Building your own practice can be a delicate balancing act. You want to give your clients the best service possible while also expanding your client base and making enough money to cover your own needs and expenses. Today’s guest understands what it’s like to grow a business that does both: maintains high standards for serving clients and benefits from meeting those standards.

Jamie List is the co-founder of the wealth management firm Bearing Capital Partners. Bearing Capital is a multi-disciplinary, team-based financial consulting practice. Jamie has many credentials and accreditations: he is a Certified Financial Planner, Canadian Investment Manager, Fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute, Chartered Life Underwriter, Financial Management Advisor, and Chartered Professional — Strategic Wealth. Listen to the episode to hear about how Jamie’s firm works, how he developed high service standards, and what he believes helped him achieve success in his career.

Topics Discussed in This Episode:

  •      What Jamie’s firm does and what kind of clients they serve
  •      How Jamie founded his firm
  •      How Jamie decided to focus on his particular niche
  •      How the fees work in Jamie’s firm
  •      How Jamie thinks about serving clients
  •      Designing and developing a high level of service standards
  •      The benefits of having a high level of service standards
  •      How Jamie handles conversations about expanding services for clients
  •      Whether it’s preferable to do financial planning up front or spread it out over a longer period of time
  •      How to keep clients accountable and on track
  •      Some of Jamie’s biggest challenges
  •      What Jamie is excited about right now
  •      What Jamie believes made him successful in his career
  •      Jamie’s advice for listeners

Links and Resources:

Bearing Capital

Quotes from Jamie:

“I think I’ve always thought about the challenge, if you will, of maintaining a client as a conversation that you have to maintain over a very long period of time.”

“Service tends to beget new clients.”

“Let’s just say that the service model obviously speaks very much toward keeping people happy, but deals less with the transactional and business-building nature of what we do.”

Jamie’s firm Bearing Capital is all about serving clients’ needs, as the clients themselves define them. Today Jamie shares with us what it means to offer a high level of service and how that doesn’t have to compete with your business’ needs. Below we’ll share three highlights from the episode:

  • Designing a business with a high level of service standards at its core
  • The benefits of having high service standards
  • Whether it’s preferable to do financial planning up front or spread it out over a longer period of time

For the rest of the episode, including Jamie’s thoughts on what it means to run a multidisciplinary business, his biggest ongoing challenge, and more, click the link above or find the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Designing a business with a high level of service standards at its core

For Jamie, high service standards aren’t just lip service; from the beginning, they were actually a factor in how he built his business. In fact, he believes that if service is important to you, it needs to be part of how your business is structured from the ground up.

One major example is compensation. The truth is that we all want to do more of what pays. If you’re paid a commission for each transaction you make, it’s inevitable that you’ll look for more opportunities to make transactions that pay you; this can create a conflict of interest and doesn’t necessarily lead you to provide the best service for your clients.

Similarly, if you’re paid to acquire clients through upfront commissions, then that’s what you’re going to focus your energy on (rather than ensuring your current clients are happy).

Instead, Jamie and his partners chose to structure their business so that they can spend a lot of time servicing clients and being available to answer questions as they come up. They chose to reward themselves for maintaining clients and servicing them well.

Hint: Think about the values (like service) that you want to guide your business, and ensure that all aspects of your business are actually allowing you to live by them. Structure your compensation so that it’s based on doing things that align with what’s important to you.

The benefits of having high service standards

It’s obvious that high levels of service benefit clients, but what’s in it for the advisor? Jamie sees two main benefits:

  1. The first and most obvious benefit is that it ensures expectations are clear to both parties. When clients are disappointed, it’s typically because of unmet expectations: either the advisor didn’t understand the client’s expectations or the advisor didn’t properly communicate what the client could expect from them. Lots of contact with clients means lots of conversation, which ensures that everyone is on the same page. In turn, that means happier clients who are likely to stay with you and refer you to others.
  2. Advisors have a high compliance burden, but if you’re regularly servicing clients, you don’t have to worry about compliance as much since you’re always hearing about their goals, expectations, and any changes in their financial situation. Frequent contact means that you’re never surprised by major shifts, and you don’t have to book tedious annual or biannual compliance meetings because those conversations are already happening all the time.

Whether it’s preferable to do financial planning up front or spread it out over a longer period of time

Jamie finds that when he works with clients, they often think about their finances on a very limited timeline ‒ maybe just a few months or years.

However, Jamie needs to be able to see how decisions made today will affect his clients in the long term ‒ and his clients need that, too.

That’s why he always ensures that he writes a goals-based financial plan at the beginning of a relationship with a client. If he doesn’t know what his clients’ goals are, he feels that he can’t serve them well.

This is because everyone has different goals and different definitions of success. Without a plan, Jamie can’t make good recommendations because he can’t know how different decisions will affect the client’s ability to meet their goal.

At the very least, he needs to understand what a client is striving for, so he can come up with a timeline of what needs to be done and why. All decisions can then be measured against that financial plan, and he can compare different options based on how they affect a client’s ability to stay on track moving towards their goals.

Hint: Of course it’s important to revisit a client’s goals on an ongoing basis, too ‒ and that’s what high service standards are all about!

If you want to hear more of what Jamie has to say, listen to the full episode on iTunes, Stitcher, or right on this page. You can also sign up below to get an email notification every time an episode goes live.