Practice makes permanent

Soccer field

Practice makes perfect” is an expression that I have heard consistently throughout my life, particularly from my athletic coaches. I have played soccer at a high level since the age of 10, originally in my home country of England and most recently here in the U.S. as a Division 1 collegiate athlete. However, it is a spin-off of this statement that I learned from one of my current collegiate coaches that finally made a real impression on me – “practice makes permanent.

No matter how much practice and preparation you do, you will never be perfect − none of us are. However, how you prepare and practice will undoubtedly influence how you eventually perform. This statement will stick with me as I continue my collegiate career, but it has a much broader application than just sport, as I have discovered during my summer internship at Russell.

The value in preparation…

Preparation is essential in my life as I am expected to deliver a performance – for my team, my coaches and my college – on a weekly basis. Those 90 minutes of action under the lights of a college field every Saturday evening is why I’m here – it brought me to this country and it pays for my education. The pressure to perform is immense and in order to ensure I am in the best position possible to deliver, I prepare.

Whereas my performance takes place on the soccer field, the advisor’s moment in the spotlight emerges during client review meetings. Client meetings are one of the key opportunities advisors have to arguably do the most difficult aspect of their job: demonstrate their value. One of the most common questions from advisors I have come across here at Russell is, “How do I demonstrate my value?” Client meetings may be the perfect opportunity to do this, but if you do not prepare you are setting yourself up to disappoint.

A client will arrive and expect a performance; they expect a sleek, polished review that leaves them satisfied and confident that their investments are in the right hands. That 60-90 minute meeting is your time in the spotlight, to help demonstrate your value and separate yourself from the competition, so give yourself the best opportunity to do so and prepare.

Prep step-by-step

Knowing the right level of preparation is difficult and will vary for each advisor and each meeting. However, out of my own curiosity and to possibly provide an example of how the process may be done, I deconstructed my life as an athlete to discover what my preparation process really looks like. The ratio indicated that for my soccer season, I put in 12.5 minutes of preparation for every 1 minute of performance. To me, that sounded like a lot of time, so I decided to look at which activities I was actually spending my time on:

Performance chart

I’m not saying that advisors should spend 12.5 minutes preparing for every 1 minute of a client review. However, I believe there is value for an advisor in breaking down the preparation process. Take a step back and picture the difference between a high-performing advisor and an average advisor delivering a client review. In many cases, the difference in quality boils down to their attitude towards preparation. An average advisor may waltz into a review unprepared, able to deliver the basic aspects of a review (quarterly performance, review of the economy and markets, possibly refer to a couple of personal goals) but they will be hard-pressed to to exceed their client’s expectations. In contrast, a high-performing advisor may have:

  • Gathered and organized their client’s documents and read through them.
  • Made sure they can confidently talk about whether the client is currently on track to reach their goals or not – and if they are not, have strategies drawn up to change that.
  • Reviewed their notes from the previous meeting and identified if they can offer any new or revised insights to their situation – and be ready to explain and justify and changes that have been made.
  • Prepared a meeting agenda with particular attention to how they will engage the client in conversation.
  • Identified and prepared for questions their client is likely to ask.

Ultimately your clients will never really understand the preparation, or ‘the dirty work’ as my coach would say. However, if you want to be in the best position to consistently deliver a top-quality client review, preparation is everything.

The bottom line

When the spotlight turns on, the pressure intensifies and it is your time to deliver – will you be ready?

Whether it is in sports, financial advice or any other aspect of life of your life, remember that practice makes permanent. Poor preparation leads to a poor performance. Quality preparation can lead to a quality performance.

George Newton is an Intern for Capital Markets Insights.

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