How one advisor mastered client communication, got featured in the Wall Street Journal


Last Updated on November 23, 2021 by Carlo Navarro

Disruption is never popular at the outset. Traditionalists express disdain towards it. Moderates view it as a curiosity. Pioneers take a chance and are sometimes rewarded for it. This is rare in financial services, where tradition all too often wins over innovation. Not in this case.

CFP Katie Stokes is a pioneer. Katie initially shied away from Blueleaf’s automated email update feature before embracing the platform, mastering client-centric communication, and getting featured in the Wall Street Journal for her efforts.

There have been many successes here at Blueleaf, but this advisor story is one of our favorites. As we wind down Q4 of 2020, we’d like to share Katie’s story with you once again.  

Embracing New Ideas in an Ultra-Traditional Environment

We first featured Katie Stokes on our blog back in 2014. Her original firm, J.E. Wilson Advisors(a long-term customer of ours) did not immediately buy into the Blueleaf philosophy on client communication. It just wasn’t how they were taught to do business.

Setting the financial narrative with regular client emails seemed like a risky idea at best for this traditional firm from South Carolina. Our way would surely spark a panic during down market conditions, wouldn’t it? Blueleaf analytics suggested otherwise.

Our internal reporting data, which is extensive, showed that regular client communications help keep the advisor top of mind.

Regular emails facilitate an open dialogue between advisor and client, increasing engagement and raising client retention rates.

As for the “down market” concern, regular emails add necessary context to help clients understand how they are impacted from a holistic perspective. As a CFP, Katie embraced that idea. Financial wellness is not dependent upon stock market performance alone.  

Combatting the “CNBC Effect” with automated email updates

The negative effects of CNBC stock promoters and forecasters were already being felt by advisors in 2014. Clients with little or no communication from their advisor were tuning in and listening to recommendations based on random opinions or motivated by profit. 

Those who shout the loudest usually have the most influence over consumer behavior. CNBC has twenty-four-hour coverage and a worldwide network. Advisors on Blueleaf have the automated email update. It’s our way of cutting through the noise and helping advisors provide value to their clients.

Financial advisors compete with the media for client attention every day. Katie Stokes recognized that situation in 2014 and reluctantly tried our automated email updates as a countermeasure. That changed the game for her, but taking it further was what got the attention of the Wall Street Journal.

In case you missed our article on the CNBC Effect

Why CNBC is Your Biggest Competitor in the Wealth Management Space

The Quarterly Reporting Fallacy

Financial advisors have long been cautioned to keep clients away from financial statements. Instead, the recommended means of communication was to send complex quarterly performance reports that only a financial professional could fully understand.

With Blueleaf, performance reporting is built into our client portal and accessible by the client anytime. It updates nightly, so the numbers are always current as of close of business the previous day. That applies to all accounts, managed and held-away.

Naysayers frowned upon the idea of regular emails and on-demand reporting, claiming it would never work. They warned that clients would panic at the first sign of market volatility, making the advisor’s job more difficult. Actually, we’ve seen the opposite. Just ask those who have used these features.

Within a few months after subscribing to Blueleaf, J.E. Wilson Advisors, with Katie Stokes at the helm, switched 100% of their clients from printed quarterly reports to digital on-demand reporting in Blueleaf. That’s what got Katie featured in the Wall Street Journal. She killed the traditional quarterly report.

Client-Centric Communications promote Calm and Confidence

When we talk about client-centric communication, we’re not referring to email marketing. That’s different. “Client-centric” means that any communication is specific to that client, addressed to them by name, and referencing their financial information.

Framing communication in this manner lets the client know the advisor cares about their welfare. Bulk emails send out general news and information. Personalized communication shows how market conditions affect the client specifically.

This approach has been proven to promote calm and instill confidence in clients, especially during down market conditions. By seeing an aggregated view of all their accounts, they can see the entire financial picture, in context.

Our automated email updates encourage clients to log into their client portal for additional details. The interface is designed to be easily understandable, even to the least financially savvy people. Blueleaf gives them uncluttered screens and relevant information.

The “old school” technique of complex quarterly reports does not work for today’s client. If they are unable to understand something, they’re not calling their advisor. Modern clients seek answers through internet search. Our system offers a simpler alternative to that.

Blueleaf Financial Updates Streamline Communications Strategy

Personalized communication is only one element of the Blueleaf platform. Our system is fully automated, making it easier to streamline communications and scale faster.

Sending regular, personalized updates to clients keeps the lines of communication open, but most advisors rarely get phone calls in response to them. Email begets email, so many clients simply send a reply back to their advisor with any questions. 

Outbound emails are also automated, making it easy for an advisor to work on prospecting during regular business hours. Seamless communications make scaling faster and easier to grow your practice.

We do offer quarterly performance reports. They’re not nearly as complex or confusing as those outdated printed reports you’re using now. Blueleaf gives you the ability to send automated monthly or quarterly reports via email to all clients. Set it up once and you never have to worry about it again. How much time would that save you?

Simple Reports Clients Will Love.

Blueleaf automatically turns reports into insights that your clients will understand.

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  • Kevin D. Flynn

    Kevin D. Flynn is a former Head Coach at Blueleaf and founder of Flynn Consulting, LLC, a business and financial coaching service for startups and small business owners.

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Kevin D. Flynn is a former Head Coach at Blueleaf and founder of Flynn Consulting, LLC, a business and financial coaching service for startups and small business owners.
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