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4 Ways Financial Advisors Put Clients at Ease

Since 2007, the American Psychology Association (APA) has ranked “money issues” as the number one stressor for Americans. More than one-quarter of Americans reported “feeling stressed about money most or all of the time,” according to the APA’s 2015 Stress in America survey, and the stat holds true to date. Most survey respondents identified the “feeling” to be anxiety, and worse yet, many admitted they dealt with it by avoiding the topic causing it. While that might be effective for dealing with your annoying in-laws, avoiding finances only worsens the problem.

So, what steps can financial advisors take to create a comfortable and safe environment that puts clients at ease and helps them let down their financial emotional guard, so to speak?
“Advisors Magazine” asked numerous advising professionals to share their approach.

Here is what they said:

Address the Elephant in the Room

Don’t dance around the fact that people are uncomfortable talking about money. Even though the topic isn’t as taboo for today’s investors as it was for previous generations, engaging in an open and honest financial discussion ranks lower than annual health exams on the to-do list for most folks.

Be upfront with your clients by telling them that you, as their advisor, understand that economics – especially personal finances – can involve a lot of conflicting emotions.
“We talk about it right away,” said Wesley Kotys, president of Kotys Wealth Professionals based in Valparaiso, Indiana. “We start our conversations with clients by letting them know we want to know how they view money.”

Long before Kotys begins to formulate or recommend investment strategies, he talks with clients to learn about their history with finances and money. And if he’s working with a couple, he asks about their individual histories as well as their experience together.

“We ask them what money meant to them when they were growing up because that forms much of how we view money as adults,” he said. “Then we ask them, ‘How do you view money today? Are you scared of it? It is a tool that allows you to live a certain lifestyle, or is its impact on your life something you don’t understand but wish you did?.”

Gaging the client’s financial personality is key to easing their emotional distress regarding money, he said.

Timothy M. Mitrovich, CEO and chief investment officer of Ten Capital Investment Advisors, LLC, in Spokane, Washington, agrees.

“We have a deliberate and objective process that first and foremost helps us to understand the client’s background regarding finances,” he explained. “We want to know what it was like for them growing up, we want to emphasize to our clients that we want to get to know them as people and that is when the walls come down.”

Eliminate Industry Jargon

Many advisors agree that the lingo or jargon used in the financial industry is not part of their clients’ everyday vocabulary.

While some clients will know the definitions of terms such as benchmark, compounding, expense ratio and standard deviation, many will not.

Most financial advisors readily say it is their job to teach those definitions; some advisors go well beyond teaching to actively illustrating these complicated industry terms in ways investors can grasp.

Matthew Page, a partner with Lucas Group Financial Planners, Inc., of Sacramento, California, began his career in the financial services industry doing 401K education for employee benefit plans.

“I quickly realized the audience did not have the same background I did and that I just cannot use industry lingo to communicate effectively with them. So I started to paint mental pictures for them,” he said. “I use analogies, illustrations, metaphors and stories from everyday life that people can relate to. It makes it much easier for them to see if they are going to run out of money.”

Do Some Dreaming

Clients might not be fluent in financial lingo, but the majority of clients can articulate their dreams and goals.

“They know how to talk about that,” Mitrovich said, adding that advisors should encourage clients to talk about the positive “what-ifs” such as what they want to do in retirement. “You get clients talking about what they want for their lives, you get them talking in those terms and much of the apprehension regarding financial discussion disappears.”

Educate

The unfortunate reality in America today is that most folks remain financially illiterate. According to recently-released findings by the National Capability Study, at least two-thirds of the American population cannot pass a basic financial quiz.

Combine this with the fact that people fear the unknown – especially the “unknown” when it comes to their financial well-being – and financial advisors are presented with ample teaching moments when meeting with their clients.

“Education is key for us in building trust with our clients,” Amy Novakovich, co-founder of Nova Wealth Management in Bonita Springs, Florida. “We educate until they understand. When clients understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of what you as an advisor are doing for them, they become much more comfortable talking about money.”

 

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