During the opening day of this year's virtual eMoney Summit, panelists discussed how a focus on values and inclusion can lead advisors to more meaningful relationships with clients.
The panel was moderated by Tarnisha Bruce, vice president of relationship management at eMoney, and also included Miranda Reiter, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Financial Planning at Texas Tech University, and Luis F. Rosa, founder and financial planner at Build a Better Financial Future.
Reiter said the most important part of establishing a lasting connection was intentions. She said she often breaks the ice with clients by asking them to pick values from a list and talk about why they were important to them.
“I don't think it's always easy for clients to talk about values,” she said. “They may not even know what you mean.”
Rosa said it's important in these initial meetings with clients for advisors to be vulnerable about their own past personal financial missteps.
“Sharing, as an advisor, your values helps clients open up; even mistakes. I'm not perfect,” he said. “This is a safe space.”
It's also important, Rosa said, to “listen more than you talk” and to put the cold, hard math to the side, at least initially. “Don't lead with the numbers."
Turning to biases, Rosa explained these preconceived notions can come in many different forms.
“Older generations might put more emphasis on stability. Younger generations might put more value on experiences,” he said. “But don't assume.”
Reiter cautioned that it's important to recognize that everyone, no matter how well-intentioned, has these pre-established notions. What was important for advisors to keep in mind, she said, was to find the “crossroads of similarity” with clients.
“Biases are quite a natural biological mechanism that we all have,” she said. “If you're a human being it is quite normal. I don't care how good you are. You all have biases. We just have to recognize they are there.”
While it was normal to have these prejudices, Rosa said “what matters is what you do with them. Leave assumptions at the door."
Rosa stressed that it's key for advisors to “sharpen your listening skills” and “be more interested than interesting.”
“People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said. “Ask more probing questions.”
Another way to make clients feel more included, according to Reiter is to think about the sorts of events advisors hold and the language they use. For example, a client who doesn't drink alcohol might be put off by an event centered around wine tasting. Or, someone who doesn't follow sports could feel out of the loop if an advisor speaks in sports metaphors.
“You're making the environment such that people feel comfortable showing up as who they are,” she said. “We're giving them the opportunity to define what that is. What does it mean for them to feel understood and seen?”