We know financial planning is the cornerstone of the advisor/client relationship. Still, if we’re honest, we also know: Once all a client’s personal and financial information is gathered, most plans collect dust.

Recently I saw a demo of LifeSync, the new digital client/advisor collaboration tool from Wells Fargo. Its architects recognized the opportunity to use financial planning as a lift-off to richer, deeper client engagements. In the process, they created a wonderful experience and a new standard for financial guidance.

A Collaborative And Transformative Experience
LifeSync transforms financial planning from a static, singular event into a continuous conversation between client and advisor in the easiest place to get to—smartphones. Michael Liersch, head of advice and planning for Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management, explained it in a recent episode of my WealthTech on Deck podcast.

The typical process of a client-advisor engagement goes like this: Identify assets, liabilities, goals, priorities and timelines. Evaluate clients’ risk tolerance. Make suggestions and formalize those in a proposal. 

In time, things change. Clients have children and, later, grandchildren, advance in their careers and perhaps inherit money. As they grow older, they seek someone who will listen to what they want in retirement and consolidate their assets to create the security of a lifetime income.

Advisors need to flex with clients’ shifting needs and circumstances. Wells Fargo’s research suggests assets flow to the advisor who is on the journey with their clients rather than dropping them at the station.

I mused about “Who will become the Amazon of financial advice” in a profile of how Edward Jones, Empower, Franklin Templeton and Morgan Stanley are making considerable investments to align their services to consumer sentiment. With LifeSync, Wells Fargo joins the leaders in transforming financial advice. 

“When you provide true advice and really understand what the person is trying to accomplish, it actually leads to specific ideas” for managing clients’ money, Liersch said.

Overcoming Awkwardness Between Advisors And Clients
There are taboos around talking about money, even between advisors and clients. Yet, advisors need to understand what money means to clients: their goals, priorities, the people who matter to them, and the impact they want their money to have.

Strange as it seems, many are more comfortable tapping personal information into their mobile devices than having a face-to-face conversation, Liersch said. With its design and capabilities, LifeSync capitalizes on people's ease in their digital environments, making advisor-client conversations more “fluid” and ultimately more candid, Liersch said.

A Living, Breathing, Personalized Financial Plan
LifeSync uses information from eMoney Advisor’s goals-based financial planning system and other data aggregated from Wells Fargo to create a personalized experience that clients themselves round out. Investors can view their:

• “Vitals” — net worth, summarized portfolio performance, and market indices

• “Goals” — elicited through financial planning

• “News feed” — content selected for a client based on all of the above

“If it's education for a child or grandchild, that will be served up. If it's retirement, if you're looking to grow your money, we're going to expose you to our market outlook,” Liersch said of the news feed.

Clients can personalize LifeSync by uploading images to illustrate their goals, perhaps the photo of the child whose education they’re saving for. They can use LifeSync to provide their advisor with information, including new or changed goals, and email or call their advisor. Activity automatically appears in the advisor’s workstation.

Early evidence shows LifeSync is doing exactly what Wells Fargo intended.

“The lift in flows for advisors who are engaging in the LifeSync process is indisputably higher than those not engaging in the LifeSync process,” Liersch said, adding that “clients put their money where the value and the experience are giving them the most.”

No Time To Waste
Liersch has a doctorate in cognitive psychology. He said investors are “exhausted” from the events of the past three years. Like “Age Wave” author Ken Dychtwald and me, and many other leaders, Liersch believes people sincerely want to connect their money with their purpose in life. If advisors don’t deliver, clients will look elsewhere.

A Snappy Kraken survey earlier this year found that more than half of high-net-work investors in or near retirement would consider hiring a financial advisor. For many, that means a new advisor interested in the client’s purpose.

“Clients and customers are flocking to this type of collaborative experience — flocking (to it), demanding it,” Liersch said Wells Fargo’s experience shows.

“Our top advisors are always the first users of this type of process. They want to innovate; they want to push themselves; they want to push their clients to do new, better, more exciting things with their money to make the most of it.”

Jack Sharry co-chairs MMI's Digital Advice Community, is on the Next Chapter Executive Leadership Advisory Board and co-chairs Next Chapter Innovation Leadership. He hosts the WealthTech on Deck podcast and is executive vice president at LifeYield.