In contemporary American culture, people are often spending a lot of their time doing, not being. Many tend to move quickly and focus on action at the expense of self-reflection and deliberation. Constant motion coupled with endless digital access to information can leave many people feeling depleted, distracted and at odds with their highest life priorities. And wealth offers no protection from this state of affairs. Many people are finding themselves feeling anxious and indecisive in the face of political and economic volatility, 24/7 news cycles and the endless supply of choices available in a highly digitized world.
In this climate, financial advisors have an opportunity to redefine their value and their role in clients lives -- by offering advice and guidance that resonates beyond clients financials to the full path to their overall well-being. First Clearing's latest white paper, “The Next Frontier: Conversation, Connection and Confidence,” examines the changing role of the financial advisor — and the changing nature of “advice” itself — in today's demanding, high-tech world. (See a previous, related white paper, “Digital Disruption: Is the Financial Advisor's Value Under Siege?") The new paper offers a guide for financial advisors who aim to do what technology cannot: cultivate client well-being. Equipped with the tools described in this paper, advisors can gain a better understanding of the powerful relationships and interests that influence an individual's decision-making and life goals.
In the financial services industry today, it's becoming especially critical for the advisor to embrace an expanded role — one that involves aspects of coaching and championing the client experience.
The Next Frontier of Advice
The next frontier of advice strategically extends the advisor's reach beyond the realm of traditional investing and financial planning through the use of three Cs: conversation, connection and confidence. With this approach, advisors can improve their ability to connect with people professionally and socially to create an insightful, meaningful rapport. Ultimately, advisors will help clients rediscover not only their aspirations but also their core values and goals so that they can align all aspects of their lives — including the financial one — with their heartfelt desires.
The promise of marrying life goals with financial objectives is a powerful one because it has the potential to engender client loyalty for many years to come, extends client discovery beyond investing — and, simultaneously, reinforces the essential role of an advisor as a guide in the client's life plan.
The Network Profile Holds the Key
Understanding a client's Network Profile is at the very heart of the role of an advisor. When you know the client well, you have engaged with the client's “network,” that is, the individual's values and support systems — from family, friends and connections to skills, education and social framework — which contribute so powerfully to overall well-being.
While getting to know new clients or reviewing current ones, an advisor can explore the Network Profile as part of the process of getting to know the client better.
The Network Profile has three components: Community, Family and Vocation.
Community: Encompasses a client's neighborhood or home base, interests, faith/beliefs and philanthropy.
Family: Includes generational influences, communication styles, blended family relationships and other dynamics that are meaningful to a client.
Vocation: Can mean a medley of settled and unresolved topics, including life transitions, intellectual curiosities, avocations and the merits of paid work.
The Network Profile provides the essence of understanding who and what truly matters to a client in order to provide guidance in a more powerful and targeted way.
The Advisor as Coach
Whether people are dealing with a life stage or a defining transition, new challenges arise. How can advisors help clients navigate through life's complexity and gain clarity around their choices? By adopting techniques associated with coaching and discovery.
Coaching is both a mindset and a skill set, and it represents a compelling opportunity for advisors. Coaching is all about “drawing out” and increasing self-awareness to help facilitate more conscious decision-making. As a coach, advisors can ask better questions, be more present and listen more deeply. This process of discovery allows advisors to work more fully with clients to uncover their core values and drivers of well-being.
Key discovery techniques can include:
Asking for permission: Advisors should ask clients how comfortable they are with inquiries into the priorities of their lives beyond finances so they can begin to assess clients' satisfaction and understand their influences.
Reframing the negative: Reframe a situation, event or interaction to change how a client views it.
Asking open-ended questions: In the coaching arsenal, open-ended questions are a powerful tool to uncover what's really going on from the client's perspective.
Forwarding the action: One way to put the ball in the client's court and advance their thinking is to pose a question that suggests action.
Leading the client to the who and the why: Help clients gain clarity around their life purpose. Many of these techniques eventually lead to a crucial, existential question that humans have pondered for millennia: What is my purpose? Be alert for signs of a missing sense of purpose.
Expanding the Conversation and the Role of the Advisor
Advisors have keenly felt the changes impacting the industry and the challenges they have posed. The next frontier of advice presents opportunities to understand clients' lives on a deeper level and help them confidently reach for more gratifying goals and experiences. Decisions advisors make today — the decisions to extend their conversations and create client experiences that will improve their clients' lives — could impact their business for years to come.
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