“We actually hired a business coach,” explains Alyssa Phillips, Chief Operating Officer for the firm, which manages around $1.5 billion in client assets. “They encouraged us to not only develop a proprietary process, but to name it and lead with it.”
Enter: The Clarity Formula®, a simplified, jargon-free approach to financial planning. Or, in Phillips’ words, “Something clients can wrap their heads around.”
Organizing their process into a formula and clearly branding it was one of the many ways HCR elevated their business. Phillips also helped the firm organize their staff and revitalize their tech stack, both of which improved operations and enabled growth.
Expert advice: Brand what you do best
When Greg Heller left a wirehouse to focus on financial planning in 1988, there were relatively few independent RIAs. So, when he founded HCR, his value proposition was simple: He focused on clients and planning. Fast forward 30 years, and you have thousands of financial advisors with the exact same value proposition. That put some pressure on HCR to find a new way to stand out.
This need to find something unique and marketable is what led the business coach to recommend that HCR formalize its approach to helping clients.
The firm tends to attract people in some form of transition—needing to sell a business, inheriting a windfall, navigating a divorce, or the like. This specialization created a unique opportunity for HCR to holistically support their clients and offer financial education along the way.
HCR developed what they call “The Clarity Formula,” and it’s helped them connect with clients in a myriad of ways. By formalizing both the process and language, it’s helped advisors describe what HCR does. It also helps prospects and clients connect with planning in a way that makes sense to them: More holistic support, less jargon.
In a video on their site, Heller clearly outlines eight pillars for planning and uses an easily relatable metaphor—seeing through a fog—to contextualize the financial advice the firm offers.
“Whether you’re looking for day-to-day advice or facing a brand-new experience that you may not have seen coming, it might feel impossible to see what’s ahead. The true value of our service is how we walk you step-by-step through the process, customizing a road map just for you and your money. Here’s how it works,” Heller explains in a video on the site’s homepage. He then outlines the services the firm offers in context: Financial planning, investment management, risk management, estate planning, tax strategies, cash management, charitable giving, and value-added services.
The branding worked. “We want our clients to be able to have conversations with us about their portfolio where we’re not speaking over their heads,” Phillips says. After all: “This is their life, their world. We want them to be able to participate in it.”
Previously, clients knew HCR for investment management, but didn’t realize the firm offered other services. With the Clarity Formula in place, Phillips says, “We’ve seen a lot of opportunities in terms of outside accounts coming over, now that people better understand the full scope of what we do.” It helps that Phillips created clear systems to implement the formula. She not only set up an internal organizational structure for knowledge sharing, she also catalogued a comprehensive external network to help with continuing education and referrals.
Finding the right clients
Part of Phillips’ organizational structure allows the firm to pair the right advisors with the right client. This happens through regular check-ins and transparency.
HCR has an overarching approach to clients—$2–5 million in investable assets and going through a life transition. However, every advisor has a different specialty. Some are better with the tax strategies’ portion of The Clarity Formula; others might excel at estate planning.
When advisors meet with prospects who might be a better fit for other advisors within the firm, the team can easily and quickly arrange those referrals. Phillips implemented weekly team meetings for HCR advisors where these types of client issues surface.
Those meetings also allow for continuing education and resource sharing. Phillips often brings in experts to speak to the firm. “The focus on education doesn’t stop with clients, it applies internally as well.”
She adds: “We do a lot of work on making sure that our network of centers of influence, attorneys, CPAs, business managers, whomever, is very strong. It’s something we are always cultivating.”
While weekly check-ins can feel corporate, for HCR, it’s a chance to stay connected, troubleshoot issues before they become problems, and make sure everyone has the support they need to serve their clients.
Technology as a support system
Phillips’ initiatives around organization and ongoing education are underpinned by a commitment to taking advantage of the best technology available. Enter: Advyzon. When Phillips joined the firm, the tech stack was almost non-existent, and many advisors didn’t know how to properly run reports.
When HCR acquired another firm, the need to reconcile different reporting and billing systems gave Phillips the push she needed to update its technology. As she explored the options, she didn’t want to pay for features her team didn’t need or know how to use.
She also needed a platform that excelled in the areas where the firm had complex needs. “We have 65 billing specs,” says Phillips. “The firm we acquired had previously acquired another firm, so, essentially, we ended up with three different billing philosophies and needed a system that could support all of that,” she recalls. With Advyzon, HCR can set up tiered AUM, bill by security type, check cash needs before billing, and automate exceptions.
“That was a game changer for us, in terms of how long it used to take us to bill, how that used to be a super manual process with unneeded back and forth.”
That flexibility translates into being able to offer the personalized and tailored services a diverse client base often expects. And that has enabled the firm to grow.
While so many in the industry are fretting about the bear market, Phillips was actively hiring two new team members when we spoke. The big takeaway? Organize, optimize, and educate. That can apply to your methodology, your process, or your technology.
Curious how Advyzon can help with organization or optimization? Set up a demo.
See more about HCR in their firm testimonial.