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Ep. #6 – Client Appreciation Events: Using Retirement Parties to Grow Your Business with Joe De Sena, CFP®


Retirement is such a major milestone in everyone’s life. And while there is no shortage of ideas for client appreciation events, retirement parties are definitely one worth considering. Hosting one of these unique client events not only helps financial advisors create client loyalty for life, it also provides an excellent opportunity for reaching new qualified prospects.

In this episode, Bill Cates interviews Joe De Sena, CFP®, MBA, private wealth advisor at Siena Wealth Advisory Group, about how Joe has leveraged this event marketing strategy to build an extremely successful financial practice.

Bottom Line: Joe De Sena’s retirement parties yield new clients almost every time. These are not just “feel-good” events. These are business-building client engagement, client appreciation events.

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In this episode, Joe discusses:

  • The success Joe has found in hosting retirement parties for his clients – to help him exceed the $1 billion in AUM mark.
  • What it truly looks like to organize these client appreciation events, whether they are virtual or in-person.
  • How retirement parties lead to appointments with qualified prospects right at the event – without asking for them.
  • Other events Joe’s firm has used to enhance client engagement.


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  • Show Transcript

    Welcome to the Top Advisor Podcast brought to you by ProudMouth’s Influence Accelerator Academy. I’m your host Bill Cates. In each episode, I interview one of the financial service industries top performers to learn their secrets to sustain success. These short interviews will get right to the heart of what each top advisor is doing to acquire more right fit clients.

    You’ll be reminded, renewed, and inspired to take powerful action. You’ll impact more lives and increase your income at the same time. Now onto the show.

    With me today is Joe de Sena. Joe has been a financial advisor for 27 years. And in this episode of the Top Advisor Podcast, Joe and I will be discussing his use of retirement parties to increase client engagement and acquire new in-segment clients.

    Joe de Sena, welcome to Top Advisor Podcast.

    JOE: Well, thank you for having me Bill. It’s a pleasure being here today.

    BILL: It’s great to have you, and we’ve known each other for quite some time. So Joe, tell us, why do you believe in the work that you do? What is the why that keeps you performing as a top advisor?

    JOE: You know, a lot of people ask me that question. Essentially Bill, I love this business. I was fortunate enough to find this business. I worked on wall street and operations and technology and left that 27 years ago to do this. Other than playing showed out stadium for the New York Yankees, this is would be my ideal career.

    But the focus that I’ve always had in this business was always to leave people better than we find them. So make major improvements in their lives, not only managing the money, but helping them manage the rest of their lives. So that’s been really an enjoyable experience for me for over the last 27 years.

    BILL: Adding first for the New York Yankees playing shortstop, Joe de Sena.

    JOE: Yeah. Someone else had that job though. That was a lot better than me.

    BILL: That guy Jeter or something because he didn’t bet first, but anyway, we digress.

    So before we get to the topic at hand retirement parties, just give us a really quick executive briefing, glimpse into your business. So everyone knows it gets a feel for what you’re doing and how it’s evolved just a little bit over the years.

    JOE: I feel so overwhelmed. We just crossed over the $1 billion mark and assets on the management. So really, really proud of that. I always said when I hit one billion and I would retire, now my new goal is 2 billion and we currently have 10 advisors on the team.

    We have four staff domestically, and we also have two staff full-time working out of New Delhi, India that supports us. And it was really fantastic. They work our hours and they do most of our operations work and it’s been really impressive with what has been happening.

    BILL: Wow. That sounds like a topic for a future interview. I would love to dig into that and using virtual employees in this particular business. So let’s get to retirement parties. I know it’s been a successful strategy for you. Has it not?

    JOE: Yes, it’s been wonderful looking at the evolution of retirement parties. We always look at ways to fully engage our clients, again not only their financial life, but the rest of their lives and retirement, as we all know in this business.

    It’s probably the essence of what we do and helping our clients achieve their goals. Retirement is a major event in someone’s life. What we do is we call a client that’s about to retire, or we tell them we’re going to host a party for them in their honor, we asked them for a list of their friends that they would like to invite to the party.

    We asked them to select the restaurant and we help them put together a menu for the party. So they’re fully engaged. This is sort of like planning a wedding and people really get excited about it. My team and I attend the event, we do not speak anything about financial planning. The client introduces us and might say where they get financial advice and they often do Bill.

    But what usually happens is we sit and mingle. We, my staff and I go to different tables and meet with people. And we usually schedule a few appointments right at the retirement dinner. And the only thing we really do is toast and wish the retail wish to retire. We have great success and their future goals. And that’s how it works.

    BILL: That’s pretty simple. And I know it’s changed with the pandemic, but let’s just stay with the in-person ones for a few minutes cause that will come back. I’m sure. How many guests do you invite? Do you have any control over who gets invited? In other words, are you asking your client to invite certain types of people or is it totally their control?

    JOE:  Yeah, it is. We give it totally to their control birds of a feather usually flock together. So usually we get folks that come that are in the same economic position as the retiree. And we sometimes have 15 to 20 couples at these events.

    BILL:  So 15 to 20 sets about 30 people. I’m imagining advisors listening to this thinking, wow, that’s 30 to 40. Is this guy like a meeting planner? Are you in the meeting, planning business? How many of these do you do a year or do you have it down into such a formula that it’s not so daunting?

    JOE: Yeah. Well, with COVID things have evolved, but I have great people on the team that we have a checklist of step-by-step exactly what you need to do for a retirement dinner. For a cooking event, for wine tasting events. We’ve been doing this for about 10 years, probably maybe longer, about 15 years now. And we have this down to a science it’s like everything else, building a habit, building a ritual with these events and they work.

    BILL:  Hmm.

    JOE: We probably are the best retirement planner right now in the marketplace. Maybe we should start a separate business just for that.

    BILL: Well, I know you do have your hands into a few things, so it’s not a bad idea.

    So you’re at the event and you do a little toast, maybe you just say welcome or does the client get up and clink glasses and say, you know, I’m here because of Joe or give me a feel for the interaction on the microphone or in standing up in front of the room as it might be.

    JOE: Yeah. Usually it’s side by side the retiree and myself. The retiree welcomes everyone and also thanks us, Siena Wealth Advisor group for organizing the event. And essentially what I’d say is it’s been a pleasure working with you and your family to help get you to this point. And we’d like, well, if you would have a great evening and that’s essentially it. It’s the clients night. It’s not our night.

    BILL: Right. But everybody there knows that you’re the advisor. They probably know going ahead and going into this event. I think I remember you telling me that you and your staff invite all the guests though right. You tell the guests that so-and-so is having this party.

    We’re hosting it for him. And you talk about dietary preferences. Tell me a little bit about that.

    JOE: Yes because we’re organizing the event now. The client has given us the phone numbers, the email addresses all of these clients and the home address because we’re sending the invitation. So they confirm with us, we’re getting to know them when they call to respond to the event.

    So essentially you start to know everyone even before the event occurs and then we work with the client to wherever he wants to sit. Some of we have more than two or three tables. We want people to sit at the right tables and each at each table is a member of my team. And then we rotate during the evening between courses.

    So I’ll move to another table and that works very well. So as we’re moving around, the team members whisper almighty at this point is very interesting. This one is very interesting. I’m being the same. It works out to be well.

    BILL: Hmm. So Joe, I’m putting myself in the shoes of folks listening to this and they’re thinking 30, 40 people potentially.

    Are you like in the meeting planning business. Tell me how you keep this from not being a daunting process every time you host a party.

    JOE: Yeah. Bill, maybe I should go into the retirement planning dinner business. However, we’re extremely organized. As you know we’re doing this 15 years or so.

    So we have a checklist for every event that we do. We have the retirement dinner checklist with step-by-step, call the client of let them know we’re hosting the party. Who would they like to invite to the party? Pick the restaurant, names of clients, email addresses, and home addresses of clients.

    Invitation we pretty much have designed. We send the invitation, then we confirm. We confirm with the client. So we’re speaking to them well in advance of the event. So we get to even know people. Setting up the tables, where people sit, we work with the clients. So there’s a lot of engagement going back and forth, but I have a person on the team, like most advisors do that handle out marketing and setting those events up.

    So the more time you put in it, the more organized you are, the better results. We also decide where each one of us are gone to sit. So we have four tables, we divide and conquer, and we’re sitting at different tables and between different courses, we’re switching tables. And our team members may say to me, Joe you should sit next to so-and-so.

    Uh, they had a lot of questions about what we do. We’re not soliciting business, actually the client’s more or less bragging about us and how we help them and get them to the point of retirement. So that’s a fun night. There’s always good results out of it.

    BILL: Have you ever had a client say to the whole group, or even in a small group, “We wouldn’t be retiring if it weren’t for Joe” or “He’s not only a great adviser, he’s become a great friend” from this evening. Tell me that some of the things the clients say to the guests.

    JOE: Yeah. 100% of the time the client endorses us. Unsolicited like words “We’re here today because of Joe and his team, it got us to retirement”. Some clients even tell us that their friends at the dinner also are there because they’re going to retire and this is who they are and they need your help. So it’s an overwhelming endorsement.

    BILL: And since you don’t control the guests, you’ll probably have a few grandkids running around and others that don’t fit. But on average enough of the right type of folks do show up, is that correct?

    JOE: That’s a good point. We never have confronted that, it’s always adults at these events. But if someone would ask that they want to bring their grandchildren to the event for some reason or other, that would be fine.

    BILL: Yeah, we’re talking about in-person, we’ll probably go back to in-person knock on wood hopefully, but how has the pandemic changed? You told me that you’re still doing these in the midst of a pandemic, so what’s changed about those.

    JOE: Yeah, my feeling is the pandemic has changed everything forever.

    When I think about these events and last year we had, before the pandemic, we had a pretty sophisticated marketing plan. So Bill, as you know, we start the year with a marketing plan for the following year. It’s in place, events are dated. We have retirement parties for these folks with doing something else.

    Really, we just went virtual on everything that we did last year. And as a result, we grew about 20%. And overall GDC last year, not only for events, but also advisors, other advisors joining our team. Okay. So over all it was basically turnkey, we spoke as a team, “Let’s go virtual”. So instead of retirement dinners we had chef table dinners where we had a chef host an event and we’d mail the food to our clients.

    We had a signature cocktail for the retiree that like a but specific adult beverage. We had that and it was a great event. It was just virtual. We could do this virtual all the time right now. And again, picking up referrals, clients again and endorsing us via zoom or Microsoft teams. And it worked out successfully.

    BILL: So you’ve acquired new clients kind of at the same rough rate, same basic rate as the live events?

    JOE: Yeah, less last year, we acquired quite a bit of clients ahead of gold and the entire team. And essentially we were doing three events per month and we do three different types of events.

    So fun events, which include retirement dinners, wine tasting, chef cooking events. Then we do educational events. So we did educational events, and then we also do charitable events. So the charities that we get involved with, we were omnipresent last year virtually with all of our clients.

    BILL: So talk to me about what mistakes you’ve maybe made over the years or lessons that you’ve learned that you don’t make any more or anything like that come up for you that we want to share with everyone?

    JOE: Yeah, they’re probably two, like I said earlier, every year we plan months ahead to have all of our events, basically referral events. In the past I would wait and plan them as I needed them. And then that hurts production or hurts referrals. Now we book the events and have them well in advance. So that helps a great deal this way. Everything is just plug and play.

    BILL: So moving away from retirement parties, what over the last year, have you learned about your clients, about your business, maybe about yourself?

    How has Joe de Sena grown over the last year?

    JOE: Yeah, that’s an excellent question? What I’ve learned is clients have a great dependency on us. And that’s what we want all along. I started to realize that it’s not only about investment performance, it’s managing risk. It’s also being available to them.

    We’ve done over 2000 virtual appointments were always available. Before we hang up with the client. We scheduled the next meeting. Everyone is scheduled for the next 12 months. But what I learned is we need to be omnipresent, both in having fun events, charitable events, educational events, meetings, providing the resources and other COIs to clients.

    Whether it’s health insurance, we became very comprehensive. It was all hands on deck last year. I’m very proud of how all of that work out.

    BILL: And 20% in growth, no accident there or just creating more engagement. So that’s a big lesson. I assume you’re going to maintain some semblance of that increased engagement moving forward.

    JOE: Correct. Yeah, that’s the goal. It’s not only been client referrals. It’s been actually other advisors asking us to join our team.

    BILL: Hmm. That’s great.

    JOE: And based on that, based on that. Okay. And you know, you look about what’s going on in the world right now. The average age of advisors, I think is my age, right?

    Let’s just say I’m going to be 63. So a lot of advisors are looking for succession and to join a great team. That’s going to help them and help their clients going forward. So advisors need to keep their eyes open for that opportunity also.

    Well, you know, I know you a long time, probably most of my career, uh, during COVID what have you seen change in advisor practices the most?

    BILL: Well, I’ve seen a couple of things and we’ll get nitty gritty with the referral process. It’s that’s one thing I like to talk about is certainly the geographic reach of a lot of practices has expanded, and that’s been good, especially folks who target a niche market, they found that they can go after what might be a target market in a small area for them, but now they can even be nationwide if they want to. But the biggest thing around referrals I get asked is do you ask differently because it’s virtual was zoom or teams, Go-To-Meeting whatever you’re on. And the answer, the short answer is not much different.

    What usually is the case is working virtually. We don’t often have as much time. Sometimes the appointments are shorter. And so because of that, we can’t often brainstorm as much. We can’t often make it a free flowing conversation as much. And since the best way to ask for referrals, or I really should say introductions because that’s what we want these days, is we want to come very specific. We want to come prepared with some specific individuals we know, they know, or maybe a couple of categories of life events, money, and motion, whatever category they were in before they came to us. We want to start with that.

    So it’s probably going to be a more condensed, tighter conversation of virtually we can’t read the body language quite the same.

    And so we’re probably, again, not going to expand it as much. What’s also changed is the introductions, the type of introduction. We know that in this business getting introduced in person like your retirement parties and your charitable events and all the other things that you’ve been doing over the years is a great way to get introduced.

    As long as logistics don’t get in the way of making that happen. But during the pandemic, obviously we’ve had to do it virtually. And that is an email introduction. I like to call it an email handshake where it’s Joe, meet, Laura, Laura, meet, Joe. And we get connected that way. So what we found is that’s such an effective way to get introduced even after the pandemic is fully over.

    Hopefully. We lose this thing in the rear view mirror someday, then we’ll still be getting introduced virtually. Cause it works so well. So the basic dynamics haven’t changed. You still have to be super referrable. You still want to get introduced, not just word of mouth, but get connected. The ways they’ve changed just a little bit.

    So Joe de Sena, thank you so much for being with us today on top adviser podcast, the passion for the work that you do shows through. I think the passion for making a difference in your client’s lives show through. And one of the things I took out of this is because retirement is such a special event and all the advisors that I coach or most of them, at least that’s the big part of their business, right? Helping people prepare for and navigate into retirement. That it just makes sense to have a special event to celebrate that time in their life. So thank you for bringing that idea to Top Advisor Podcast.

    JOE: My pleasure Bill. Thank you.

    BILL: Thank you for listening to the Top Advisor Podcast brought to you by ProudMouth’s Influence Accelerator Academy.

    Click the subscribe button below to be notified when new episodes become available. Visit my website, for links to my books, courses, and online tools and to register for the Cates Academy.

About Our Guest

Joe De Sena CFP®, MBA is a private wealth advisor at Siena Wealth Advisory Group. Joe has been a financial advisor for 27 years. Joe is passionate about protecting his clients and their families from the unexpected. Joe loves to travel, read, run marathons and do charity work.

Connect with Joe De Sena

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About Your Host

Bill Cates, CSP, CPAE, works with established financial advisors to speed up their growth without increasing their marketing budget. Advisors tap into Bill’s proven process to multiply their best clients through introductions from advocates and Centers of Influence (such as CPAs and attorneys), communicate their value proposition more effectively, and create a reputation in a profitable target market. Bill helps advisors move from push prospecting to magnetic marketing – to attract more Right Fit Clients™.

Bill is the author of four best-selling books, Get More Referrals Now, Don’t Keep Me a Secret, Beyond Referrals, and Radical Relevance. Bill is a highly sought-after international speaker and coach, as well as the founder of The Cates Academy for Relationship Marketing™.


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