I had to take a deep, reassuring breath the first time I called my financial advisor about my social justice investor goals (sustainable financial earnings coupled with social justice returns). I recall watching the rain drops trickle down my window when I suddenly realized that I was feeling nervous and more than a little intimidated. My mind flipped to calming exercises and I began timing my breaths to the consistent cadence of the phone rings.
I genuinely like my financial advisor; she puts me at ease and quickly aligns her strategy with my goals. Even so, I had to remind myself that I am a CFA charterholder who’s been deeply embedded among social justice investors for years. I know exactly what I want and how to achieve it.
And yet, I had to wipe off my palms several times during our phone call. I couldn’t shake the anxiety of potential rejection.
Having successfully emerged from that conversation, my experience taught me five traits that social justice investors are looking for in a financial advisor:
1. Respect for Their Vision
Clients are often intimidated to ask a financial advisor for products and strategies that align with social justice values. Because social justice is often politicized, prospective clients are worried to broach a taboo topic in a professional setting.
This intimidation is especially challenging for younger investors who, having opted for fintech platforms for early-stage wealth management, may have never spoken with a financial advisor IRL (in real life). Your first impression with clients interested in social justice investing will either bring you closer together or reinforce the wall that technology has built between investors and financial advisors.
Meet this moment for the profound opportunity that it is: Treat the prospective client’s vision with respect. Even if you don’t have the required tools immediately at your fingertips, prospective clients will remember how you made them feel welcomed, respected and valued in a moment fueled by intimidation and anxiety.
2. A Financial Advisory Firm That Promotes Diversity and Inclusion Policies
Social justice investors strive to walk the talk of social justice and are aware that women-owned firms represent only 0.8% of total industry assets under management, and minority-owned firms represent only 0.4% of total industry assets under management. By those statistics, clients aren’t going to be shocked if your firm isn’t female-owned or minority-owned. But they will be disappointed if you don’t have an authentic, thoughtful response (including an action plan, if applicable) for promoting diversity and inclusion.
3. A Solution-Oriented Approach to Delivering Social Justice Return Objectives
Social justice investors do not expect a one-size-fits-all solution for their specific asks. They expect their financial advisor to listen to their goals, carefully assess their stated objectives and constraints, and research potential options that may deliver corresponding results. Your ultimate answer may be disappointing to a social justice investor, but they will appreciate your dedication to customer service and a best efforts approach. As more products come to market, the financial advisors who bring solutions to their social justice investor clients will be heralded as the go-to partners for like-minded clients.
4. Support in Determining “What Is Enough”
Social justice investors seek dual objectives of sustainable financial earnings coupled with social justice returns. They are looking for a financial advisor that can help them find the right balance specific to their own personal finance needs. Social justice investor clients are looking for a financial advisor who is willing to have a frank conversation about “what is enough” to cover upcoming financial events and establish an appropriate cushion for unexpected financial events. Since every person has different objectives and constraints, a social justice investment’s returns that may be considered “sustainable” for one client may not be sustainable for another.
The good news is that social justice investors aren’t asking you to deviate from your existing tools and frameworks for financial planning. Just the opposite. Social justice investors are looking for financial advisors who can help them navigate an intimidating environment by leaning on your expertise in the fundamentals of financial planning.
5. Willingness to engage in a frank conversation about balancing financial needs with social justice returns
Social justice investors seek a partner who can apply their expert skills in financial planning to guard a carefully maintained balance.
A social justice investor needs a financial advisor who understands their dual return objectives, can effectively incorporate a social justice lens into the portfolio and is willing to say “this is a great investment for social justice returns but doesn’t work for your financial earnings needs.”
As the field evolves, maintain fresh research and continue to reach out to that client with other options that can be incorporated into a balanced approach.
Armed with information and generally more socially conscious than previous generations, many of today’s investors are searching for financial advisors who can execute their vision.
In my case, I was relieved to rediscover that my financial advisor is a professional in every sense of the word. Her customer service instincts guided her to listen to her client, ask questions to refine implications to my investment policy statement, and followed up with research and a strategy that we could implement together.
Like all client-advisor relationships, we continuously work together to refine my portfolio to adapt to financial events, availability of new products, and maintain an appropriate balance across all my objectives and constraints.
Which of these traits is your most dominant as a financial advisor?