By David Blake
Before I joined the financial services industry, I worked in the manufacturing industry as a production scheduler.
My responsibilities included making sure we had ample supplies to fill purchase orders, establishing timelines for filling those orders within the capacity of employees on the production line, making sure finished products met standards established by quality control officers and ensuring products were shipped to the customer on time.
My experience taught me that teams which give individuals different, yet specific, responsibilities are better at producing greater outputs in the most effective and efficient manner.
Applying these lessons and viewing your practice as an “assembly line” allows you to pursue larger corporate clients and generate more business. You can achieve this by cultivating a workflow based on each employee’s natural skillset and grasping the potential of a more streamlined, efficient business model.
Types Of Teams
Individual responsibilities on a manufacturing line follow a product from conception to distribution, and financial advising firms can allocate their employees into similar roles across internal- and external-facing responsibilities. These specialized roles could include:
Just as at other companies, salespeople sit on the front lines of new business. They identify potential prospects and decide how to prioritize them, propose new services and solutions to those prospects and existing clients, build referral bases and handle pre-sale communications with all stakeholders at a prospect or client institution.
2. Customer Service
Customer service specialists would work in tandem with your sales representatives. After a sale has been made and a product or policy activated, these employees keep clients informed of activities on their account. They also serve as the primary liaisons between your firm and your clients, handling needs from both ends and managing clients’ expectations.
3. Quality Control
“Quality control” is a broad term that encompasses many different roles within both manufacturing and a financial advising practice, but they all rest on a foundation of bolstering the effectiveness of other teams. Most commonly, quality control representatives ensure that sales and customer service teams have the tools and training needed to best propose services and fulfill client needs. Some more specific roles under that umbrella include compliance, communications, employee training and auditing.
4. Product Specialists
Large practices can also benefit from product specialists – in-house experts on the technical aspects of offered services and policies. These employees closely coordinate with others internally, although with less direct exposure to clients. Occasionally, though, they might help offer new products to existing clients who want a more detailed breakdown of potential changes. Alongside familiarity with their own practice, product specialists keep track of trends and opportunities in the wider market. This responsibility makes these employees a central knowledge hub for your practice.
5. Research and Development
The aforementioned teams can monumentally help a practice expand their business, create better relationships and offer better products. However, at their core, all of those teams focus on improving what already exists. To help your practice expand in new directions, designate R&D employees or even an entire team. By having certain individuals focus on ideation, your practice can more easily incorporate new trends and keep up with an evolving industry. At my firm, our R&D employees are currently focusing on how to best utilize social media and other online platforms.
Scaling And Specializing
Practice owners cannot simply create all these roles and individualized teams overnight. Optimization takes time and each firm will need to go about it in a slightly different way. As a general rule, roles should be created in order of the amount of time they save everyone else.
If you and your employees spend too much time liaising with clients, for example, hire specialized customer service representatives first. If you find yourself constantly looking up obscure policy details and tracking market trends, consider hiring a product specialist or two.
When choosing employees for particular roles, balance between personality and skill. Research and development roles depend more on skillsets than intrinsic talents, so there’s more room for training employees up. Sales roles require more of particular personality traits – and while these can be taught to an extent, some people might always be more wired for success in this area.
Employees can take their own initiative in specialization by identifying logjams and bottlenecks where their business’s work is held up or where they see an opportunity for supervisors to hand off work. By developing key skills or taking personality tests, employees can determine which specialized roles would be best for them.
As the industry continues to evolve, other fields can offer valuable lessons on how advisors and their practices can adapt. Taking lessons in specialization from the manufacturing industry will allow advisors to deliver higher-quality work to their clients and maximize their own efficiency on the job.
About The Author
David Blake is a 34-year veteran of the insurance industry and a 20-year member of MDRT with 10 Top of the Table Honors. He is the founder and president of the InsMed Insurance Agency, Inc., an independent firm that specializes in developing and administering voluntary insurance offerings for highly compensated healthcare professionals located at institutions across the United States. David’s practice is based in Harrison, N.Y.