Some New Ideas for Holiday Gifts

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Holidays are coming. What can we do to stand out from our competition in terms of gifts or events?

Bob J., Upper Midwest

Dear Bob,

I answered a question in a recent column about unhappy clients at the holidays — this holiday-related question is a bit more fun! It’s a good idea to be planning early about what you are going to do.

Here are a few ideas to set you apart:

  • Send Thanksgiving gifts instead of sending gifts later in December. Thanksgiving is a more universal holiday, and most vendors and providers don’t send anything to honor the day. We sent Halloween baskets to many of our advisor clients this year for a change and had many say they appreciated them because they did not get lost in the end-of-the-year craziness!
  • Write individual letters (yes, handwritten) at Thanksgiving thanking the client. Be sure to include something special about what you enjoy or admire about that client.
  • Choose three charities and ask clients to choose one for you to donate to in their name. Then, be sure to have the charities send cards acknowledging the donations to each client individually.
  • Throw a holiday party and ask clients to bring a toy or gift to donate to a homeless shelter. Be sure to also have good food and holiday cheer for the clients who come! If you are able, take a picture of the donated goods at the local shelter and circulate it to your clients.
  • Think about the gift of education and information. If you have segmented clients and you know what they like to read, a bestselling book or magazine subscription could be appropriate
  • Tell clients that for every person who comes to your firm’s holiday party, you will donate a toy or money to some chosen charity. You could pick three and have clients “vote” among them at the party by putting a slip of paper into one of three bowls.
  • Consider holding a class — you could hire a specialist to teach clients how to make a homemade wreath, how to bake the best holiday cookies or how to stuff a turkey. If the clients can make something to take home (or learn an activity to share with their families), even better!

The most important thing is not to do the same old-same old. Make sure that whatever you do feels personal. Handwriting notes, holding events that are enjoyable and fun and sending gifts when everyone else isn’t doing the same thing are all ways to make sure your clients recognize and remember you after this year’s holiday season.

Dear Bev,

One of our advisors seems to be getting very forgetful. He is an older man in his late 60s who is still working with many of the most important clients of the firm. I am his peer, but a number of our staff members have shared stories with me that are a bit horrifying about the things he is forgetting to do. I tried to broach it with him but he laughed it off, saying that he was as sharp as he had ever been. Is there anything else I can do? I think I should reach out to clients and see if they are having a similar experience.

Name withheld

Dear Financial Advisor,

This may be one of the stickiest questions I have ever received! I’m not sure calling the clients to ask, “Do you think Joe is losing his mind?” is your best approach. Kidding aside, this is obviously a concerning issue. But as far as I see it, you have very limited options.

I would have suggested talking to the advisor, but you’ve done that. Unfortunately, many older people who start to have memory lapses don’t notice or realize – or won’t acknowledge – that it’s happening. This advisor probably has a lot to lose if he isn’t ready to retire, making him reluctant to admit to you, a peer, that he isn’t on top of things.

You don’t say if there is a higher authority at your firm or if you are all peers and partners. If there is someone above this advisor whom you could appeal to, that would be the first next step. I suggest going to the person in charge and asking if you, another advisor or even a junior person, could sit in on client calls with this advisor to see what he is saying and what’s being said to him. You will want to position this as a positive thing — “bringing the full array of resources” to clients — instead of anything that appears negative toward this advisor.

If there is no higher authority, you might have to be a bit more forceful in your approach. Start to document the observations of his staff members. If you could offer him some examples, he might see a trend too. Instead of saying he is getting too old to do this job, you could recommend a support structure — for example, a junior associate or note-taker at every meeting — who could help him with follow-up.

If you have a friendly relationship, you could also take him to coffee or tea and ask if he has thought about his next steps, including retirement. If you could get him talking, he might reveal his plans and fears, offering you more of an opening to discuss this issue.

It’s a difficult situation. I wish you the best of luck with choosing a next step.

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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