Adapt and Prepare: How advisors can take a lesson from Batman

He first jumped from the DC comic books to television in 1966 as America’s “Caped Crusader.”  For three years and 120 episodes, Batman (aka Bruce Wayne) captivated our youth with his relentless pursuit of the world’s most notorious supervillains. Each week at the episode’s conclusion, Batman left his viewers holding their breath in anticipation of how he would escape certain death or being unmasked.

With Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for re-booting and re-energizing our favorite comic book heroes of the past, Millennials and Gen X-Y-Z’ers have all had an opportunity to appreciate Batman’s ability to adapt and prepare for anything his adversaries throw at him (maybe with a few more special effects and 3D graphics than I remember from the original series in the ‘60s). Over the years, his utility belt was equipped with over 45 at-the-ready, unique solutions to defeat his enemy’s most diabolical threats.

Herein lies the lesson for today’s financial advisor. Adapt and prepare. The proliferation of Index Funds, SMAs, TAMPs, and “Robo-Advisors” have led many to believe the business of asset management is becoming commoditized. Advisor fees are being compressed, “flat” versus “asset based fees” are on the horizon, and today’s clients and prospects are demanding their advisor bring additional value beyond simply picking investments, asset allocation, and money management. 

A recent study by the Spectrum Group indicated that over 90% of clients expected the following services from their advisor:

  • Wealth Transfer Advice

  • Trust Services

  • Estate Planning Advice

  • Tax Planning Advice

  • Philanthropic Advice

Remarkably, the study concluded that less than 25% of clients were receiving these services from their advisor.  Clearly there is an opportunity for advisors to leverage Batman’s uncanny ability to adapt and prepare.  

Advisors need not be experts in any of these disciplines. However, much like Batman’s utility belt, they do need access to solutions for these questions when the moment arises. Here are the “go-to” answers that should be in every advisor’s utility belt:

  • An “Advisor Friendly” Trust company that will allow you to manage your client’s trust assets on your preferred custodial platform when they are passed to their heirs

  • Recommended trust language that will insure you continue to manage your client’s assets if they become incapacitated

  • A local Trust and Estates attorney that will incorporate you into the client’s estate plan as the client’s preferred advisor upon death or incapacitation

  • A local CPA that can assist you and your client’s in identifying opportunities for tax planning and optimization

  • A Donor Advised Fund provider that will allow you to manage assets in the account when contributed

  • A consultant who can provide flexible products and solutions for long-term care and life insurance needs.

  • Banking and lending services that will not threaten your investment management relationship with the client

If the advisor is not positioned to actively address these needs, the client will often find someone who is, and in many cases they will be ready, willing, and able to also replace the advisor’s role in managing the client’s assets. 

In essence, this is all about advisors creating a trusted circle of COIs (Centers of Influence) and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) that will allow them to respond immediately and proactively to clients concerns outside the realm of ETFs, IRRs and ROI (Holy acronyms, Batman!)

Armed with their own utility belt, advisors who are prepared for these “cliff-hanger” moments will likely ensure their chance to be around for the next episode.


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