Readings done: Advisers use cards to reveal clients' true goals

United Capital develops color-coded cards corresponding to happiness, fear, commitment

Feb 28, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

By Liz Skinner

United Capital Financial Advisers LLC has developed a tool for its advisers to help clients articulate the things in life that matter most to them. Turns out, it's all in the cards.

It's a challenge for advisers to get clients to describe what's most important to them because in many cases, people haven't figured it out for themselves. When a couple is involved, disagreements about the family's top priorities sometimes don't reveal themselves until an investment approach has been implemented that leaves out the concerns of one spouse.

With an eye on avoiding these problems, United Capital has developed a set of cards color-coded to correspond with three emotional responses: happiness (purple), fear (green) and commitment (blue).

Clients are asked to put the happiness cards in the order of most to least important to them, requiring them to think about the importance of spending time with family, taking regular vacations, and other activities that traditionally make people happy, said Joe Duran, chief executive of United Capital, a partnership of financial advisers.

Clients do the same with the cards focused on fears, delving into issues such as income security and being a financial burden on the family. Ordering the commitment cards helps an adviser gauge what motivates the person, such as whether educating the people they care about or supporting charitable causes is a higher priority, he said.

“It's a simple way for our clients to clearly articulate the things that matter to them,” Mr. Duran said. “About 60 of our certified financial planners are using the cards and find they have a deeper level of agreement and alignment with clients.”

United Capital adviser Terry Siman said he began using the technique with clients when he joined the firm two years ago. Previously, Mr. Siman would ask clients a series of questions about their upbringing and how they view success, in order to evaluate what mattered most to them. The cards allow clients to better steer the conversation and helps identify inconsistencies between two spouses, he said.

“It makes it easier for the adviser to end up with a happy, satisfied client if the process has been about them from the beginning,” Mr. Siman said.

He believes using the cards leads to more referrals from clients because they explain to their friends how their adviser uses an approach that isn't just focused on investments and technical methods.

The exercise isn't simply done at the start of a client relationship and then forgotten, Mr. Siman said. He reviews the results from the cards with his clients at least every year to see if anything has changed about their priorities, which is common when life circumstances change, such as the death of a parent.

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