Using Principles of Financial Wellbeing to Interact with Clients

We are in unprecedented times. Your clients want to hear from you more than ever and not necessarily about their investments. As we all face an unknown length of time at home, how can we use the principles of Financial Wellbeing to guide how Financial Advisers interact with clients?

Apart from “If you haven’t sold it, you haven’t actually made a loss”, I’ll leave others to give advice on how to talk to clients when markets have crashed.

Instead, I’d like to look at another aspect of the client adviser relationship: opportunities for communication. Here are five things I believe it’s worth considering:

1. The Trusted Adviser

The phrase ‘Trusted Advisor’ was coined by David Maister in his book of that name in 2000. One definition might be that the trusted adviser is ‘The person to whom the client first turns in the time of crisis’.

That means now.

Which means that the Personal Financial Advice Community has a large part to play in helping its clients to get through this crisis. But what is this crisis? Of course, it is a huge drop in the stock market. Clearly clients need comfort on that subject.

The implications of this pandemic go much deeper than stock market losses, however. The only thing we know for certain right now is that the future is uncertain, and the role of the Financial Adviser in being the Trusted Adviser in all aspects of their lives has never been more important.

2. Social interaction

The ‘Longest Study on Happiness’ by Harvard University (link to TED Talk below) demonstrates that, of the five areas of wellbeing, social wellbeing is the largest contributor. (If you’re wondering, the other areas are career, financial, physical and community, according to Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath & Jim Harter).

Perhaps the most important thing that we can do, therefore, is to help clients to get through this tough period by planning regular conversations with them. This means talking to them about something other than their investments.

Collect some interesting news stories you come across. Prepare to phone clients, and start the conversation with “I’m not phoning about your investments, but I thought you might enjoy hearing about …”. 

And it’s not just older people or those who live alone who will enjoy hearing from you. In fact, one might suggest that someone with children off school for an indefinite period needs adult social interaction even more!

3. Video calls

I’ve been working from home and holding virtual meetings for several years now. It amazes me how many people use their laptop and sit in an office. The sound is echoey, and the backdrop is often a blank wall. A decent camera with microphone is not expensive but significantly improves the experience at the other end.

And why not lighten the mood of the conversation with something fun behind you. I work from a cabin in my garden and behind me is a bookshelf. A recent call with Tom Morris of Ovation Finance Ltd from his home was significantly brightened by the foam stuffed moose head on the wall behind him. Each to their own!

It’s also very easy to record your calls. If you are having a review meeting, record every call you make for compliance purposes. You might even look back on a few for training.

I use Zoom for my video calls (I found Skype to be less reliable and harder to record). Alasdair Walker and Yardstick have produced an excellent guide to using Zoom, it can be downloaded below.

4. Virtual Events

There is no need to stop client or team events now. Bring them online. I am hosting a virtual quiz night for friends on Saturday, you could do this for your clients. Maybe your clients do interesting jobs, perhaps they would like to tell everybody about it. Organise a virtual coffee morning, or business networking session.

Organise a social calendar? Give clients something to do and to look forward to. Get your whole team involved. This is a great opportunity for clients to get to know all of your employees or outsourced support teams and really strengthen their relationship with your firm.

5. Help clients focus on the now

Thinking about the future when it is so uncertain is not healthy, so help clients to focus on the now. Act like your clients’ best professional friend, and help them to take their mind off the inability to plan for the uncertain future we all face.

Some useful resources

The Trusted Adviser‘ by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford.

TED Talk by Robert Waldinger, ‘What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness’.

Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements‘ by Tom Rath & Jim Harter.

Alasdair Walker and Yardstick’s Guide to using Zoom.

Yardstick’s Guide to Client Communication during this Coronavirus Age.