Collaborating Productively with Tax Advisors to Encourage Referrals and Drive Superior Client Outcomes Come Down to a Few Crucial Behaviors
As a CPA and managing partner of a tax advisory firm serving high net worth (HNW) and ultra-high net worth (UHNW) clients and owners of closely-held businesses, I can say without hesitation that financial advisors are vital partners for professionals like me.
In the financial services business, we all need a “ToolBox” that we can go to when we need help with a client, growing our firms and further educating ourselves about all the different facets of a client’s financial life.
Tax advisors who are worth their salt know that the financial advisor can be an indispensable part of that ToolBox.
From cross-referring new client relationships, to assisting my clients with their overall investment and estate plans, to helping me to view financial services issues outside of a tax lens, when tax advisors and financial advisors work together effectively, our clients – and our businesses – all benefit.
Unfortunately, the reverse can also be true – When financial advisors don’t know how to engage effectively with tax advisors, client outcomes can suffer.
So with that in mind, here are some thoughts on a few behaviors that financial advisors can adopt that tend to build stronger relationships with tax advisors in my eyes.
Let’s say you already have a handful of tax advisors you know, trust and respect as a financial advisor. Where do you go from there?
Bring the Tax Advisor in Promptly at Each Client Inflection Point
First, actively think about these tax advisors each time you’re at an important client inflection point.
This means when you have a new client meeting. Or when you’re doing an important client intake meeting and talking about the issues that keep them up at night.
They may mention they don’t have a CPA or they don’t enjoy working with the one they have now. This is when you speed dial your stable of tax advisors you know and trust – Literally.
Take a moment when the conversation reaches that point to skip a beat, give a quick call to the tax advisor of choice that you might have and make the introduction to the client at that time. Put the tax advisor on speaker or open the Zoom window.
For example, I have a stable of financial advisors I work regularly with, and my office staff knows if the advisor calls, they are allowed to interrupt me as I know it is something important. Make sure you establish a similar relationship with your close tax advisor colleagues.
Why is this important? It builds credibility to both of us and shows the client that the financial advisor knows experienced and credible tax advisors, and can work seamlessly as a team.
It makes the planning we do as a team easier down the road and allows the client to speak more freely to each of the professionals.
Loop the Tax Advisor into Your Thought Process
I always tell financial advisors to educate me on their perspective.
As a starting point, this can be as simple as putting me on whatever email list you use for sharing your thoughts on key financial planning and wealth management issues for clients, and updating them on what’s new with the financial advisor’s business.
When tax advisors routinely see the professional insights financial advisors are communicating to clients, this can help the tax advisor get a sense of what issues the financial advisors are prioritizing with clients…and the client needs that are probably coming up with frequency.
And all of this, in turn, helps tax advisors collaborate more seamlessly with the financial advisor whenever they are brought into a client situation for support.
Rapid Response to Client Referral Calls from Tax Advisors
When tax advisors refer potential clients to financial advisors, these are frequently time sensitive situations where the client is looking for financial planning and wealth management expertise as soon as possible.
That’s why it’s important for financial advisors to introduce their stable of tax advisor collaboration partners to the members of their team who can take such client referral calls when the financial advisor is not available at that moment.
No financial services business can be successful without the support of administrative and associate staff members. Tax advisors that financial advisors work with need to know who else they can call on the financial advisor’s team in a pinch.
Work Out Quarterback and Risk Tolerance Protocols Ahead of Time
Try to set ahead of time default protocols on different types of client situations and relationships on who should serve as the quarterback with a shared client matter.
Frequently, it makes sense for the team quarterback to be the financial advisor. In certain other instances, it might be the tax advisor or an attorney…or another professional advisor.
The more financial and tax advisors communicate and talk about client goals, and what default approaches to take, the more effectively they can work together.
Along these same lines, always get to know the tax advisors in your stable of contacts in terms of their views of risk tolerance.
There is a good chance that tax advisors will be asked for their two cents on major investments that financial advisors recommend. I usually tell my client: Let’s call the advisor to talk about it before I give them my thoughts, but regardless of what approach you take, driving alignment in this regard is important.
Michael Cody, CPA, is Managing Partner of Lieb, Cody and Co., a Los Angeles-based tax advisory firm serving high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals, families and owners of closely-held businesses across the country
Cody serves as Wealth Solutions Report’s monthly “Taxing Times” columnist, offering tax-related tips and expertise to independent financial advisor business owners