money Management and Life insurance today takes special experience and expertise “I don't want us to become a large firm: I just want us to be a great firm representing our great team, for our great clients and their families.”

For more information on Financial Partners of North Florida, visit:

Securities offered through Lion Street Financial, LLC. (LSF), member FINRA & SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Lion Street Advisors, LLC. LSF is not affiliated with Financial Partners of North Florida.


Follow Us

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

What's Next, Updates & Editorial Picks In Your Inbox

Related Articles

© 2017-2021 Advisors Magazine. All Rights Reserved.Design & Development by The Web Empire