Your financial, tax, and legal advisors are like a basketball team. Each individual may be very talented, but the team can win only when they communicate with each other on the court and follow their coach's leadership.
"If your advisors aren't collaborating," says William Hamerman, Vice President and Senior Wealth Planning Strategist at Wells Fargo Private Bank, "you aren't getting all the value they can provide."
Why collaboration matters
Your list of advisors includes any professional who's giving you financial advice: investment strategists, CPAs, insurance agents, lawyers, bankers, and others. Collaboration is key to transforming your advisors from individuals providing a service, such as doing your taxes, to professionals who anticipate your needs and help you achieve your goals.
Creating a collaborative relationship among your advisors doesn't need to be complicated, Hamerman says. In fact, it can be as simple as sending an email introducing two or more of your advisors to each other and asking them to work together.
"Don't put handcuffs on your advisors," Hamerman says. "Be open and state that 'I want a collaborative relationship with you.'"
The mark of a true advisor
A simple way to know if you've developed a collaborative relationship with your financial team: If an advisor initiates contact with you, or with your other advisors, and offers new ideas.
"Are they offering you proactive advice?" Hamerman asks. "Does your advisor challenge you to go beyond what you're bringing to the table?"
This type of relationship works only if you're also keeping the lines of communication open, Hamerman says. It also means being candid, especially when you experience a significant life change that may impact your financial situation.
"If your advisors aren't collaborating, you aren't getting all the value they can provide." — William Hamerman, Vice President and Senior Wealth Planning Strategist, Wells Fargo Private Bank
"It doesn't mean you need to have coffee with them every quarter," Hamerman says. "But if you can't be open with your advisors, then it's probably time for a change, or at least a conversation."
The good news is that your advisors are probably hoping for the same open communication.
"As a wealth planning strategist, I appreciate a client who is engaged," Hamerman says. “That helps us create relevant action plans together in a more efficient way.”
How to build a team you trust
Lack of trust is one of the top reasons why client-advisor communication falters.
"If you don't want to call an advisor for any reason, be it a billing reason or an 'I don't want them to know' reason," Hamerman says, consider it a big red flag. That can signal the need to find a new professional to fill that role on your team of advisors.
If you find yourself in that situation, consider turning to an advisor you trust for recommendations. Many people have someone who is their No. 1 advisor — the person they trust the most. Start there for referrals.
A baseline for screening potential new advisors is the agency that licenses that occupation, such as the state bar (which regulates the practice of law) or the state accounting board. These agencies often have online tools that allow you to see if an individual has been subject to disciplinary actions.
Then you can have a conversation with advisor candidates to see who might be a good match. What you're looking for, Hamerman says, is someone you can build a trusting relationship with.
"People have a tendency to focus on the numbers more than the relationship," he says. "It's important to focus more on the relationship, as well."