In a recent keynote address, I asked my audience of advisors and managers to imagine the following scenario: We're in the midst of a serious flu epidemic. As a result, a lot of sick people have flooded hospitals and doctors' offices throughout the country. Meanwhile, you learn that only 30 percent of all licensed physicians, coast to coast, really care about medicine — are truly passionate about their work. You wouldn't have much confidence in your average local doctor and would rightly want to get medical attention from one of the committed few. Right?
Switch industries and epidemics, and you will find this is precisely what's happening in the world of financial services. In the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, clients are desperate for good financial guidance. But our research shows that only 30 percent of financial advisors are passionate about their chosen profession. That means seven out of ten are, at best, ho-hum, about their work. It's a case of the tail wagging the dog — and a very sick dog at that. It's no wonder our affluent research says that 80 percent of affluent investors are dissatisfied enough to change financial advisors.
Where has the industry's professional pride gone? Are advisors only proud of their chosen careers when they are riding a bull market? What if physicians only enjoyed practicing medicine when no one was sick? To put it plainly, passion and pride come from within. This means that whatever you do, you do to the best of your ability, with your head held high. You can apply this to every aspect of life, whether it's taking care of your body, dressing for success, keeping your office organized, or providing salient financial advice to your clients.
In a 2008 research project by Jessica Tracy of the University of British Columbia and Richard Robins of the University of California, Davis, called “The Nonverbal Expression of Pride,“ the authors write, “Interestingly, recent research suggests that there are two distinct facets of pride — authentic and hubristic — and pride may boost self-worth through two distinct personality processes, depending on which facet is experienced.”
Authentic pride is directly linked to one's actual accomplishments. But it doesn't, and shouldn't, be tied to a single metric, which for many advisors is portfolio performance. Hubristic pride, on the other hand, is more along the line of the typical arrogance some advisors display during boom times and, according to Tracy and Robins, “may promote narcissism, rather than genuine self-esteem.” It is important to note that, according to Tracy and Robins, few on the outside can tell the difference.
There is a silver-lining in this: the proverbial fake it until you make it. Since no one can tell the difference, and because expressing yourself with pride can boost self-esteem, it's best to work on building authentic pride while carrying ourselves hubristically. You can use the following list, which is incomplete, to get started:
- Craft your story.
- Meet, if at all possible, with every affluent client.
- Clearly and carefully communicate your recovery strategy.
- Update and organize all their financial documents, including their financial plan and Investment Policy Statement.
- Provide emotional support.
- Dress for success.
- Keep your body language strong; head high, shoulders back, warm and friendly expression on your face, good eye contact, and be full of empathy — not guilt.
- Engage in a small and personal acts that will “surprise and delight” each affluent client.
Nobody has spoken more eloquently about pride than Martin Luther King, in a speech he gave in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956: “If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say. ‘Here lives a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.’
So enough with the pity parties!! Step it up and provide financial advice so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lives a great financial advisor, who advised his clients well.”
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com