Profiles in Retirement Planning

A Holistic View to Build Client Wealth

How today’s consumers are embracing the new realities of retirement

by Tom Halloran

Mr. Halloran is president and CEO of ING Financial Partners, a leading broker-dealer with over 2,400 independent registered representatives across the country. ING Financial Partners offers education, financial planning and a broad range of personalized asset accumulation, protection and distribution solutions with a focus on helping advance the retirement readiness and financial security needs of Americans. ING Financial Partners is a part of Voya Financial, Inc. and will rebrand to Voya Financial Advisors in 2014. For more information on ING Financial Partners, visit here.

We are entering a new era of retirement, as working Americans are taking greater ownership of their own retirement readiness. Many people are starting to recognize that they need help – often from a financial advisor – to navigate the new retirement reality. They need to put in place a plan that will carry them to and through retirement. The 2012 Retirement Revealed study by the ING Retirement Research Institute found that nearly 80 percent of individuals who worked with a financial advisor felt they knew how to achieve their retirement goals, compared to only 58 percent of those who did not work with a financial advisor. Regardless of age or stage, individuals want to know whether their savings are on track. They need help in understanding if the numbers on their financial statements will allow them to reach their long-term financial goals.

It’s even a challenge for many financial advisors to get a 360 degree view of a client’s finances. As much as financial advisors want to believe that they manage every dollar of client money, it is usually not the case. Designing a long-term financial plan without the complete picture is like going to visit your doctor and only getting some of your medical concerns addressed. You are still likely to come out ahead, but you are leaving some health issues unaddressed. In our financial lives, not having the full picture could mean clients take on additional risk or incur unnecessary tax consequences.

There are intriguing technology advances that make holistic financial planning and wealth accumulation easier. Leading web-based platforms offer integrated capabilities that provide a clear, organized view of a client’s total financial picture and centralize asset management. Not that long ago, it was rare for financial advisors to have at their fingertips a single platform that gave them a complete view. Now though, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds so clients expect to see that holistic picture. Having access to this capability can mean stronger relationships with clients, more efficient money management and new sales opportunities.

The Holisitc View

At ING Financial Partners, we embrace a holistic view to financial advisors and clients. It serves as one-stop-shopping for managing and building client wealth. You don’t need to toggle between different systems to generate proposals, manage money or do research, which saves time, money and energy. Savvy platforms can also help uncover new sales opportunities. One of our financial advisors was shocked to learn through our platform’s capabilities that a client had over $1 million of additional outside assets. The financial advisor shared with the client some ideas of what to do with those outside assets, after which the client ended up moving a significant sum of money to him.

What are the key elements of a best practice wealth management technology platform?

  • First, you want the ability to do everything from one system. Compare it to the process of getting all your groceries at one store versus having to drive, park and shop at multiple stores. A platform should simplify the financial planning experience, helping you and your clients analyze budgets and make investment and retirement estimates without toggling among multiple systems that don’t speak to one another.
  • Second, you want a financial view at a household – not just individual – level so that various aspects of a household’s savings and personal finances, including retirement and credit card accounts, car payments, mortgages, life insurance and disability coverage, are aggregated for couples and families. This allows you to more easily find the right mix of investments for a household and compare exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to mutual funds to third-party money managers in terms of performance, cost and more.
you want a financial view at a household - not just individual - level so that various aspects of a household’s savings and personal finances... are aggregated for couples and families

ING Financial Partners’ client-facing platform has the capability to build client-specific, personalized websites that show each client their investable assets and link to various outside accounts for up-to-date information. Clients have access to budgeting and spending tools that help them (and you) understand if they are staying on budget and on track to retire. In addition, spending auto-classifies, so clients can see if they are over-spending in certain areas of their life. Life insurance coverage can be monitored, while important documents such as wills, passports, financial statements, tax returns and reports can be stored in an online “vault”. The platform also has the ability to accept and store electronic mail, so statements get housed and organized in one place for easy viewing and filing. The tool can be set up to alert you when there is movement in funds, prompting you to assess investments as well as creating potential opportunity with outside assets.

  • Third, a best practice platform should help you to walk your clients through the investment selection and research process, showing in real-time the impact of adjustments made based on their questions and feedback. Retirement income analysis can be adjusted to show outcomes based on changes in savings, age of retirement and number of years in retirement. This process can help clients feel more in control and ready for retirement. With a sophisticated system, client interactions can move more quickly from discussion and analysis to outcomes and action. Trading can take a matter of hours, rather than two to three weeks, increasing efficiency and helping you move forward with clients while there is momentum and engagement.

Also valuable is the two-way information flow – from the financial advisor upstream to trading systems and back again. Many systems available today only allow information to flow downstream to the financial advisor. A system becomes much more useful when information can move upstream to complete trades. While not many broker-dealers offer this capability, there are integrated platforms available that offer access to state-of-the-art trading technology, including unified managed account (UMA) and rep-directed turnkey services with third-party money managers.

Another consideration is cost. Many broker-dealers charge an additional fee for access to their wealth management platforms. At ING Financial Partners, our platform is included in the affiliation fee, so there is no additional cost for financial advisors to take advantage of its benefits. Just by being a part of our network, financial advisors have gain access to the wide range of holistic planning tools and resources available on the wealth management platform.

As the need for financial advice continues to grow, tools that help to deepen relationships and accentuate a financial advisor’s value will be increasingly important. Technology helps increase real-time collaboration with clients, giving them a complete view of their financial picture at their fingertips. In addition, as financial advisors seek to scale their businesses and find ways to more efficiently serve clients, the right technology can allow them to grow their businesses and accumulate greater wealth for clients.

As the financial industry seeks to advance the retirement readiness of Americans, delivering holistic education, advice and financial solutions helps individuals reach both the emotional and economic state to feel secure about their retirement.