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Financial Planning Competency Handbook, 2nd Edition by CFP Board

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CHAPTER 71 Establishing and Defining the Client-Planner Relationship

Elissa Buie, MBA, CFP®

Golden Gate University

Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®

Golden Gate University

DEFINITION

The proverb “well begun is half done,” whether one prefers to attribute it to Aristotle or to Mary Poppins, is as true for a financial planning engagement as for any other human endeavor. And for financial planning, “well begun” means the establishment of a clear understanding of the needs and concerns of the client, the capabilities and conflicts of the financial planner, and all the facts and circumstances that will determine whether the planner and client are well matched in their needs and capabilities. Especially for the financial planner, Stephen Covey captured well the focus of this first stage in the planning process: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”1

PURPOSE

Seek first to understand: The first order of business for the financial planner is to be clear who the client will be in any engagement. Among other things, the focus of any advice and the duty of loyalty will be determined by the identity of the client. If the individual is a business owner, for example, the planner must determine whether the client will be the individual, the individual’s business, or both. This will be determined by the specific needs expressed. For example, if the planner is being hired to advise on the structure and funding of a company retirement plan, the client is clearly the business, and the planner ...

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