Are Your “Will File” or Future Fee Clients Getting the Attention They Deserve

Patrick Alyward

Senior VP

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The “Will File” has been in existence since the inception of the Trust Agreement in the late 1800’s.  There are various phrases for the Will File such as “Future Fee Client Database”, “Group of Unfunded Trusts” or “Will File Appointments”.  Regardless of the technical name, fiduciary organizations struggle to build and maintain an efficient process to organize and monitor these future (and often current) clients and as a result – not giving them the attention they deserve.

Will File – A collection of names where the fiduciary institution has been named as a future Trustee (or contingent), Executor, or other fiduciary capacity through a will file appointment or within a trust agreement.  These can also be considered “unfunded trusts”.

MAINTAINING A WILL FILE IS NOT EASY!

Every wealth management professional probably remembers the moment that he/she first started digging into a Will File database.  You may have stared at a few thousand names & remember asking yourself a few questions such as:

  • How do I know if this information up to date?
  • How can I use this list to generate current sales today?
  • Which attorneys refer the most to us?
  • Which clients have existing business with the bank and how do we keep them engaged?

Most organizations organize their Will File information on a spreadsheet while others use an “internally built system” attached to their CRM (Client Management System).  An internal solution may work but maintaining it, generating reports, and allowing access to multiple people can be challenging.  Another obstacle is also having access to dedicated technology resources and keeping the platform updated.  There is also a third group  (the minority) that utilize a third-party provider that provides a web based and secure platform with reporting capabilities.

RISKS

Although a lack of maintaining your Will File database may not be a top regulatory risk for your organization, there are certainly operational and reputational risks that can become embarrassing situations for your organization if it is mismanaged.  Consider the following examples:

  • A death occurs from a client that named you as Executor and you find out much later. You scramble to reestablish the estate settlement process while losing the confidence of the deceased’s children
  • Your current database is obsolete and difficult to share among team members – new sales opportunities are lost
  • Clients of other divisions within your organization are overlooked for wealth newsletters and company events
  • You struggle to identify which COI’s (Centers of Influence) are referring business to your organization

The pitfalls can be endless and stagnant data is a risk!   It only takes one situation as we all say in this business.   A failure to maintain an updated database with established procedures may result in a breach of fiduciary duty, lost sales, a lack of referral reporting, and potentially embarrassing situations for your organization that will diminish your brand and client confidence.

OPPORTUNITIES AND BEST PRACTICES

Given the fact that a wealth management customer has placed their trust in your organization, how much are you willing to invest in managing these clients now?   There are some simple opportunities to enhance your processes to avoid operational risks and embarrassing moments for your organization.  Consider the following:

  • Assign an owner for the database – accountability helps with data integrity. If multiple locations exist, then several owners can work together but one person should be accountable for the process/procedures
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis of your existing solution. This exercise will help you determine if you are meeting your needs or falling short!   Make sure you prioritize your weaknesses for future consideration
    • Document and communicate your shortfalls and missed opportunities for senior management
  • Organize all referral information and bring current. This will help you determine your best COI’s (Centers of Influence) and others that are simply getting a free lunch every few months
  • Establishing a recurring process to proactively “keep in touch” with these future clients via newsletters, holiday letters, new organizational developments, client events, etc.
  • Conducting periodic searches for address verifications and deaths using a 3rd party service
  • Develop a mechanism to designate if Will File clients are existing customers of your organization
  • Generating recurring reports to ensure information is kept current and shared with other team members

 

NEXT STEPS

If you acknowledge that you may have some risks managing your Will File database and your existing solution is not optimal, then take some action!   You don’t have to invest in the most optimal platform out of the gate.  Develop a plan that prioritizes your shortfalls and work toward enhancing over time.  There are existing solutions in the marketplace as well as best practices by other organizations you can review today.

Make a commitment and invest for your future clients – they deserve it!

LET US KNOW IF WE CAN HELP

RIC has developed a robust solution to help wealth management institutions organize and update their will file database while staying connected to future clients. Our DATATRACK Will File Platform will help you serve in your fiduciary capacity and generate critical reports to assist in cross selling efforts.  Take advantage of this user-friendly platform to reap the following benefits:

  • SECURE web based platform in a SOC compliant environment – no IT support needed and password protected!
  • COST EFFECTIVE license fee allows for unlimited # of users and access to customized reporting capabilities
  • COMPREHENSIVE platform to organize your client information with both address and death index verifications
  • FLEXIBLE technology allows for real time data & “snapshot” views; abundant fields for notes and referral sources

 


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