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Focus On What Matters: Financial Storytelling for Greater CAS Impact

Mike Triantos
Posted by Mike Triantos on Jun 21, 2023 3:26:41 PM

Previously, we talked about what financial storytelling is and how you can develop that skill set.  

Let’s take it a step deeper. Financial storytelling is a crucial part of delivering high-quality, valuable client accounting services (CAS) to your clients. It benefits both you and your client: you get guidance on how to tailor your services, and they get a clear connection between their metrics and their goals. 

How does this look in action? In its simplest form, it’s a three-part process of understanding your client’s goals as tied to metrics, setting a cadence of reviewing results and having a structure of meetings that’s focused on the story that matters. 

Let’s break this process down into each separate component.

A Deeper Understanding 

The foundation for CAS is an understanding of your clients. Getting a deeper understanding of your client's needs doesn’t have to be complicated. 

First, ask your client what their goals are. Then, you shut up and let them talk. The client will start detailing things that are important to them, things like achieving a certain amount of growth, breaking even, or being able to afford new employees.  

After they’ve talked about their long-term goals, it’s time to start asking critical questions. Really dig into the why behind the goals to help identity what’s the most important thing that’s on their mind. Don’t stop with something as simple as they want to increase revenue by some percentage. Learn the why behind it. The what and the why you uncover are the start of your financial storytelling. 

As you start to discuss how you’re going to accomplish these goals together, it’s essential that you limit your scope to the core drivers of that success. Drivers are the metrics that are closest tied to the business’s goals. Try to limit yourself to three drivers to cut down on the noise so your client can focus on the numbers that matter most. 

Honing in on the main drivers of success for the goal helps you define the how of the storytelling. What are the activities that influence those metrics? You’re constantly peeling back layers and working backward from the goal, to the metrics, to the drivers, and finally, the actions. 

Remember, with your client’s main goal. You have an endpoint for the story. Every month, you’ll be touching base on how you’re progressing down the path, what obstacles might have come up, and potential solutions to make the journey easier. 

Consistency Brings Clarity 

Having a path planned turns metrics from numbers to something usable and meaningful. But that’s not going to be enough for your clients. You’ll need consistent touchpoints and regular conversations for both you and your client to have total clarity on what’s happening. 

As you start an engagement, you should be meeting at least quarterly. However, the more frequently you meet, the more valuable the engagement becomes because you’re turning insight to action with a greater frequency.  

Quarterly is a good starting point as you’re developing your CAS model, but monthly should be the end goal. That cadence minimizes big topics, keeps conversations manageable, and lets you get feedback sooner. Just as much as you’re benefiting your client with a greater frequency, you’re protecting yourself from having to cover too much in a meeting. 

With these meetings, it doesn’t matter if you have good news or bad news. Good news means things are going according to plan, and bad news means adjusting the strategy based on what you’ve learned. Surprises are what you want to try to avoid. Any surprises mean there was a blind spot you need to learn from. 

Stay Focused 

With your regular touchpoints, there are four pillars of financial storytelling you should always cover: 

  1. 1.  What happened? 
  1. 2.  Why did it happen? 
  1. 3.  What will happen? 
  1. 4.  How can we make it happen? 

The first two points are the historical talking points. You’re dissecting some outcomes and explaining how they came to be. The last two points are the most powerful. You’re starting to look to the future, forecasting what could happen and helping set a plan to change that outcome towards their goals. 

When thinking about these four pillars, always tie it back to the numbers that are drivers of their goals. Rather than give your clients a bundle of stats and metrics for them to decipher, your conversations should always be focused on what’s essential to the storytelling. 

The last thing that should be covered in your regular touchpoints is confirming your client’s goals haven’t changed. Maybe something happened that shifted priorities which means shifting your thinking to new drivers and actions to reflect the change. 

Example: Securing A Bank Loan 

Let’s break down financial storytelling in CAS with an example.  

Your client wants to secure a loan to help them grow. They’ve decided to go through a bank. You know what the bank wants: a loan that will be paid back so they can collect the interest. You also know the client’s financial reporting and what the banks are ultimately going to look at. How do you help them navigate the situation? 

There are several moving pieces you need to stay on top of. The bank wants to see a profitable business or at least one with the possibility of turning a profit in the near future. You also know that loan payments will cut into that profitability and impact cash flow. 

You, as the advisor, can tie all these points into the financial storytelling. What happened and why did it happen will be how the business performed and the main drivers of those results. What will happen is whether the business will be granted the loan. Finally, how can we make it happen will be setting up a plan to be successfully approved. 

Since you know what the banks are looking for, you’ll inform the client on the drivers of that decision-making process. If the business doesn’t look like it will be approved, why? Once the why is outlined, you set an action plan to help the business present better to the bank.  

Beyond that, what does the future look like with the loan? At the end of the day, cash is what keeps the business going. If loan payments are not going to be manageable, the business might be better off avoiding the loan altogether. Some financial forecasting provides the full story of the impact and helps you set a plan with your client on how to use the funds and manage the payments. 


When structuring your CAS, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of too much data, too much to advise on, and too many directions the business can take. Financial storytelling reduces that noise by giving you a framework to determine what’s important and how you’ll talk about it. 

By digging deeper into the goals of your clients, you’ll understand what’s valuable to them. How do you maximize the value of your service? By focusing on what the client values. 

Then it’s a matter of setting up a cadence to talk about the drivers of the business’s goals and having a structure for how you’ll talk about them. Having a historical and predictive component means helping your clients shape their behaviors to achieve their goals. 

You can also save yourself time spent parsing through financial reporting with automation and dashboards. These free up your time to spend crafting the story and presenting information effectively to your clients. 

Topics: Financial Advisory


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