Tips for Increasing the Financial Advisors-Clients Engagement With Blake Wood of Lumiant
Blake Wood is the CEO of Lumiant US, an advice and client engagement platform where advisors connect with clients around their lives, values, and finances. Before Lumiant, he spent over 15 years at Envestnet, a financial service company transforming the deliverability of financial advice through an ecosystem of technology.
Blake has 20 years in the FinTech space working with advisors. He has a BGS in economics and an MBA in international management.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
Blake Wood talks about how Lumiant helps people
Tips for shifting a customer’s mindset around money
Lumiant’s customer success stories
Blake’s motivation behind getting in the financial services industry
How Lumiant’s winning more advisors to use the platform
What’s next for Lumiant?
How AI impacts the customer experience
Blake’s advice on how to win more customers
In this episode…
Do you feel like you are not giving the best advice to your clients as a financial advisor? Would you like to acquire more customers? Where can you get the support you deserve to thrive in this space?
Nowadays, consumers wanting financial guidance are becoming more disengaged from financial services because of the poor deliverability of the advice. They are starting to prefer fintech apps over advisors. So what needs to be done? Blake Wood shares how he's enabling financial advisors to help their clients align their finances with their values.
Listen to this episode of The Customer Wins as host Rich Walker welcomes Blake Wood, CEO of Lumiant US, to discuss how they are helping financial advisors connect with clients. Blake talks about how Lumiant helps people, tips for shifting a customer’s mindset around money, customer success stories, and the future of Lumiant.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
"How Evolving From Customer To Tech Insider Helps Customers Win"
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
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Welcome to The Customer Wins podcast where business leaders discuss their secrets and techniques for helping their customers succeed and in turn grow their business.
Richard Walker 0:16
Hi, I'm Rich Walker, the host of The Customer Wins where I talk to business leaders about how they help their customers win and how their focus on customer experience leads to growth. Some of our past guests have included Cody Foster, the CEO of Advisors Excel and Patrick Meyer of DocuSign. Today, I'm really excited to speak with Blake Wood, the US CEO for Lumiant. But first a word from our sponsor. Today's episode is brought to you by Quik the leader in enterprise forms automation, when the last step to earning your clients business requires filling out paperwork. Don't ruin your relationship with a bad experience. Instead, get Quik Forms make filling out forms a great experience and the easiest part of your transaction. Visit quikforms.com to get started. Before I introduce today's guest, I want to give a big thank you to Adrian Johnstone, CEO of Practifi for introducing me to Blake, go check out their website at practifi.com and check out their new account onboarding solution. All right, I'm excited to introduce Blake and to get to know him a bit better. Blake Wood is the US-based CEO of Lumiant, which is based in Sydney, Australia. Prior to joining Lumiant over a year ago, he spent over 15 years with investment, including roles in product development, corporate Strategy, advisory services and innovation. Blake shares a passion for empowering people to live their best life by helping advisors serve their clients, and especially their families better. Blake, welcome to The Customer Wins.
Blake Wood 1:41
Rich, thank you so much for having me. And Adrian, thanks for connecting us.
Richard Walker 1:45
Yeah, awesome. I love how we can meet each other this way. Now, if you haven't heard this podcast before, I talked with business leaders about what they're doing to help their customers win, how they built and deliver a great customer experience and the challenges to growing their own company. Blake, I want to understand your business a little better. How does your company help people?
Blake Wood 2:04
Yeah, thanks, Rich, where I tend to start with that is really more of the personal journey to how I got to Lumiant. Because it really is what drew me to Lumiant what the team has built here and what we've continued to evolve. So if I, if I go back, maybe two years, you know, I was sitting down actually at the Riskalyze conference and sat down and was having a beer with Gavin just talking about life in my father had had passed away. My mother was as we call them at Lumiant, the non-financial partner and I had sent my mother to an RA in her small town and Sokka. And one that I knew of that did a really great process, right. And IRA fiduciary goals-based planning really gotten to how their clients and prospects felt and dealt with money. And I wanted my mother to experience that process. Unfortunately, as she was working with the advisor didn't go through that same process I had hoped she had done and what I was really looking for someone to help my mother in that transition period, she wasn't a client to that advisor before my father passed, and then to give her kind of permission to spend, she's 76. Now, I want her to go out and see the world and enjoy life. But her sole focus is she doesn't want her money to go down. And this is a woman that doesn't even spend her Social Security checks that come in. And even as her oldest son, me pushing and pushing wasn't quite helping make the change. And that's where I thought the value of the advisor could really help. And we're missing that. And that's when I got introduced to Santiago Berge and Chris data, who are two co-founders and understood through Gavin, what they had built. And the idea was really that we as an industry have gotten the technology all wrong. As we think about the proposal tools, the performance reports, the client portals that clients log into, it's all about what's your asset allocation? What are the return streams? And it's not talking about how that client wants to live their life? And what's important to them? And what's that relationship to the money. And so we took a step back and designed this platform to really start with the clients for a sense, it's these conversations that advisors are already having in their first initial meetings, get to know the clients, what do they want out of life? What does retirement look like to them, but then those notes go into the CRM and it's not a conversation that lives and scales through technology. So we wanted to flip that process around that continues that conversation of understanding, what is it you want out of life? What do you value, what's important to you both non-financial goals, and financial goals. And ultimately, we built on top of this research at the University of Michigan that said, there's these eight dimensions in life that deliver fulfillment for humans. And as an industry, we've been really solely focused on financial wellness. And while there's nothing wrong with financial wellness, it's really a marketing tool if I'm alone little cynical to scare people into buying more products, the outcome, you hope they're better off financially. But I think as you and I know, money doesn't lead to happiness. And my mother after I took her through the Lumiant process, I did this with a number of my friends and family before joining Lumiant to figure out how hard is it to have these deeper conversations about what people's values are and what that means them and what drives them. And for my mother, what I ended up understanding as her number one concern was to avoid being a burden on her family, being me and my brother, she's got enough money for a lifetime, and then some, but she really doesn't want her children to pay for her care or long term care eldercare. If that was a conversation that her advisor had had with her number of years ago, he could have provided products and solutions that would have made her feel really comfortable about that outcome or the lack of that outcome, and would have given her permission to go out and do the vacation, she's always wanted to do to go see the friends and family across the world. And that was a real mess. And so that kind of struck home for me. The other thing that that's really important, I think we've missed in engaging prospects and our clients is not everyone wants to talk about research reports, products, and portfolios. They want to understand can they live the life that they've always dreamt up? And the conversations, if you look at some of the planning tools here in the US, there are financial oriented, obviously, but they average less than two goals per plan and rethink a plan starts with retirement, we're not really doing a lot else with that. So how can we bring in the conversation, ask them what's important to you and engage both partners in a meaningful conversation that's more emotional than it is IQ, if so one of the things that we like to say is, advice is used to be able to win by being the most, the smartest person in the room having the highest IQ. But as things shift in time, it's really the more higher EQ advisors, planners, service teams that are going to win these relationships, and have a deeper, longer better relation with their client. And that's what the team that Lumiant has built and we continue to invest in is how do we hero, the real advice that advisor gives well beyond that portfolio, and helping that client and that family, attain and achieve things that they value, and that are important to them. And that is about creating this experience in the space for a much deeper conversation. And ultimately, a better relationship with that family.
Richard Walker 7:28
Man, like you said, so many amazing things and all that. And I'm struck with a couple of things. One is that this is about psychology. And when I was an advisor, I felt like I was a psychologist half the time, and helping people break through their way of thinking about money. And I'll just give you a story. For example, my partner was talking to one of our clients who had, let's just say, like $10 million to their name, but they were only spending about 50,000 a year. And he said to them, look, you've done it, you've achieved it. Now you can spend it and they're like, we don't want to spend it where to use to not spending it. They didn't even say it that clearly, frankly. So he just turned around and said, Look, here's what I want you to do. The next time you buy a car, you get the best car, the next time you take a flight, you get the first class ticket, you can afford it, you're gonna leave your kids all the money that you could be spending to enjoy now. So I want to ask, and there's a lot of questions I want to ask, based on what you said, how do you do that? How do you get a customer to shift? And how does your tool or your product actually helped make that shift in mindset for people? How could it have helped your mom?
Blake Wood 8:31
Yeah, so one of the things that there's, there's common resistance of, oh, I don't want to be the life coach, the marriage counselor. And it was one of the concerns I had before joining Lumiant. So as I mentioned, I did this with my friends and family. And it's, it's really easy. You start with first, let the client make the decision. If they want to have this conversation or prospect, you invite them and say, hey, we're trying something a little different here. We want to make sure you guys understand what it is you want out of life or retirement depending on where they are. And you invite them to have this little engagement opportunity where they go through what we call the Your Life Survey. And it goes through these eight dimensions of well-being and ask them, hey, is this dimension important to you? If so, how is it important? And how well are you doing? And it plays back to both partners because we want them each to go through it if you're dealing with a household that has the two partners with it. And it plays back and says here's how you have self-assess how you're doing in life and what's important to you. The next step from that is if you're bringing a prospect and you're having a very different conversation. So one of the really neat learnings we had coming out of a lot of our initial rollouts and pilots as we had advisors kind of role-play is they realized when a prospect is coming to them, they're probably not the only advisor that that prospect is talking to. But if you think about your firm's pitch deck, if you will, they're largely the same, right? We've got these five pillars of advice or 10. We're holistic planning we do tax estate, and we've got these many destinations this many people on staff who've been around for this long or AUM is so big, it's all about the firm, it's not about the client. And if you have that, or the prospect, if you have that prospect, go through that little five-minute engagement module, you now know what's important that client and what they're concerned about and what they're doing well, and you can say, here's how our services, whether you got five or 15, can align with what you've told me is important to you and what you need help with, that's a really different conversation and being able to convert that prospect to a client. And the next really important tool, as we kind of go through the process is what we call your values. So this is going through, and understanding what are the most important values across those eight dimensions to those clients. And this is when some of the best conversation happens, we get videos and texts and emails from our advisor clients, I've had a great time doing it with my friends and family and my mother as well, where you go through and you pick these, different cards, I've got a couple of them here, and you put them out in the table, you can do it virtually via zoom on the platform as well, you say all right, pick your top five, you pick your top five, and then you unpack them. Alright, what does it mean to you to avoid being a burden to your family? And the first answer you might get might be very serviceable. I just don't want to be a burden on my kids. What does that mean to you? And then you'd understand with my mother, oh, that means I don't want my kids to pay for my eldercare, boom, I have something for that. And then what's been really fun, I did this with a couple friends of mine. Early on, they both pick pursue work with a purpose. There was each of their top five values, they both had very different meanings. For Kyle, the husband, it was, I want to continue my career path and grow and continue to be promoted. For his wife Lacey, it was spend more time in the church and volunteer my time, maybe go part-time, or maybe stop working my career entirely. They hadn't had this conversation. We're sitting at the dinner table, I had a bottle of wine out. And it was a fantastic conversation, I literally asked two questions, you sit back and you watch now that family that those two partners are understanding a deeper conversation, which we often don't make the space for in our own lives, as husband and wife are partners to have that. And so now they've had a great conversation facilitated by you, the advisor, you know them as well as they know each other now, it's a very different relationship from what can often be a transactional or surface level relationship, that the clients say, oh, wow, you know, Blake's really helped us understand now we're building a plan on, is it possible? If Kyle does x and Lacey wants to do Y? What is that financial plan look like? And what are some other things that we can do to make that a reality, because we said those things are important to me. And it's these conversations that are just awesome to watch and hear about. And one of the things that I love most about coming to Lumiant is being a little bit closer to that customer than being on kind of the back end of things of rebalancing, making the best portfolio tax harvesting all the technical stuff. But getting into the softer side, because that's really, I think, advisors of any profession that we have, are best positioned to help clients live the life that they want to live. And we just needed to build a process and tools to help scale that. So it doesn't need to be that senior advisor that's got 20 or 30 years under her belt, the junior advisors can follow the tech follow the process, and have this amazing conversation with clients. It really changed the dynamics.
Richard Walker 8:37
It sounds little bit like you're helping advisors be or use finance to be the vehicle not the destination, when so many advisors think that the money is the destination or they portray it that way in the tools and services they represent.
Blake Wood 13:40
I mean, think about the client you were talking about right? The goal isn't to die rich. The goal is to live richly, right we can have an inheritance goal for the kids who want that's great. But the goal is to bounce that last check, if you will, you want to live those experiences, you worked hard, your clients have earned that money, give them permission to spend, let them understand what it is they want to get at life. I mean, how often I would imagine you as an advisor had clients that their goal was to retire. Once they retire. They're like, now what do now. And that's where a lot of these non-financial goals can be hugely important to them, you're helping remind them it's like, hey, you said you want to do these things? Are you doing them? Yeah, your money is good, you're good, retirement is fine. But let me help you live the life that you want and get that fulfillment.
Richard Walker 14:27
And we changed our definition of retirement with our clients. We said, look, retirement is the ability to do what you want, when you want how you want, hopefully with whom you want, but I can't help with that. So that doesn't mean that you go golf every day. That might mean you keep working. It might mean and you start a foundation, it might mean you travel, whatever that is to you. There's something else that you said in this and I wonder if you've read the book Story Brand, or Building Your Story Brand by Donald Miller. Have you heard that book?
Blake Wood 14:54
No, I'm gonna have to pull it down now.
Richard Walker 14:56
Yeah, it's actually a really excellent book. I read it years ago, but it, it really brings out the premise that your brand should be told in the hero's journey in the story format. And what I think a lot of people mistakenly do when they talk about their selves, their businesses, they make themselves the hero saying, look how great I am. Look how good our product is, look how many things that does. But really, the customer is the hero. And when you're a financial advisor, yeah, okay, you got billions under management and all those things you said, but really, the hero is the customer. And the advisor is the guide. So I felt like your product is helping the advisor live in that role of the guide more easily, so that they can actually truly make the customer the hero of their journey, because they understand the journey in the first place.
Blake Wood 15:41
You've nailed it. That's exactly it, it's hearing that client, the experience that we want them to have, and how we want them to feel, I think is really important. They're not really going to remember as an advisor, what you did on their portfolio, all the tactical stuff you did, what they're going to remember is how you made them feel when they had that meeting with you and how they felt when they left. And if you're not focused on those sorts of things. You're really just providing a service and not an experience. And we believe that delivering those experiences consistently throughout the entire firm. And one of the things that we had to your point of the adviser being the hero, that's a key person dependency issue, because it shouldn't be about that advisor, it's about the client, if you've got the tools and support and technology to be front and center that the client is the important part. And you've built these components around them that heroes them in their journey, you're going to win and you're going to have clients that are going to tell their friends and family about the different things they're doing and how happy you're making them feel and the fulfillment they're getting out of their engagement with you that is going to drive, as we've seen, organic growth in the US is awful. Now, this is a way to help drive some of that.
Richard Walker 16:58
So let's bring this back into more tactical things. You're talking a lot around or about the customer experience that your advisers can create with your product. How are you seeing that impact their ability to grow their companies and become better advisors and retain clients more, especially through generational changes? Do you have any success stories around that?
Blake Wood 17:19
Yeah, we've got a good bit, we've one of my favorites. So Mark Akeroyd, who is our head of product does a podcast around these stories with our advisors that we bring in, and he's just kicking off season three, one of my favorite was last season, I think episode four, an advisor down in Australia, his firm had had used Lumiant, or bought Lumiant and wanted to deploy it or had to deploy it across the firm. But he had kind of resisted the change. He's like, I know my clients, I don't need anything new. This is good. You know, I'm fine. So about six months, and he finally said, alright, I'll try it, we kept nudging them. So we've got a great customer success team. It's like, hey, try this out with one of your favorite clients, you think would do this, and then try it out with clients that you don't think would do this and just kind of play it out and test it out. And he went through and he's like, you know what, I realized I didn't know my clients as well as I thought I did. And they really enjoyed the session. And he was saying this anecdotally, because this is about six months ago, I think that he first started getting into it. He said, I believe the longevity risk of the relationships he has decreased significantly. Because there's no other professional in our industry that's going to know my clients, like I know them now. And they feel it. And that was one of the key things he told me or told us on the podcast was, as an advisor, you kind of think some clients won't want to do it. And some clients will. He said, let the clients decide, you bring them in, it's not a threatening, it's like, hey, let's try this out. If you don't like this, we'll never come back to it. We haven't heard of example of a client saying that yet, which is awesome. But what we've also heard coming out of there, as in Australia, some of the oil rig workers, right, you're tough construction guys, they resist this, the other partner will kind of start engaging with it, they'll feel a bit left out. And it's the stories we get, which we probably hear more of because you don't expect them is that old burly guy that starts crying first, the happy crying, and the conversation about having these deep conversations that they typically wouldn't engage on their own, but then have that real awesome experience change. And another great one here from the US. One of our first individual advisor who's fantastic, she focuses around divorcees, and she had a really ultra-high net worth client come in and had gone through a transition herself and she was bringing a new partner in. And she was really nervous. She told us she almost canceled the meeting four different times because she was doing this for the first time, high value prospect and really wanted to hit it out of the park. And it was so awesome. She was texting us after she had the meeting and went through our value session with them. She's like they absolutely loved it. They're sending me emails about how they're debating on whether they're drinking sherry or chateau, not Matallana, some fancy wine, I'm not forgetting right now, when we're 90, what are we going to be drinking on their porch, and I'm going to be there with them. So through one value session, a new prospect is already thinking about when they're 90 together with their advisor, who they're just met, what they're going to be drinking, why they play rummy cube on the front porch. I mean, those kinds of changes in the relationship can happen that quickly, but it just grows. And those are the stories that keep us all here and keep us excited is the change that we're making. And the relationships within a family are hugely important. But positioning the advisor to be that guide of change, to show them how they can engage differently as a family, but then also with their advisor that's helping them live the life they've always dreamt up.
Richard Walker 20:53
I love this. And now I'm thinking, so I love my advisor and their team, why aren't they using this, I want them to use this because I want them to go through this with me. So in my family, I'm the financial guy was a financial planner, my wife is not a numbers, person, her own words. And she doesn't understand all these financial instruments and things like that. But what she cares about all these outcomes that we're talking about, she cares that she gets to live her best life that she gets to do the things she's passionate about that we can eventually retire with the lifestyle that we want. That's the most important part. My advisor, I credit her she was a female, and she gave so much attention to my wife and got her to open up in the conversation. But I can imagine a tool like this doing even more of that. So I think that's great. Do you see your customers redoing the session multiple times with the same client over periods of time?
Blake Wood 21:43
Yeah, that's a great question. As the progress meetings, what we call kind of progress meetings is there's kind of one big initial lift as you're going through these for the first time, your top values, really, we don't see them change, often they'll kind of change our life events, birth in the family illness, death retirement. So we want before every meeting, kind of as we've engineered this, and as we talk to advisors and firms about their client experience and how you map that, before you come in to have the client in for me, we say hey, you should send them out a couple these little links updating and kind of pack them all together, where it's like, hey, let's see how you're doing across these eight dimensions. update those? How are you feeling about your top five values? It's like Rich scored yourself a five in this one? Have you moved to a seven or eight? You know, what can we do to move it and sets the agenda for the meeting? So each member of the household can kind of go through that five to 10 Min. And if you do some longer ones, survey and engagement tool. And now you've got all right, here's all the things that I talked about you Rich you were five, you went to three what happened? You know, what, what can we do to fix that, or, hey, great job, you went to an eight, what's the next thing we want to focus on. And so you continually score these and one of the hero elements in our platform is called the well-being score. So you know, we have the output of the financial plan, and we integrate with other plans to show the financial component of it. Really what we love is the well-being and that's a roll-up of how you're doing across the life scores, how you're doing across your value scores, and how are you progressing towards your goals? And that's what we want to track both individually, we'll give you a score your wife a score, then roll up as a household, it's not around money. It's around how are you feeling? How are you making progress towards living the life that you said, and that we believe is a lot more important, impactful than the Monte Carlo, or the overall AUM of a client?
Richard Walker 23:29
Right, right. Blake I usually ask people earlier in this conversation, like where did you get your start? You said some of it, but you only went back two years, but you spent so much time and investment in other companies. What really made you want to go down this whole path? I mean, when you were in product and innovation, what made you come to this point of being in financial services, even.
Blake Wood 23:51
If I go all the way back to my father, he was really early days. He was kind of in banking for a number of years and then ended up landing at AmeriTrade in the early 90s. Before it was AmeriTrade and built out their online e=brokerage and e-broker and just got what I thought was so cool, right the day trading stuff in the 90s, I had my little account. And I thought it was so cool to democratization of investing and I could do a trade for 10 bucks and sometimes free and I'd go up there under my brakes and I would do the microfiche on the stock certificates. That was a thing. And I just got really I thought is really neat that people are able to have some control over their finances didn't have to go to the broker for $300 trade. So kind of followed that and had some internships, stock exchanges and officially at AmeriTrade as well and then landed here in Chicago after school looking for a job waiting tables and ended up adding investment into level opposite many new accounts and we had about 100 employees at the time, weren't making any money, but it was just, such a cool environment. They're using techniques And that thing was SMEs are the big thing we've now taken, SMA is from $10 million per SMA down to 100,000 or $200,000. At the time, another kind of version of that, how can we use technology to bring better products and services to more people. And the story invest netiquette talk about it for days, it's such a great company and a great culture to grew up in. And obviously, it's continues to grow and be successful in my journey over time, I was able to continue to kind of move on and move up with investment and really loved the technology component and working with advisors who can help clients do more, and they built a great platform for advisors. But what I always really wanted to do is to get closer to that end consumer and see if there's more ways that we can help them than just giving them products. Now, there's a lot more to life than that, I always felt the advice had a position to do that. And that's when I got the opportunity through Gavin to meet Santi and Chris and the team at Lumiant. It just it hit home, it was the right time, the right place. And a great group of people here at Lumiant, solving a problem that a lot of advisors and firms kind of field maybe they don't need to solve it, they've kind of got it in hand. But we see as advisors get in there, and they actually do couple of these sessions with clients. Like, this is amazing. It's fun, and my clients are having a different conversation with me. And out of that, you get better outcomes for everybody, you just wake up feeling good.