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Outside voices and views for advisers

Finding common ground with clients from different ethnic groups

Tell your story and listen to theirs, if possible with the assistance of a staffer who speaks their language

Oct 19, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

By Greg Oray

Investing involves money and money is personal. This business changes constantly, but what always remains the same is building trust and strong relationships with your clients. It's the key to growing your business. The best relationships are made through the stories we share. My story began when my mother and I moved to America.

I'm an immigrant from Russia. When I was nine years old, my mother packed a suitcase and purchased two one-way tickets to New York. She had $500 and couldn't speak English. We got a hold of old friends living in Southeast Detroit and for the next 25 years I was lucky to call it home.

My mother, Olga, was a very smart and determined woman in pursuit of the American dream. Working was in her DNA and it took many hard years to make that dream a reality. When I got older, I finally understood what she had accomplished.

This is my story. The challenges and sacrifices we must make for the growth and success of our firm are the same my mother had. I always share this story at public speaking events, which I host regularly.

I live in Troy, Michigan. It's a very diverse city and a financial hub with fierce competition. The automotive industry brings people from all over the world seeking opportunity and I get to meet many immigrants at the events I host. To stand out from advisers, I tell my story because many other immigrants sitting in that room have gone through the same thing my mother and I did.

I have acquired clients from many different ethnic groups by telling my story. I gained their interest and trust quickly because they could relate and we shared a common bond. Not every adviser has his story, but it doesn't mean they can't work with different ethnic groups. These three tips can help advisers find that common bond.

First, you must listen to their stories. Successful immigrants are very proud of their accomplishments and hard work. Great clients of mine are a couple who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam more than 40 years ago. They came here with nothing. After I shared my story at a seminar, the husband came up to me and told me, "we came here with less than you and we understand the hard work it took to make it in this country."

From that day, we developed a special relationship. This great couple put their trust in me and became a big part in the growth of our firm. Their story of success is amazing and the more I learned about them, the better I understood their financial needs, fears, concerns and goals. Take the time to learn your clients' stories because it will open doors to understanding who they really are.

Second, do your research. If you're working with a prospect from a different ethnic group take time to learn about their culture and history. I have worked with many Chinese clients and taking time to understand their culture, financial tendencies and decision-making process was the key to building trust.

Wealthy Chinese place a lot of trust in friends and family in their community. Take time to attend events in the Chinese community and invite them to yours. Learn to be their aide. You will eventually become their go-to expert and will earn a great source of referrals.

Finally, if possible, hire a client specialist who speaks another language to service accounts. Language barriers can be difficult to overcome. This person can help create a comfortable environment for ethnic prospects who have trouble communicating. This will lead to better communication, trust and smarter decision-making.

These three keys to working with ethnic groups may help you when reaching out to a diverse community. We all have a story and people from different ethnic groups have some really great ones. Take time to really listen and you will earn their trust.

Greg Oray is president of Oray King Wealth Advisors.

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