What Do Clients Want From Their Advisor?

Often we think that clients want higher investment returns from their advisor, and therefore that defines the role of the advisor. However, research shows that clients want a relationship. This has actually been the case for a long time but the research is becoming clearly stronger all over the world in the need for advisors to develop stronger interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

What Clients Want from AdvisorsRecent Trusted Advisor Research by Professional Planner magazine in Australia demonstrates that an advisors interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence are most important by 82% of the survey participants who were clients of Advisors of the Year.

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There is no doubt developing your interpersonal skills grows the bottom line. In advisory business relationships are the key to revenue sustainability.

Many advisors are naturally results orientated in behavioral style and therefore naturally lower on relationships. But, the interpersonal skills can be learned with sustained effort, focus and investment. The starting point is behavioral awareness.

So, the question becomes why isnt there more sustained investment in developing the interpersonal skills and EQ of advisors? It seems there is still a strong over weighting towards technical training. When we see this change, trust in the industry will grow.

Our firm has recently been working with Advisors Ahead to deliver this type of training to financial planning students and young advisors. This is an important starting point but needs to go much further.

To learn more about how you can grow to become a behaviorally smart advisor, please visit the Financial DNA website.

The Life Experience I want to Create

But my Financial Advisor doesnt ask the right questions!

Does your Financial Advisor asking the right questions?Sadly, generally speaking, not all financial advisors are fully committed to exploring your hopes and dreams and then matching your financial plans to deliver those expected life experiences. Its not their fault, they are often young and inexperienced in the ways of life or have not embraced their own life journey yet, and they are obligated to sell you products determined by the company they are employed by.

As a client what can you do to change the way your financial advisor works with you in order to meet your unique needs? What can you do as a client to move the relationship to a level that puts you in the driving seat and educates/helps your advisor to spend more time investing into you, your financial behavior, your plans and your dreams?

At the outset its important to understand that your financial advisor may be completely resistant to the thought of understanding your behavioral approach to your finances (other than your ability to manage risk). But equally important is to know that the financial industry is changing ? more and more attention is being paid to how to increase business and retain clients through changing the behavior of the industries advisors.

So here are some keys to changing the client/advisor relationship:

  1. Research what the financial advisory company is saying about itself. Look at websites, marketing material; listen to executives recorded messages: look for the types of phrases listed below and ask the question ? what will you do to deliver this statement in terms of the financial advice you propose to give to me?
    – tailored client advisory service
    -the best possible expert advice for your situation
    -exceed their clients’ expectations (do they know/understand your expectations?)
    -advisers will help identify exactly what you require to meet your needs and achieve your goals (how?)Are you achieving your financial goals for living a Quality Life?
  2. Understand your own risk attitudes. Be clear about what you really think risk means to you. This self-awareness will help you to navigate the risk conversations more effectively and will ultimately deliver a greater level of success in the relationship.
  3. Encourage the advisor to ask leading questions. Prompt them. For example:
    -Would you like to know about a significant financial experience in my life? (this might refer to a financial loss, a financial gain or seeing something similar happen to a family member)
    -Would you like to know about three noteworthy plans I have that have not as yet come to fruition.
    -Can I tell you about proposals my children have for paying for their education?

There is, of course, no guarantee that your advisor will adjust their performance to embrace a more behaviorally based advisory relationship with you, but at this juncture the next question that you should be asking is this: – do I really want to continue to give my business to a financial advisory company who cares more about product sales than the plans I have that I trust will prosper me and give me and my family not only a good life but help us to deliver the hopes and dreams we have?

To learn more about developing financial behavior awareness, please visit the Financial DNA website.

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The Take-Charge Visionary

This post is part one of our series on Financial Behavioral Insights from our Financial Performance in the New Behavioral Economy White Paper. The financial behavior insights will help you gain greater self-awareness for recognizing some of your own behavioral tendencies and also those of investors.

The Take-Charge Visionary

Behavioral Insight 3, Take charge investors, investor behaviorJack Sun is a 40-year-old driven businessman who has come to meet with you to discuss his finances. You have learned that Jack has just sold one of his businesses and he now has capital to re-invest. You ask Jack the question: What will your life be like in 3, 5 or 20 years? Jack is able to immediately respond that he loves running restaurants and managing people. As the discussion goes on it becomes obvious Jack has worked out his life plan and he will not be retiring. Further, he does not mind what he invests his investment capital in so long as it makes money. He says he is interested in the overall return and not the performance of any particular asset.

Jack is an Initiator with a dominant trait of being a Take-Charge Visionary. This means he is naturally a big-picture thinker. He can see his life out a long way. Being able to more easily get the big-picture clarity does mean he will be naturally more comfortable making long term investment plans. Further, this clarity will help Jack with being able to more confidently make financial choices.

Also, when it comes to managing investments, an Initiator with Take-Charge Visionary traits will be able to more easily look at their investment portfolio in the aggregate. This will generally help them focus on the overall result and not get stuck on looking at whether each particular investment is a winner or loser.

Behavioral Insight
Naturally big-picture thinkers and decisive people will be Initiators who are Take-Charge Visionaries. They know where they are going and will have a consolidated view of their investment portfolio.

Communication key: Keep the discussion high level and provide options on recommendations.

A struggle that an Initiator will have is listening to advice from an advisor because it is about their agenda and plans. This means they could miss learning important information before making a decision and over extend themself.

An advisor who is an Initiator with Take-Charge Visionary traits will be naturally good at giving the client direction but needs to slow it down and listen to what their client has to say. This type of advisor needs to be very careful that their dominant attitudes do not overly influence the portfolio.

Learning Point:
The Initiator with a Take-Charge Visionary dominant trait will more independently set the direction of their overall planning. The advisor should aim to guide them by providing options and recommendations on investment choices. Ask the client: What goals would be the most important for you to achieve in your life? Have you built a detailed plan for your wealth creation?

To read about additional client behavioral styles, download the full Financial Performance in the New Behavioral Economy White Paper.

What are your thoughts?

Framing: Re-frame the Presentation of Ideas and Suitable Solutions

This post is part 2 of our 10 part series on Financial Behavioral Insights from our Financial Performance in the New Behavioral Economy White Paper. The financial behavior insights will help you gain greater self-awareness for recognizing some of your own behavioral tendencies and also those of investors.

Behavioral Insight 2:? Framing

Chris, a financial advisor, has invited 20 clients with similar levels of wealth and age to his office for a lunch and learn presentation by Paul Southwick on a new investment strategy. The new strategy is to provide a mix of dividends and capital growth with some downside protection. Chris has vetted the investment and believes it will fit his clients well. Paul uses a PowerPoint presentation with great content in it about the bottom line of the investment and is an articulate presenter. As he goes through the presentation there are clearly some who get it and want to sign up, there are others who are totally confused by the details and switched off, others who want to do more research and some who need to understand how it meets their security needs. After the lunch Chris is very concerned about the mixed reaction and losing client trust. He knows the product is sound and he will invest personally.

Behavioral Insight
The difference between what the advisor said and what the client heard will be attributable to the behavioral lens of each. The communication of products and solutions must be adapted.

Framing, financial advisor, customizing the message, customized experience, client engagementHave you ever attended a presentation like the one Chris arranged and been de-energized, bamboozled and confused by the investment proposal and not responded? Understanding investors learning styles and propensities for receiving information, new ideas, strategies, products and solutions is critical to successfully presenting to them. This will increase the chance that they understand the proposal for what it is and how it is relevant to them.? The mistake many advisors and fund managers make is that they naturally present to investors through their own lens. Instead, they should be re-framing how they present to be much more on the investors unique terms.

Advisors need to appreciate that with 20 people in the room there could be 20 different reactions, because each person is unique. The best way to get around this is to re-structure the proposal being presented into 4 quadrants so that each broad category of behavioral needs is addressed: 1. The big picture and how it relates to achieving goals and bottom-line returns, 2. Indicate how their lifestyle needs are met along with telling them the names of the people involved in managing the product or solution, 3. Address financial security and provide feelings, 4. Make the solution tangible and provide the history and research details.

Learning Point:
Advisors need to use behavioral insights to customize their communication with clients and to re-frame the presentation of ideas and suitable solutions so the client interprets the information as intended.

What are your thoughts? For additional information on discovery through behavioral profiles, click here.

Advisors Can Differentiate By Integrating Behavioral Finance Strategies

Recently, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini have issued a very important research study which demonstrates how much investors confidence has been eroded by the turbulent markets. Investors are still very wary of the future.? Click Here to read the article.
The article points out that the following:

  1. Investors want a more active relationship with their advisors, including a deeper understanding of their investments and how they are aligned to their goals, based on their actual risk profile.
  2. Many investors are being driven by their emotions when making investment decisions which is increasing the need for advisors to engage in greater dialogue with their clients.
  3. Clients are now demanding fundamental changes in how they are served, and are favoring firms which can understand both their emotional and intellectual needs. This is increasing the need for advisors to incorporate a behavioral finance approach towards portfolio management. Advisors need to be able to incorporate the emotional factors into stronger portfolio management and risk management capabilities. A behavioral finance approach of this nature can be a big differentiator among firms.

This research is very consistent with other research, such as from Gallup, which demonstrates the need to emotionally engage with clients at a much deeper level. This is the new “behavioral economy”.

Resistance to Financial Planning

Last week, there was a Financial Planning Association group discussion in which someone posed the question: Why do people resist creating a formal financial plan.

This is a great question and gets to the core of financial planning.

Many people do not know what financial planning is. I think many financial planners are still learning what it means to them. As the industry grows and comes to more of a collective view then this will help. Is the planner about achieving returns or helping a client achieve life and consequently financial goals? What role is the planner playing in the client’s life?

Those who accept the planner as their financial life guide will more likely do a financial plan. Another key point is the person’s level of personal trust. Do they have fears about planning and sharing themselves and getting help? Do they trust the planner? Both issues are at work.

I also find that if the planner is not a trusting person (and our research shows 70% are not) then this is not conducive to building relationships and getting planning commitment. The question of trust gets down to both a person’s DNA behaviors and their life experience. The more the planner represents product and is not independent then trust will also be harder to build.

Ultimately, the more a planner seeks to know their client and make the client feel they are understood then the chances of getting the plan done increases. Further, retention will increase. The client is not a financial number but a person whose life constantly develops.