The 3 variables to forging “bulletproof” relationships

Jul 8, 2014 @ 11:38 am

By Paul Blease, Director of CEO Advisor Institute at OppenheimerFunds, Inc.

All of us operate from the same relationship hierarchy both personally and professionally. That hierarchy is illustrated below:

What is the difference between each of the levels in the relationship pyramid above? I believe there are three key components that differentiate one level from the next:

1. Information (the externals that define an individual):

  • •Favorite sports teams

  • •Geopolitical persuasion

  • •Recreational outlets

  • •Favorite television shows

2. Insights (the internals that define an individual):

  • •Character

  • •Temperament

  • •Psychographic profile

  • •Philosophical/Spiritual framework

3. Actions (what you actually do with the information and insights):

  • •Communication Model: frequency, mode, tone, complexity etc.

  • •Recognition Model: public, private personal, generic etc.

As you move up the relationship hierarchy you will first notice that you have more information and insights on an acquaintance than a stranger, on a good friend than a friend and ultimately (and hopefully) on a spouse than a good friend. You should then notice that what you actually "do" with that information and insight is materially different (both qualitatively and quantitatively) as you move up the pyramid.

You're probably thinking, “So what does this have to do with my practice?”

If I were to take these 3 variables and apply them to your platinum clientele, where would they slot in this hierarchy? In most practices their platinum clients would slot somewhere between acquaintance and low-level friend. In today's hypercompetitive landscape this is simply not adequate. If, iTunes, Netflix and Pandora know more about your clientele than you do, you're in trouble. Think of the level of comfort, communication and candor you have with very close friends; you banter with them, commiserate with them and confide in them. Your goal should be to replicate this relationship model with your platinum clientele.

All major firms have great tools and templates to capture volumes of financial information, so we have put together a complimentary tool designed to capture volumes of personal and professional information and insights. This will help you on many fronts. For example:

  • •You don't manage assets and vacuum. All of your assets come attached to human beings, the better you understand them the easier it will be to manage their wealth.

  • •The deeper the relationship the higher the trust, the higher the trust the more efficient, effective and enjoyable the interactions.

  • •Using this knowledge and insight to create an exceptional client service platform, will not only help you retain your best clients but dramatically enhance your referrals.

Our tool is divided into five sections:


Designed to provide a general background and personal interest framework for you. For example, if you decide to take your client to lunch, it might be nice to know what his favorite restaurant is; if to a playoff game, what her favorite team is, etc.


Focuses on questions that provide business/professional insights and context. If your client owns a small business or professional practice, the single largest financial decision he/she will ever make will be how, when and to whom they will transition and monetize their enterprise. The answers to these questions will help you guide your client and be a valued member of the team (along with attorneys, CPAs and senior partners) as they begin this journey.


Although we assume that you will pick up all relevant financial documents to review and analyze when you return to your branch, these questions give you the client's perspective and commen­surate context necessary to understand not just what the client has done with his investment portfolio, but why.


For many years, we have stated our belief that “we are a left-brain industry talking to right-brain clients.” We tend to view clients' assets through the lens of a “spreadsheet,” rather than the lens of philos­ophy, psychology, legacy and emotion. These questions give you the kind of deep personal insight we believe are necessary to counsel people on managing their wealth.


There's a familiar quote: “The definition of disappointment is unrealized expectations.” Establishing those expectations up front gives you the opportunity to both meet and exceed your client's expectations.

Utilizing this tool will complement your firm's tactical goals-oriented financial planning questionnaire, and give you the insights necessary to construct a meaningful and high impact client service model.

For more information, please visit:

These views represent the opinions of OppenheimerFunds, Inc. and are not intended as investment advice or to predict or depict the performance of any investment. These views are as of the date of this presentation and are subject to change based on subsequent developments.

Shares of Oppenheimer funds are not deposits or obligations of any bank, are not guaranteed by any bank, are not insured by the FDIC or any other agency, and involve investment risks, including the possible loss of the principal amount invested.

Oppenheimer funds are distributed by OppenheimerFunds Distributor, Inc. 225 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10281-1008 © 2014 OppenheimerFunds Distributor, Inc. All rights reserved.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Related stories

Upcoming Event

May 30


Adviser Compensation & Staffing Workshop

The InvestmentNews Research team will present exclusive data and highlights from its bellwether benchmarking study that will identify best practices for setting and structuring compensation and benefits packages throughout your... Learn more

Featured video


Why a sabbatical is the perk advisory firms can’t overlook

Financial advice firms offering this benefit praise the impact its had on their businesses.

Latest news & opinion

Finra anticipates oversight role for SEC advice rule

CEO Robert Cook says one area for examination could be the proposed requirement that brokers act in the best interests of their clients.

IBDs with the most CFPs

Here are the 10 independent broker-dealers that employ the most certified financial planner professionals.

Why we must create a more diverse and sustainable financial planning profession

CEO explains how, why a firm should commit to conscious inclusion.

Pope Francis wants financial advisers to work like fiduciaries

Vatican bulletin admonishes advisers who act against the best interests of their clients.

Wells Fargo sees slowdown in advisers exiting this year

The 2016 banking scandal and public relations fiasco had alienated some of the firm's advisers.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print