Survey after survey have revealed that the vast majority of investors do not know the difference between fiduciary and suitability standards — nor do they care. What they care about is whether or not they can trust their financial adviser. So important is trust, it has become the new currency of Wall Street.
(Related read: 7 signs the fiduciary movement is ending)
So what are the 7 signs clients want to see before you become their trusted adviser?
1. Character. Clients want to see evidence that you have a framework for managing moral and ethical dilemmas, and that this framework is manifested through your behavior. How you treat your clients should be the same way you treat your family, friends and staff.
2. Competence. Clients want to see that you are committed to lifelong learning and attentive to changes in the industry and to the introduction of new products, services and technologies.
3. Courage. Clients want to know that you are a person of integrity — that you are both honest and courageous. It's not enough to say that you do not lie, cheat or steal — you must also demonstrate that you will not associate with or tolerate those who do.
4. Purpose. Clients want to know that you're responding to a higher calling, and that you've been drawn to serve others.
5. Passion. Clients want to see that you love your work, the people you work with and the people you serve. Love is a critical component of trust, because clients can sense when you are coming from a genuine place.
6. Process. Clients want to know that you are consistently applying a decision-making process that is inclusive of industry best practices and that you are persistent in the pursuit of excellence.
7. Leadership. Clients want to view you as a leader. Leadership is the one sign that embodies the other six, for if you have a shortfall in character, competence, courage, purpose, passion or process, you likely will not be viewed as a leader.
To be a trusted adviser, you must become the point of inspiration for moral, ethical and prudent decision-making. You must make your life and work meaningful so that you can be of service to others.
Don Trone, Mary Lou Wattman and Steve Branham, are the co-founders of 3ethos, whose research and training programs are focused on the intersection between leadership, stewardship and governance.