When you think about helping your clients become more future-ready, you’re probably thinking about things like helping them innovate, revamping their business models, taking advantage of new technologies, or finding their next competitive advantage.
You’re probably not thinking about helping them get their finances in order. That’s not future-proofing anybody’s business — that’s just doing what we’ve always done, right?
And yet our guest this week, Lyle Benson, says doing what we’ve always done is, in a way, the essence of being future-ready.
Lyle is president and founder of L.K. Benson & Company in Baltimore, and he’s an MACPA member. He’s also on the forefront of advancing planning services for individuals within the profession; he has served in many roles of various professional organizations over the past 30 years and is the immediate past chair of the AICPA’s PFP Division Executive Committee. He is also a member of the CCH Financial and Estate Planning Advisory Board and co-founder and head of the Athena Study Group.
In this conversation, we cover:
- The changing demographics and expectations of our clients.
- What financial planning is … and what it isn’t.
- Leveraging technology so we can focus on consulting.
- The opportunities available to financial planning experts today.
- How you can use the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to drive conversations with clients.
- The three questions we need to be asking ourselves.
Listen to the show here.
Financial planning for the future
Lyle says helping your clients get a grip on their finances — whether it’s through personal financial planning, tax planning, retirement planning, risk management planning, or investment planning — is about the most future-ready service you can offer your clients.
Some might see these things as an afterthought of sorts, or at least not core to the accounting and finance profession. According to Lyle, not only are they core, they’re vital to our profession’s future – and to our clients’ future as well.
Anil Rego, the CEO and founder of Right Horizons, agrees.
”A good financial plan is essential for a secured future,” he writes in Entrepreneur India. “… Today’s generation suffers from a unique problem — longevity risk. Chances are high that all of us will live well past the 70s, but do we have an income today and for tomorrow that will enable us to be financially independent? A financial plan can take care of your today, tomorrow and future.”
These core foundational services that we’ve always provided are more important than ever, for a number of reasons.
First of all, demand for these services is greater than ever. Take tax planning, for example. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is breathing down our necks, and clients want guidance on what the law means for them. Not only that, but our clients are getting older and their expectations are changing; they expect that we’ll help them secure their futures.
But Lyle says becoming a true future-ready advisor for your clients starts with your answers to a few key questions:
- Why are you doing this in the first place? Think back to why you decided to join this profession. It probably had something to do with helping people, right? Your clients don’t connect with what you do. They connect with why you do it. Lyle says it’s time to reconnect with that why.
- What do you need to learn? Stay focused on that and forget about trying to know it all before you get started. You’ll never get there. Lyle says we should start by recognizing the strengths we have and build on them as we go.
- How can we transform our current services into future-ready services? “Transform” is a big word that implies massive change, but that’s not necessarily the case. Lyle says small steps can change perceptions over time. Innovation can simply mean incremental improvements on current practices, so start there.
In other words, becoming future-ready might be as simple as doing what we’re already doing, but doing it better – and that should be a comforting thought for many accounting and finance professionals.
If you’re looking for more resources to help you future-proof your services to individuals, you can start by visiting the AICPA’s Planning and Tax Advisory Services web page.
You’ll also find help in the MACPA’s CPE catalog. There’s plenty to learn there about tax reform, estate planning, financial planning, and anything else you need to brush up on.