As financial advisors, many of us have been ‘trained’ to view our clients in a certain way. We are taught to look at them as customers, a means to an end, and a way to achieve our own personal financial goals. This is one of the key reasons why disruption is happening so rapidly in our industry any why ‘robo-investing’ and other technology is threatening to eliminate the need for much of what a human financial advisor does. The simple truth is, your clients don’t want to be seen as a checkbook. And no matter how much you think you’re treating them with respect and giving them individual attention, most of them will feel like this if you’re using the traditional commission-based structure.
When we switch to a fee-only model and build our business based on advice and not on commission, everything can change. Instead of telling our clients where to put their money, we can instead focus on mentoring them to be better investors—and more fulfilled individuals. Here are four ways you can mentor your clients when you start building your fee-only model of business.
As a lifelong learner, I take great satisfaction in recommending books to my friends, family members, and clients that I know will improve their lives. There’s something very powerful about listening to your clients, identifying their pain points, then telling them about a book or two that can make their lives better. I have a shelf full of powerful books that I am constantly lending to clients and tons more that I frequently recommend. I can’t tell you how much positive feedback I’ve gotten from those who have learned and grown from reading these books and I know it has deepened many of my client relationships.
In Brene Brown’s powerful book Daring Greatly, she talks about the importance of vulnerability and the difference between sympathy and empathy. While sympathy pretty much amounts to a pat on the back and can often make people feel worse in an already trying time, empathy is much different. Empathy is showing someone you’ve felt pain like they’re feeling now and caring enough to just be there with them as they experience it. If your clients are going through a rough patch (and many of them will share this with you if you’ve developed a deep relationship), you can share your own experiences, extend empathy, and help them through it simply by being there.
Educate on Investor Behavior
Do you know why some of your clients tend to jump out of investments as soon as the economy gets rough and others buy more in the same situation? More importantly, do you think they know why they act like this? Investor behavior is the number one determining factor in how successful your clients will be. When you focus on the soft sciences and can understand how your clients think, what motivates them, and how emotion plays into their investment behavior, you become a much better financial advisor for them. You also can help educate them on their own biases and motivations, which will make them better stewards of their own money.
Introduce Them to Experts
You are an expert in financial planning. If you’ve educated yourself on the soft sciences, you may also become an expert in investor behavior and how emotions affect money management. However, no matter how much you study and learn, there will be plenty of areas where you will never be an expert. The good news is, as a mentor, you need only to facilitate an introduction to the right experts for your clients. Do they struggle with starting an exercise program? Introduce them to your personal trainer. Are they looking for a summer home for retirement? You can hook them up with a realtor your trust. The more you can connect your clients to others who can help them, the stronger your relationship becomes.
As a fiduciary, it’s important to change your mindset from thinking of yourself as a financial planner to thinking of yourself as a mentor. You will immediately feel the change and—more importantly—your clients will feel it, too.