Financial Planning Terms: What is a Center of Influence (“COI”)?

What exactly is a Center of Influence (COI)? Summit Explains this Important Financial Planning Term:

Financial Planning TermsAs an independent financial advisor in the hyper-competitive financial planning industry, you reap what you sow. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and if you’re not intensely focused on growing your practice and expanding your client base then you’re already lagging behind. As discussed in a previously published Summit Brokerage blog, independent financial advisors—at least the successful ones of the massive pack—must be entrepreneurs.

Given that the financial planning industry is already supersaturated with capable professionals, standing still and accepting the status quo will never be enough to propel you to the top. As it stands, multiple referral platforms are already required for profitable growth. To get a leg up on the competition and reach your practice’s growth potential, it has become imperative for an independent financial advisor to propel his or her referral-building activities by proactively establishing a potent and powerful center of influence network.

What is a Center of Influence (“COI”)?

A quickie, generalist definition of a COI[1] is a referral partner who provides sales leads for your business. However, in the financial planning industry, when defining COI—the term ‘influence” is key. Still speaking in general terms, a COI is a trusted person who can influence your ideal potential client to consider hiring you. An effective COI is an influencer in his or her clients’ lives and possesses key traits including:

  • COIs have established the highest level of trust with their own clients
  • COIs have clients who value their insights and opinions and trust them to make smart decisions about important issues
  • When COIs make recommendations to their clients about which financial advisor they should hire, these clients are very likely to heed the COIs recommendation and act on it

Who is a COI?

In the financial planning industry, advisors typically think of CPAs and attorneys as COIs. While there’s no doubt that these two types of professionals can be powerful COIs for financial advisors; forward-thinking advisors should not limit themselves to just these traditional types of COI partners. As an independent financial advisor, don’t restrict yourself to the status quo—to get something different, you must do something different.

Beyond CPAs and attorneys, there are many other types of professionals who deal with people that may fit your ideal client profile. The types of professionals you should target as potential COIs is dependent on your specific clientele, ideal client profile, and existing network—this is not a one-size-fits-all type of search. While not every professional listed below is appropriate for your practice’s COI network, this list of professionals who typically deal with people of wealth, is a good jumping-off point for your search:

  • Realtors and brokers
  • Bankers
  • Private equity firms
  • Nutritionists
  • Personal trainers
  • Golf and tennis teaching professionals
  • Life coaches
  • Executive recruiters
  • HR directors and consultants
  • Insurance specialists
  • Mediators
  • Marriage counselors
  • Divorce attorneys
  • Plastic surgeons, dermatologists, concierge physicians, and cosmetic dentists
  • Funeral home directors
  • Religious leaders
  • Assisted living facility directors and managers

Since COIs are of utmost importance to independent financial advisors who want to achieve the highest level of growth and success, we will be dedicating future blogs to various aspects of the topic. If you want to learn more about COIs, be on the lookout for soon-to-be-published blogs that will cover more specific points of interest such as: strategies for meeting and expanding your COIs; how to impress your COIs; and how to leverage your COIs to expand your practice.

For more information on Summit Brokerage Services and our independent financial advisors, visit or contact us at (800) 354-5528. We’ve been voted the number one boutique independent broker dealer firm in the country—let us show you why!

About Summit Brokerage Services

Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. is part of Cetera Financial Group®, a leading network of independent retail broker-dealers. Summit Brokerage provides a broad range of securities brokerage and investment services to primarily individual investors. Summit Brokerage also sells insurance products, predominantly fixed and variable annuities and life insurance through its subsidiary, SBS Insurance Agency of Florida. Summit Brokerage also provides asset management services through its investment advisor, Summit Financial Group, Inc.

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[1] The term “center of influence” often goes by its acronym “COI”.

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