The events of the last year or so have hastened the inevitable. By "the inevitable," I'm referring to change that was bound to take place for the good of the profession and the clients it serves. The winds of transformation that are blowing upon the financial planning profession have led to the conclusion that the value proposition most planners held forth (ROI) is unsustainable and must be replaced by a more sustainable and reliable promise.

A value proposition is a promise made to clients of the value you propose to introduce into their situations. Heretofore, the value proposition that has been predominant in financial services has centered around ROI--which has proved to be a promise that cannot be kept. There were many that argued this point with me three years ago-before all asset classes decided to tank in unison. Promising clients that you can help them get positive returns or better returns than they received elsewhere is tantamount to promising sunshine on their birthdays. You cannot control the factors that decide the outcome. You can only manage around them.

Today, the writing is plainly on the wall and only the dinosaurs in the profession refuse to see it-we must only make promises we can keep if we hope to keep clients. A promise that hinges on vulnerable markets, institutions and investment vehicles no longer qualifies.

The Return On Life (ROL) value proposition is the one promise we can keep, and its value wholly transcends that of ROI. The promise of the Return On Life value proposition is simple and attainable: We are going to help you get the most life you can out of the money you have. The ROL proposition for the planning profession rests upon the following:
Knowing what matters most to your clients,
Understanding the key transitions going on in their lives, and
Advising them on all financial matters of  import (not just assets).

The energy and time once spent on gathering, analyzing and projecting numbers must now be gathered and focused on gathering, understanding and advising around clients' stories. Once those stories are heard and understood, the synthesis begins with the material assets in play and the risks that must be navigated. It is a whole-brain exercise--one that requires building bridges between stories and numbers. Binary code thinkers need not apply.

In the future of financial life planning, the intuitively skilled planners will lead the parade and hire out the analysis and projection work to others. They understand that the business is won by spending time facing the client  and hearing their stories.

I am already seeing the evidence of this trend in terms that no industry leader can argue with-the ROL approach is leading to greater AUM. In the last month, I have received correspondence from two planners (one in Canada and one in South Africa) who were given awards as No. 1 in their profession (in terms of AUM and quality of practice) and both informed me that it was the shift to the Return on Life philosophy that had accelerated their business growth to unprecedented levels. I am not surprised in the least--why should we be surprised that a greater understanding of our clients would lead to a broader level of trust with their assets?

It is this inescapable conclusion that will finally convince the product and process pushers to abandon their futile strategies of attempting to convince clients on the basis of numbers. Every broker-dealer and custodian needs more assets under management to survive--and the assets that migrate today do so because a level of trust and intimacy
has been established between planner and client, not because of some novel fund or investment strategy.

On a recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, I had the pleasure of working with some CFPs who had completed the ROL migration and transformation in their business. What impressed me the most was not the financial success of their firm but their success as human beings in forging connections with other human beings. One of the principals of the firm said:

"You know, Mitch, I'm actually working more than I used to but I am loving it more. I used to sell a policy or a fund and take the rest of the day off, but feeling at odds with myself. Now I look everyone squarely in the eye knowing that my efforts are about well-being in his or her life. I'm still being paid well but I am delivering exponentially more value now."

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