Ten Time Bandits That Distract You from Doing Your Best Work

Achieving the greatest success as a wealth manager requires control of the most significant depleting asset: your time.

By Ernest Clark

Key Takeaways:

  • Time management is a critical skill set required to achieve success as a wealth manager.
  • Wealth managers should identify where spending their time creates the most success.
  • Wealth managers should identify and remove the time bandits that steal their limited time from the activities that create the most success.


As many of your clients have just completed the annual rite of spring known as last-minute tax planning, procrastination and portfolio rebalancing, now might be a great time to hit the “pause” button for just a second.

Equity markets are at or near their all-time highs, interest rates are near their historical lows and inflation is in check. So why aren’t all your clients celebrating and inviting you for rides on their new yachts, cars and horses? Because they’re not all that secure, thanks to newfound uncertainty about gold, the Fed, China’s growth and the eurozone—and you probably don’t have the time anyway.

One of the most significant challenges wealth managers face is controlling their limited time. The good news is that your competitors have the same time management challenge. So, if you can develop better time management skills than your rivals can, you will have a leg up on them and be better-positioned to excel in a competitive business environment.

Of course, that’s more easily said than done for many a hardworking professional. Good time management is a two-step process. First, you must clearly identify activities that only you can do and that add significant value to your wealth management business. Second, you must identify the time bandits that steal your limited time from the activities that really matter.

Where Successful Advisors Spend Their Limited Time

Successful wealth managers bring the most value to their businesses with the following three activities:

1. Providing services beyond investment consulting

Current clients expect you to focus on their concerns beyond investment consulting. They are concerned about:

  • Making smart decisions about their money
  • Minimizing income and transfer taxes
  • Transferring assets to descendants
  • Giving up assets to questionable third parties
  • Making significant charitable gifts
2. Deepening existing client relationships

Maintaining relationships with high-net-worth clients requires contact beyond sending monthly statements, quarterly reports and standard emails. These relationships demand personal communication containing client-specific information.

3. Building relationships with prospects
Converting prospects into wealth management clients is a process that requires you to build deep relationships quickly that are focused on a prospect’s specific concerns.

Top Ten Time Bandits

In my role as director of wealth management at BAM Advisor Services, LLC (BAM), I assist firms in developing their practices. From this experience of working with many advisors across the country, I have compiled the following list of the top ten time bandits for growing wealth managers:

1. Losing time due to lack of organization (specifically, prospect lists, meetings and personal calendars)
Lack of organization reflects a wealth manager’s future servicing skills. Advisors should plan and prepare for meetings and manage those meetings with agendas, on-topic communication and hard stops for every meeting to respect everyone’s time.

2. Discussing market forecasts when all crystal balls are cloudy
As noted author and BAM principal Larry Swedroe has observed, “Everyone’s crystal ball is cloudy.” Why spend your limited time reading, viewing and participating in conversations related to forecasting?

3. Serving clients who do not match your ideal client profile
Once a wealth manager develops an ideal client profile, he or she will begin to notice that the fee from a client who does not match his or her ideal client profile requires too much time to maintain the existing client relationship. Releasing these clients is often the best solution.

4. Chasing nonresponsive prospects
Ever have a prospect not return your communication after three calls or emails? The real issue is that we do not know the prospect well enough to understand the best way to communicate with him or her. I recommend sending a notice of disengagement such as, “I apologize that I have been unable to reach you. Please contact me if you wish to move forward.” The best use of your time is moving to the next prospect.

5. Sending multiple emails instead of engaging in verbal communication
Ever notice a long chain of emails attached to one email? This is a great example of where a scheduled call could save time over a group of people typing email responses. Schedule the call and keep the time short. Avoid sending emails for every communication.

6. Losing time (and important information) to desk clutter
It is difficult to guess how much time is wasted by moving piles of paper around a cluttered office. Searching through piles of desk clutter for the critical information needed for a call or meeting requires time. The time-saver is to move toward an efficient paperless office with a system that still allows you to take client files with you to meetings.

7. Browsing the Internet, including social media
The activity usually starts out with a search for specific information, but it can quickly lead to distraction. Instead, limit Internet browsing to a certain amount of time per day, much like a scheduled call or meeting.

8. Implementing technology tools before they are efficient
Attempting to use technology before it is fully installed or before your training is complete is a big time-waster. If it does not work properly, it is a time-waster. Using technology in this way could cause loss of data or excess data retrieval searching.

9. Completing administrative tasks
It is easy to drift off of the core job of a wealth manager into administrative tasks that could be accomplished by someone else in the office. I recommend avoiding these tasks by using the following four Ds:

  • Don’t do it if it is not worth anyone’s time.
  • Delegate it to someone else if it is worth doing, but not by you.
  • Defer if it can be done only by you, the wealth manager, but is also a task that can wait.
  • Do it now if it can be done only by you, but it must be done now.

The problem with administrative tasks occurs when a wealth manager defaults to “do it now” without considering the other three options above.

10. Reading and replying to email on demand
Email has become one of our greatest tools—when it is properly used. If it is not properly managed, email becomes one of our greatest time-wasters. If wealth managers spend their time on the three activities discussed above, they are in meetings, on calls, traveling and planning. Successful wealth managers are not at their desks waiting to send the next email. I recommend setting aside scheduled time in the morning and afternoon to manage email. Also, I recommend the following approaches to managing incoming emails:

  • Delete the email without reading it if it is from an unwanted sender.
  • Scan the email if you are unsure of its content, then take the appropriate action.
  • Read the email and determine whether a reply is necessary.
  • Reply to the email only if required.
  • File the email only if it needs to be saved.
  • Save the email if it contains client information.

High-net-worth clients have high service and relationship expectations. There is a great deal of competition seeking to serve these clients. The most successful wealth managers will determine the most valuable use of their time and avoid the time bandits that prevent their success.

About the Author

CEG Worldwide’s founder and CEO, John Bowen has long been known as a leader in the area of adding value to financial services firms. Bowen started his career as an independent broker-dealer representative and then became a fee-based financial advisor. He was ultimately named the CEO of Reinhardt Werba Bowen (RWB), a money management firm that helped other financial advisors raise billions of dollars in assets. In 1998, Bowen became CEO of Assante Capital Management upon the acquisition of RWB by Assante. He left Assante to start CEG Worldwide in 2001, in order to help advisors realize substantial success through the use of CEG Worldwide’s business development systems.

He is the author of many books, including Breaking Through: Building a World-Class Wealth Management Business and The Prudent Investor’s Guide to Beating the Market.