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Client Referral Gift Ideas for Financial Advisors


Referrals are a sign of client trust and loyalty and can be integral to your business’s long-term growth. Encouraging client referrals begins with delivering top-notch service that exceeds expectations, but it doesn’t stop there. Offering gifts is a powerful way to incentivize clients to continue referring their friends, family members and coworkers to your firm.

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Can Advisors Send Gifts for Referrals?

Financial advisors can offer gifts to clients in exchange for referrals. There are, however, some restrictions on client gifts.

FINRA Rule 3220 limits gifts to $100 per person, per year for broker-dealers. The rule is worded as follows:

“No member or person associated with a member shall, directly or indirectly, give or permit to be given anything of value, including gratuities, in excess of one hundred dollars per individual per year to any person, principal, proprietor, employee, agent or representative of another person where such payment or gratuity is in relation to the business of the employer of the recipient of the payment or gratuity. A gift of any kind is considered a gratuity.”

A proposal was put forth in 2016 to raise the gift limit to $175 but that was sidelined to allow the SEC time to work out the nuances of Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI). Whether FINRA will revisit the increased limit is yet to be determined.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) expects registered investment advisory firms to develop gifting policies as part of a code of ethics. Gifting policies must align with fiduciary duty standards and must not encourage conflicts of interest, misconduct or fraud.

Creative Referral Gifts for Clients

Financial advisors discussing client referral gift ideas.

Deciding what to gift clients within the $100 annual limit allowed by FINRA can be challenging. Ideally, the goal is to offer a gift that’s meaningful and thoughtful, includes an individualized touch and will encourage the recipient client to continue sending referrals your way.

With that in mind, here are some inspiring ideas for referral gifts for clients.

Functional Gifts

Gifts are most often appreciated when giving something the recipient needs or wants. Offering useful referral gifts is a terrific opportunity to demonstrate how well you know your clients.

  • Books (bonus points if you’re sharing some of your favorite financial planning books)
  • Portable phone chargers
  • Coffee or tea samplers
  • Mug warmers
  • Subscription gifts
  • Fitbits
  • Magazines
  • E-readers
  • Phone stands
  • Reading lights
  • Essential oil diffusers
  • Gourmet food baskets or gift sets
  • Barbecue or grilling sets
  • Gardening tools
  • A fireproof safe
  • Socks
  • Charcuterie sets
  • Gift cards

Seasonal gifts can also grab a client’s attention and allow you to make multiple gifts throughout the year if you choose budget-friendly options. For example, you might offer a cozy blanket in winter and a selection of fruit-infused teas with a diffuser during the summer months.

Luxury Gifts

Luxury gifts can add a little more oomph to your gift-giving and it’s possible to find designer and premium items for $100 or less. Here are some upscale referral gifts for clients that can show your appreciation.

  • Cocktail glasses or shot glasses
  • Designer wallets, money clips, card cases or wristlets
  • Moisturizer and skincare sets
  • Craft beer brewing kit
  • Picture frames
  • Wine
  • Decorative pillows
  • Salt and pepper cellars
  • Designer trinket trays
  • Cufflink sets or tie clips
  • Leather travel cases
  • Candles

Accompanying these cards with gift wrapping and a handwritten note on quality cardstock can add to the high-end feel.

Branded Gifts

Branded gifts can serve a dual purpose. They encourage referrals while acting as a marketing tool for your firm. The key is choosing gift ideas that a client is likely to use again and again.

Here are some branded gift ideas you might consider:

  • Drinkware, such as coffee mugs, wine glasses or reusable water bottles
  • Notebooks, pens and other stationery items
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Bluetooth speakers
  • Personal care items, such as lip balm or hand lotion
  • Tote bags or backpacks
  • Laptop sleeves and mousepads
  • Camping chairs

You’ll need to find a manufacturer that can take your firm’s logo and apply it to a variety of items to create branded merchandise. You may be able to save on production costs by purchasing branded items in bulk.

Experience Gifts

Experience gifts are designed to give clients a chance to do something they might otherwise not do on their own. Offering experience gifts is an opportunity to get creative while allowing clients to make lasting memories.

Here are some experience gifts you might consider:

  • Wine tastings
  • Private cooking lessons with a professional chef
  • Golf lessons with a local pro
  • Horseback riding lessons
  • Tickets to a sporting event or cultural event
  • Hot stone massage
  • Paintball sessions
  • Escape rooms
  • Helicopter tours

You might also consider group events, such as client dinners or a day at an amusement park. Remember to ask about discounts if booking an event for a large party.

Tips for Client Gift Giving

Implementing a client gift-giving program or fine-tuning an existing one could give your business a significant boost if you’re able to generate a steady stream of referrals. Here are a few final tips to ensure your program is operating smoothly and in compliance with regulatory guidelines.

  • Keep accurate records of client gifts, including what was the gift and when, who the gift went to and the dollar amount of the gift.
  • Remember that for FINRA purposes, the value of a gift is based on cost or market value only.
  • Determine how much of your firm’s budget you’ll allocate to client gifts per year (1% to 2% of annual revenues may be a good starting point).
  • Decide if you’ll offer the same gifts to all clients or base gifting on the number of referrals clients generate.
  • Consider surveying clients to ask what types of gifts they would most like to receive.

Here’s one more tip: use software to ensure gift-giving compliance. Some platforms work with financial advisors to create and execute gift-gifting programs in compliance with applicable regulatory guidelines. Working with such a platform can relieve the pressure of trying to find the perfect gift idea, leaving you free to focus on serving your clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Referral Gift?

A referral gift is a gift someone receives for referring another person to a business. Financial advisors can offer referral gifts to clients, as long as those gifts are within regulatory guidelines.

What Are Some Effective Ways to Get Client Referrals?

Encouraging clients to refer people to your business begins with delivering superior service. The more satisfied a client is the more likely they are to tell other people about your firm. You can also ask clients for referrals directly or offer incentives for referrals in the form of client gifts.

How Much Can Advisors Give for Referral Gifts?

FINRA limits financial advisors to offering client gifts valued at $100. This is an annual limit and applies per client.

Bottom Line

Offering clients gifts can be an effective way to drive more referrals.

If you’re stumped about what to give clients for referrals the ideas listed above can be a suitable place to start. Remember, you’re not required to offer client gifts for referrals but doing so can add another layer to your marketing plan.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • Marketing is a critical activity for any advisor, but it can be time-consuming and sometimes difficult to navigate as you test out different strategies. Working with an advisor marketing platform can save time and eliminate some of the trial-and-error that often goes along with promoting your business. With SmartAdvisor, you can connect with qualified leads, and you’ll have all the tools you need to follow up quickly.
  • Separate rules apply to gifts given by a client to a financial advisor. Officially, FINRA prohibits client gifts to advisors above $100. However, some firms may cap gift amounts even lower or disallow client gifts to advisors entirely.

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