Accountants who offer financial planning services can provide their clients much-needed help from a trusted advisor.

At the Accounting Today Growth & Profitability Summit in Las Vegas last week, financial planners told attendees about how they can assist their clients in coping with the economic volatility of recent years and in saving for their family’s priorities.

“You can help them with the things that make the most difference to them,” said Louie Rosalez, chief marketing officer and chief insurance officer at Honkamp Krueger Financial Services in Dubuque, Iowa. Rosalez specializes in advising clients about insurance. He cited studies that indicated 52.6 percent of clients said they would prefer to purchase insurance through their CPA.

“They prefer to do business with their CPA,” he said. “Why? Trust.”

He cautioned that CPAs need to be careful to avoid conflicts of interest, but they should not be afraid to approach high-net-worth clients about financial planning services. “They want your help, they need your help,” he said.

BAM Advisor Services CEO Mont Levy also encouraged CPAs to offer financial planning, and let clients know the services are available.

“People forget you’re in the business,” he said. “You’ve got to do everything you can to remind everybody.”

Accounting firms need to have an outgoing representative who can act as a “champion” for financial services. “It’s got to be somebody who relates well to clients, somebody who’s not afraid of the word ‘sell,’” said Levy. The success of the firm will depend on referrals, he added. Accountants should ask their clients for referrals to other prospects they know of, reminding them, “I’ve helped you and I can help others.”

There also needs to be a reward for partners who make referrals so they have the incentive to provide the names of their clients to the financial services specialists at the firm. Levy recommended that registered investment advisors talk to between 45 and 60 prospects a year to win business for the firm, or roughly one a week.

Susan Dreier, a practice development manager at BAM Advisor Services in St. Louis, knows of a CPA who decided to essentially retire from his CPA work and concentrate full time on registered investment advisory services. He is now making twice as much money and he was able to go on a road trip along the California coast during tax season. “Figure out who you are and who you’d like to be,” she advised.

U.S. Wealth Management chairman and CEO John Napolitano recommended that CPAs who offer financial planning services should protect themselves by writing engagement letters, and keeping careful notes and work papers. “They see the CPA as the trusted guy,” he said. “Don’t bust that trust.”