Understanding what clients want in a financial advisor

A financial advisor shaking hands with his clients.

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Being a financial advisor comes with a lot of responsibilities. Clients are entrusting you with their future and financial security, so it’s important that they feel comfortable with and confident in what you’re doing with their finances. While a large part of this is down to how well you manage their funds, estate or investments, another important and often overlooked factor is the rapport and relationship that you build with your clients over time.

Most financial advisor training programs pay a disproportionate amount of attention to the how of financial management, without looking too deeply at the why. But let’s face it, the why is everything to your clients. It’s their motivation, their vision for the future, and understanding that is pivotal to providing them with the best advice and results.

The Legacy Advice Model(™) (LAM) flips financial advisor training on its head to help you develop the skills that will put your client’s key values at the core of their financial plan. This innovative approach to client relationships can transform how you fit into and shape the future of the financial services industry. Whether you’re an experienced financial advisor, a new advisor or still a trainee, find out how you can evolve your practices to focus on what matters most to your clients.

A new type of financial advisor training program

According to Investopedia, the key attributes of a good financial advisor are largely based on qualifications, such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) certifications. While obtaining recognized qualifications is a necessity to work as a wealth management advisor, they only give you the how — fulfilling the legal requirements to work in the financial service industry. However, becoming a great personal financial advisor takes something more than just an understanding of wealth management and estate planning, it requires you to understand your clients on a personal level too.

Building strong bonds of trust is at the heart of the LAM, and this is done by considering three major components of advisor-client relationships:

  1. Leading with empathy.
  2. Seeking to understand.
  3. Delivering informed planning.

These “soft skills” are the focus of the LAM, adding intricate layers of interpersonal value to the technical and specialist training acquired during the necessary certifications to be a qualified financial advisor. So what do we mean when we talk about empathy, understanding and planning in the context of financial advising? And why is this important to your clients?

What do clients want in a financial advisor?

Financial professionals need to be qualified and experienced, sure. But truly successful advisors also need to be able to understand their clients’ values and proactively pursue their vision in a way that reflects what matters most to them. In order to do this, taking an empathic approach to client engagement is a great first step to being able to understand the goals you’re trying to achieve on their behalf.

A financial solutions advisor with empathy

Empathy and money seldom seem to be considered concurrently, but when it comes to the personal finances of a client, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that you’re responsible for something deeply personal: Their future. In order to truly understand the goals you’re tasked with reaching, it’s vital that your client’s personal vision and the core values which are motivating that vision are clear to you. This can be achieved by taking the time to slow down and truly listen with the intent to learn about your client.

Once you become well versed in this process, you may begin to find yourself coming to a clear realization about your client’s vision and values even before your client does. Don’t worry; this isn’t uncommon. As a financial advisor, you’re speaking to clients about their finances and goals for the future regularly, whereas your conversations are likely the most time a client has spent focusing on them. This is a key aspect of the LAM — developing the relationship-building skills that establish rapport and trust so your clients are receptive to you guiding them to their own realizations about what they really want.

There is a biological hurdle that needs to be addressed here, though: Our brains. Generally, the left hemisphere is where we reason, rationalize and calculate, whereas the emotional, more creative functions are housed in the right hemisphere. This disconnect creates an immediate disparity between analyzing figures and considering the emotional motivators of your clients.

It’s no surprise, then, that not all of us are gifted with a naturally empathetic ear — especially when discussing finances. This can make it a challenge to draw back from the numbers and have a more personal conversation with a client, but while this may require some practice and training, the benefits are well worth the work.

Financial and emotional understanding

In the case of wealth management, you need to perform a balancing act between understanding your client’s financial situation and personal circumstances. Only in gaining a clear understanding of both can you act with their best interest in mind. Whether it’s at the beginning of an engagement with a new client or taking the time to rewind with existing clients, following a qualitative discovery process will give you a keen insight into how to best advise them.

This can be as revelatory for your clients as it is for you as their advisor. Sometimes, in having these discussions, a client can make realizations that come as a surprise even to them. In helping them comprehend their core values you not only give them a sense of personal understanding but they begin to establish a greater level of trust in your skills. You’re then able to create a better plan for them.

If finding a theoretical bridge between feelings and finances is something that you struggle with, being honest with yourself about that is a pivotal first step in adjusting your client consultations. Consider this: Before you even open up their portfolio and start talking numbers, you simply sit down and talk with your client about what it is they want, conceptually. By taking a purposeful, intentional approach to how we interact with others we can show we care and begin to build a rapport that is the foundation for longstanding trust.

Astute, sensitive financial planning

This is where your empathy and understanding pay dividends. Much of the knowledge and insight you glean from the preceding stages become powerful tools to enhance your quantitative analysis of a client’s portfolio. In establishing your client’s motivators it’s possible to keep them at the forefront of your decision making, using them to benchmark against assessments, modeling and forecasting—always asking yourself, “is this what my client really wants?” Then, when it comes time to present your findings and lay out a proposed plan, your clients will see how your recommendations are targeting their long-term goals.

Become an expert in empathy and understanding and you can use your client’s feelings to influence their finances in a way that’s right for them. You’ll soon find yourself making decisions and recommendations that align with your client’s values and vision for the future while using your expertise in the financial services industry to investigate options and products that meet their needs.

Enhance your advisor-client relationships with Legacy

Whether you’re a seasoned financial professional, a new advisor just starting out or a financial advisor trainee, you have the requisite skills to provide sound fiscal advice. But do you make those decisions for the right reasons? It all boils down to giving your clients the direction they need to achieve their personal goals.

The Legacy Advice Model(™) is designed to help you shift the way you interact with your clients. It teaches you the relevance of applying empathy and understanding to your discovery phase so that you can develop stronger plans that align with what your clients want.

Join the Legacy Advisor Growth Network today to learn how to change your approach to wealth management and build stronger relationships with your clients.

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