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Ultimate Client Onboarding Checklist for Financial Advisors

Financial advisors putting together a client onboarding checklist.

When a new client is ready to begin working with you, the last thing they want is to be subjected to a clunky or disorganized onboarding process. After all, this is the beginning of your professional relationship and it’s a chance to wow them right out of the gate. Having a client onboarding checklist to follow makes it easier to bring them into the fold seamlessly and start building trust from day one.

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Why Smooth Onboarding Benefits Financial Advisors

Onboarding new clients is more than just a series of steps or tasks—it’s a strategy for growing a sustainable advisory business. There are right ways to handle new client onboarding and wrong ones, and it’s important to know the difference.

Here are some of the ways you can benefit from having a streamlined onboarding process:

  • Clients who have a positive experience from day one may be more likely to remain your clients for the long term.
  • Those same clients may also be more inclined to tell their friends, family members or coworkers about you, leading to more referrals and potentially more clients.
  • Smooth onboarding systems allow your business to run more efficiently so that you’re not wasting time or money.
  • Collecting the right information during new client onboarding can give you a detailed framework for developing strategies to help them reach their financial goals.
  • Ensuring that onboarding goes off without a hitch can set a positive tone for your working relationship with the client so that they feel confident in your abilities.
  • Having a standardized onboarding process in place means there’s no room for error or noncompliance with your firm’s best practices.

In short, if you want your clients to be excited about working with you and prepared to stick around for the long term, then how you handle onboarding matters.

What to Include in a Financial Advisor Client Onboarding Checklist

Financial advisors reviewing the phases for their client onboarding checklist.

When clients come into your business there are typically distinct stages of onboarding they go through. Segmenting onboarding into phases allows you to organize what needs to happen and when.

Phase 1: Laying the Groundwork

The first phase of new client onboarding largely revolves around gathering information and completing the necessary paperwork once an investor decides they’d like to work with you. During this phase, your client onboarding checklist may cover these steps:

  • Sending an initial welcome message to the client thanking them for choosing your firm to work with.
  • Entering the client’s details into your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
  • Setting expectations with the client and disclosing information about the services you provide and their corresponding fees.
  • Having the client review and sign the required contract.
  • Asking the client to submit a detailed questionnaire or survey to glean some background information about their financial situation.
  • Confirming the time and date of your first meeting, which may be in person or virtual.
  • Answering any initial questions the client may have about your firm or what the meeting will entail.

If you’re meeting with a new client in person, consider what they’ll see and feel when they enter your office. A space that’s clean, calm and inviting is likely to make a better impression than one that feels cluttered or chaotic. Your staff should also be ready to greet new clients in a welcoming manner and direct them to where they need to go.

Phase 2: Meeting for the First Time

You may have already completed an initial consultation with a new client but your first meeting after signing a contract is an opportunity to dig a little deeper and learn more about what they need.

Your onboarding checklist for this phase may include:

  • Introducing the client to other members of your team or your support staff.
  • Reviewing the client’s financials and discussing what their goals are for working with you.
  • Discussing expectations regarding what part each of you will play in the financial planning process.
  • Obtaining any financial documents that you might need to develop a plan for managing their portfolio.
  • Setting clients up with a personalized dashboard in your financial planning portal.
  • Discussing your approach to financial planning and which metrics you’ll use to track their progress toward their goals.
  • Explaining how you’ll communicate and how often they can expect to hear from you.

This first meeting should be designed to put your clients at ease, not overwhelm them or cause them to leave with more questions than they came in with. Remember that you’re trying to build a rapport, so your client feels comfortable talking to you about their financial situation. You don’t need to try and sell during this initial meeting; instead, you’re simply trying to open the door to an ongoing conversation.

As the meeting draws to a close, you can prompt the client to schedule their next meeting. That way, they’re not left wondering when they’ll see you again and you can both use the time in-between to prepare.

Phase 3: Finalizing Onboarding

Once the initial meeting ends, there are still a few items left to cross off your onboarding checklist. The first is updating the client’s file to reflect any added information you’ve collected.

For example, during the meeting, you may have asked the client to bring copies of any or all of these documents:

  • Bank account statements
  • Retirement and investment account statements
  • Statements for college savings accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Mortgage statements
  • Debt statements for credit cards, car loans and student loans
  • Declaration pages for property or vehicle insurance policies
  • Documents relating to a business the client owns
  • Documents relating to any other assets a client owns, such as artwork or real estate

You’d need to enter all of this into their client profile so that you have the most accurate information.

In addition to this step, you’ll also want to plan for a follow-up. The follow-up doesn’t need to be complicated; just a simple message to thank them for sharing their time with you and encouraging them to reach out if they have questions before your next meeting takes place. A handwritten note or card offers a personal touch and conveys to the client that they’re more than just a number.

Financial Advisor Client Onboarding Best Practices

While you’re creating a new client onboarding checklist consider what you can do to enhance the client experience even further. That may include implementing some or all of these best practices:

  • Consider replacing paper documents with digital ones and collecting client signatures electronically.
  • Store client documents securely and ensure that clients have password-protected access to them.
  • Ask the client which method of communication they prefer best and explain how often they should expect to hear from you.
  • Familiarize every member of your team with the various steps in your onboarding process and let clients know to whom they can direct questions if they have them.
  • Let clients know what free resources you provide and where to find them, which might include a library of education articles, free webinars or workshops and downloadable e-books.

Following best practices can help to ensure consistency so that each new client who comes your way is treated to the same experience.

Bottom Line

A financial advisor reviewing client onboarding best practices.

Onboarding shouldn’t be a headache for you or your clients. Putting together a client onboarding checklist and communicating the steps to your team can ensure that the process is as painless as possible for everyone involved.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • Your business’s searchability can have a significant impact on the number of new leads you’re able to generate. Having a professional website and being active on social media can help you to increase your digital footprint and potentially show up in more search results. If you’ve tried those methods and aren’t getting the results you want just yet, an online lead generation tool can help. SmartAdvisor connects you with leads and gives you the tools you need to follow up.
  • Having the right CRM can help to ease the struggles of onboarding tremendously. When choosing a CRM for your advisory business, start by evaluating the full range of features and benefits it has to offer. Next, consider how seamlessly it will integrate into your current systems and which systems or software programs it might be able to replace. Lastly, consider the cost and the degree of value you’re getting for the money.

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