“Are you helping your client to live richly, or die rich?” That’s the question posed by Joe Duran, author and CEO of United Capital, to around 750 advisors at Orion Advisor Service’s 2018 Ascent conference in Miami Beach, Fla. And it’s a question too many advisors aren’t helping solve, he said.
What gets lost when advisors are obsessing about technology or their competition is that advisors and clients are both human beings, not walking wallets. Emotions are the one thing computers can never replicate, he added. He outlined four ways advisors can make sure their clients are seeing the value of having a real human being as an advisor.
1. Provide clients with a sense of understanding. Advisors are too often guilty of focusing on money as the destination, not the fuel providing a means to arriving at a destination. “What you’re doing is talking about the gas station,” said Duran. Clients really want to be talking about where do they want to go.
Duran came to this conclusion after seeing a bump in the number of terminations at United Capital. He realized clients felt they were reaching their destination, retirement, which is what they had been coached to seek out by their advisors. Clients were dropping advice when it was at its highest value, with the “least wiggle room available,” he added. Instead of focusing on money being a destination, focus on providing financial life management.
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of the personal added to the interactive. Be at a client’s side when needed, said Duran. The competitive advantage of being geographically close to a client is no longer a differentiator in the age of a smartphone. Use a client’s smartphone for more than a portal for a performance report. Duran suggested providing clients with content that takes advantage of their engagement with their phone.
3. Be consistent and predictable. Every major consumer brand is consistent and predictable, said Duran, and the best financial advisors should be too. Do clients have the ability to describe to friends what it’s like to come to your office, Duran asked the crowd, or does it depend on what mood you or your staff is in?
4. Give clients a sense of instant gratification. Clients should feel good right after their interaction with an advisor, he said. It’s not a coincidence that clients associate meeting an advisor with a trip to the dentist. “Ninety percent of financial planning conversations are about you when you are old,” he said. “But no client wants to talk about those people,” he added, showing a slide of an elderly couple sitting on a park bench. An advisor’s prime value is making course corrections along the way, providing instant feedback as a client’s life changes. An advisor is in the best position to help clients make those changes, immediately and as painlessly as possible.
And although Duran didn’t list his closing thought as a fifth point, it’s worth considering as the historical bull market continues its run. He noted that there’s no better time to innovate than when advisors and clients are feeling good. The best brands, he said, are making the most changes when things are at their best—and right now, for many clients, things are going pretty well.
Instead of asking, “Are you investing in the right way?” or “Is your financial plan right?” focus on helping your client by providing a quality experience for them. “When I am treated nicely, I’m willing to pay more,” he said. A few changes to a practice to focus on improving a client's experience can overcome the doubts they may have about an advisor’s value. “Value is a perception, not a reality,” noted Duran. “The client experience determines what clients think you are worth.”