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Serve Your Clients Better with an Extended Family Approach

by Bill Cates

Let’s start with three things you already know:

  1. Every aspect of your clients’ lives is impacted in some way by money.

  2. Your clients’ financial lives do not exist in a vacuum. Many of your clients’ financial decisions impact others in their life. And a decision to do something is just as important or impactful as a decision to do nothing.

  3. Most of your clients are impacted by the decisions or non-decisions of others in their lives – sometimes for the better and sometimes not so much.

I would like to suggest that, from the minute you begin speaking with prospective clients or serving your current clients over a long period of time, you will bring more value to your clients, to others, and to yourself if you think in terms of the extended family and other relationships.

One industry veteran I spoke to recently – who triggered the idea of this blog – said to me, “We should see serving the extended family (and sometimes non-family) as an obligation to do what’s best for them, not just as a ‘sales lead’.”

Is It How You Do Business?  

In my almost three decades of working with financial professionals, here’s the range of behavior I’ve observed regarding this concept:

  1. Narrow & Transactional – These financial professionals focus solely on the person or couple in front of them. They “make a sale” and then move on. In fact, they’re not really creating clients, they’re processing transactions.
  • These financial professionals will learn about their clients’ beneficiaries as part of their discovery and recommendation process, but that conversation is limited.
  • These financial professionals may stay in touch with these people once a year, but they don’t go any deeper or wider to see who else is impacted. All too often, these agents are seen by their clients as offering important, but limited value.
  1. Situational & Limited – These advisors look to work with beneficiaries and others close to their client when it comes up naturally in the conversation. The client may ask the advisor about the possibilities of helping other family members, or the advisor may spot an obvious and immediate way to serve someone close to their clients, but they don’t make it a practice of looking for these ubiquitous opportunities to serve others.
  1. Strategic & Systematic – These advisors have made the decision to bring holistic guidance and protection to their clients, introducing this extended family concept early in their new relationships and keeping the idea alive throughout the relationship. They will speak to the responsibility their clients have to others impacted by their financial decisions and the importance of exploring how the financial decisions of others impact their clients.

What Are the Relationships to Consider?


  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Godparents
  • Aunts/Uncles
  • Cousins / Nieces  /Nephews
  • In-Laws


  • Trustees/Executors
  • Guard
  • Employees
  • Business Partners
  • Other Special People

The Benefits to the Clients & Advisors

One advisor told me, “Families come together in some sort of transition and/or crisis.  This is a terrible time to plan things and make decisions.  We work with our clients to anticipate those situations – to determine who needs to be involved and what decisions need to be made beforehand.”

Benefits to the Clients include:

  • Prevention or mitigation of stressful situations during a transition or crisis.
  • Organization and ability to do important work that is not possible after a death.
  • Clarity about roles and responsibilities – who takes care of whom, who pays for what, and from where does the money come? Everyone’s wishes, priorities, and capabilities are taken into consideration.
  • Better planning and protection for the initial client and new people exposed to this important work.

The Benefits to the Financial Professional Include:

  • An expanded network – more activity with more people.
  • A repeatable process for advisors so they never lack for quality people to see.
  • Higher client retention and referrals.
  • A way to scale the business and create a team approach.

Stories Bring This to Life

One of the best ways to bring this to life for your clients is with stories. Humans listen to, and remember, stories differently than facts, figures, and more logical explanations. Work on building an inventory of examples of how you have helped different types of clients in different ways and then tell these (very short) stories to your prospects and clients so they can see the importance of a more holistic and extended approach.

Hypothetical Example

I was working with a couple who had just become new grandparents. Of course, they were excited about their first grandchild. They were also a little nervous about also being their grandchild’s Godparents. What if, God forbid, something happened to their children (the parents of their grandchildren)? Would they be able to afford the costs of raising their grandchildren, including money for their higher education?

They introduced me to their adult children. Among other things, we put permanent life insurance in place on them. In addition to alleviating this concern, this policy became another way for them to put away more money toward their own retirement.

A Way to Scale Your Business

Established financial professionals may not want to pursue the smaller cases. Although they must be careful to not assume a child (or any other relative) is a small case, they must qualify first.

This is where a financial professional can scale their business by having members of their team or free agents help with this joint work. I know one advisor who wanted to hire someone for his team but knew that might take some time. So, he found another advisor, not to formally join the team, but to work as a free agent for a year or more.

I would love to hear from you on this topic!  What are you doing in this area that is working and/or what challenges are you encountering? 

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