A few days ago, as we were warming up for one of our regular tennis doubles matches, one of my tennis buddies asked me, as well as everyone in earshot, my thoughts regarding the global allocation in our portfolios. Before I could answer (not that I had an answer) everyone joined in the conversation.
This conversation, in a variety of forms, has become quite common amongst today’s affluent. Wild market fluctuations, 24-hour media drumbeat, combined with our current political dysfunction has everyone on edge. There’s a serious meta-message behind these conversations—financial advisors aren’t communicating sufficiently regarding the aforementioned.
In our pre-tennis conversation (I did most of the listening) it was interesting that these three affluent clients—two physicians and a professor—made no mention of what they were hearing from their financial advisor. My translation; either they don’t value their advisor’s opinion or there’s been radio silence. Knowing this group as I do, I suspect it was the latter—radio silence.
This is dangerous.
How to Create The Ultimate Client Partnership
Today’s environment has provided financial advisors with a unique opportunity—to transform affluent client relationships into a true partnership. OK, I get it, many of you probably think you already have this partnership. Yet, this is a risky assumption. It’s not what you think, it’s what your affluent clients think.
Before going any further, let me remind you of the gift today’s affluent have given financial advisors—permission to mix business with pleasure. Actually, it’s beyond permission, because done properly, you develop an emotional connection, establish a true partnership and enjoy a business comprised of ideal clients.
However there’s a huge perception gap (40-45 percentage points) between how affluent clients and financial advisors perceive the client-advisor relationship. You probably guessed it—financial advisors view the relationship as much stronger than their affluent clients. Ouch!
So how can financial advisors go about becoming a partner with their affluent clients? Essentially, by applying everything we’ve been sharing with you from our years of conducting affluent research. That said, let me provide a simple outline that can provide context:
- Know everything about their family circumstances: Our research has been telling us for the past 15 years that the affluent want a financial professional who can advise them on the totality of their family’s finances. In order to do so, you need to know everything about their family.
- Be involved with their family circumstances: Knowledge is powerful only when it’s acted upon. Knowing that exercise is good for us does nothing if we don’t actually exercise. Ditto knowing everything about your clients—you must get involved. Whether it’s birthday parties, graduations, getting to know extended family members, helping with family issues—you become a partner when you’re involved.
- Communicate as if they were your mother: Today’s uncertainties have many people concerned about funds throughout their retirement years. Never assume everything is okay because you’re not hearing from an affluent client. Think of Mom and make that extra call to reassure that you’re on top of everything.
- Have a Preparation for the Next Recession meeting with each affluent client: This goes beyond the reassuring phone call, this is an actual themed review where you’re going over every aspect of their family’s financial affairs, advising on any necessary adjustments in preparation for the next recession.
- Socialize: You always want to take steps that strengthen your emotional connection in normal times, but in challenging times it becomes even more important. Socializing builds trust beyond the professional client-advisor relationship, in many ways this is a holistic trust, which is essential for developing a partnership with affluent clients.
- Become the financial literacy guide for their children: Many of today’s affluent are concerned about the financial acumen of their children. They’ve worked hard for their affluence and want their children to be smart with their money, which often includes their inheritance.
- Be involved in every aspect of their financial affairs: You don’t have to be the expert in every area of the multi-dimensional aspects of their family’s finances, but you need to provide experts who you’ve sourced and vetted for areas that are outside of your expertise. Whether it’s health insurance, long-term care, lending, etc.
Partnering with your affluent clients requires a commitment. You want to be their first call if they have a question. You want them talking behind your back in a good way—in the form of quoting you when engaged in conversation with peers about the markets. This is another form of word-of-mouth influence (the No. 1 impact factor in affluent decision-making). Take all of this to heart, as there are countless opportunities in today’s crazy environment.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com