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Evaluating COI Referral Programs

Based on extensive research with advisors, it is undisputed that for most of them, the way to connect with more successful and wealthier clients is by getting referrals from centers of influence (i.e., COIs). Most times, the COIs are accountants and trusts and estates lawyers. Still, a COI can be any non-competing professional, such as a life coach, a social influencer or a concierge medical physician. Sometimes, COIs are more exotic, such as the metaverse real estate broker, the dominatrix and the mastermind group director.

To win the allegiance of advisors, various providers have developed support programs to help them get referrals from COIs. According to Brett Van Bortel, director of consulting services with Invesco Global Consulting and co-author of Street-Smart Networking: How Financial and Legal Professionals Can Cultivate Centers of Influence for a Flood of New Affluent Clients, “Many advisors looking to excel are intensely interested in being able to get a steady stream of new ideal clients from COIs. Without question, high-quality COI referral programs can supercharge an advisor’s practice. A doubling of revenue in a few years is very possible. At the same time, investment management firms, broker/dealers, custodians and aggregators are trying to expand their advisor networks. A powerful COI referral program is a powerful way for these firms to build an exceptional advisor network.”

There are some questions for advisors considering the different COI referral programs.

How successful is the particular COI referral program? Put another way, does the COI referral program work? You can be more precise and ascertain for whom it works and what results you can reasonably expect. Understanding the underlying logic of the COI referral program and how it was conceptualized can be very helpful.

How does the COI referral program fit with your business model? Some COI referral programs are geared to different advisor business models. For example, one COI referral program leverages the family office business model to assist advisors wanting to work with clients with a $50 million or more net worth. If you are only interested in additional AUM, this program is not for you. Another consideration is timing. Building relationships with COIs takes time, but some programs operate faster than others.

What do I get from a particular COI referral program? Some COI referral programs are educational, providing a game plan for advisors to cultivate COI relationships. Other COI referral programs are more extensive. For example, according to Andree Mohr, chief implementation officer for Integrated Partners, a leading financial advisory firm, “We decided to be very hands-on, helping advisors and accountants work together to deliver wealth management expertise to the accountants’ clients. Our CPA Alliance program connects advisors with accountants who share revenues. Furthermore, through Integrated Academy, we provide multi-modal education resources and coaching that help advisors consistently get client referrals from accountants.”

What must I do to participate in a particular COI referral program? Some consultants and training firms provide COI referral programs for a fee. When they are supplied by firms motivated to build their advisor networks, the COI referral programs are restricted to advisors in those networks. In the case of investment management firms, the objective is to be able to highlight their offerings.

With competition for advisors only intensifying, financial firms will be committing more and more resources to help advisors excel. High-quality COI referral programs are among the most in-demand and consequential forms of support these financial firms can provide advisors.

Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private Wealth magazine and chief content officer for High-Net-Worth Genius. He is a strategist for family offices and the ultra-wealthy.


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