The value that financial advisers believe they offer is one thing. The value that clients feel they receive is often something else. Understanding these nuances can be critical in driving the success of advice businesses and delivering for clients long term.
If you were to ask a group of clients what winning means to them and the chances are their answers will be as varied as the sample size. That shouldn’t really be a surprise given the infinite potential differences in individual character, circumstances, goals and values.
As we mentioned in our previous article in this series, we have found that beyond the specific circumstances of each individual, some common responses come up time and again when clients are asked what they most value from their advisers.
Dimensional’s annual global investor study1, one of the largest of its kind in the world, regularly finds that ‘security and peace of mind’ is the number one benefit that clients have found advice can bring. This is followed, in order of importance, by knowledge of their personal financial situation, a sense of progress toward their goals and, finally, investment returns.
Asked what security and peace of mind boils down to for them, respondents to the survey (and those more likely to refer their advisers to others) cited the benefit of having a trusted partner to navigate life’s financial challenges and opportunities. Interestingly, clients who were more critical of their advisers put the highest priority on investment returns.
This provides us with some clues about what to emphasise in the value you bring. But this still leaves the question of how you connect your service offering to those positive client perceptions. Our view is that this is best achieved by focusing on the overall client experience – from your website to discovery meetings to setting up plans to the style and cadence of communication to the quality of review meetings and beyond.
Having worked alongside some of the most successful advisory firms in the world over more than three decades, we have found that those who succeed best tend to be those who emphasise the quality of the journey as much as the destination itself.
This in turn requires acquiring the habit of seeing your service through the clients’ eyes, understanding what they value, being able to communicate in a way that is relevant to them, and being sensitive to their ever changing needs.
Some advisers have success by segmenting their value-add into a ‘Four Cs’ framework, which combines Competence (the technical part of your role), Coaching (the educational, discipline and expectations setting function), Convenience (the time-saving and personalisation role) and Continuity (family involvement, values and legacy).
Another strategy we’ve seen work is showing potential clients you have had success with people like them – in terms of demographics, profession, interests and outlook. For example, some firms put sustainability at the heart of their offering, which signals to their target market that they take into account those people’s values as well as material aspirations.
Creating ‘avatars’ of client types and building stories around them can aid potential clients to imagine how you can help them in ways that they may not have thought of otherwise.
Another way of connecting the clients desired ‘win’ to what you offer is to showcase the stages of the journey to the goal. We’ve seen in the surveys people highly value a sense they are progressing and this is about more than their simple account balance.
“We’ve always appreciated the way my adviser has taken the time to talk about all our needs- financial, relationships, raising our kids, and more,” one client said in our survey. “We spend a great deal of time talking about all the areas of our lives that matter, not just the financial aspects.”
The one constant in life is change, after all. People shift careers, have children, buy and sell businesses, move cities or countries, marry, divorce, re-marry, change life priorities, develop different sets of values – the list goes on. While those changes signal complexity and can be a challenge for advisers, they also represent significant opportunity.
A good strategy in your communication is to show that the financial plan is a way of connecting clients’ short-term, medium-term and long-term aspirations to different strategies. More importantly, show that their plan takes account not only of the specific goals but of their ability to ‘roll with the punches’ or their readiness to live with the inevitable volatility along the way.
A good financial plan for the client, therefore, is not a static document, but an organic one. It changes as their lives and circumstances evolve. In this way, the idea of ‘winning’ for the client is not static either. And that’s why they need an adviser who sees their world through their eyes.
The focus in messaging shifts to ends, not means – the why, rather than the how. Think about when you get your car serviced. One repair shop might highlight their advanced diagnostics in engine servicing. Another might highlight the customer benefit of having a car that gets them efficiently and safely to their destination and gives them an enjoyable ride along the way.
It’s that second approach of focusing on the outcome of advice we believe works best in demonstrating value. In essence, the service you provide as an adviser frees up time for the clients so they can live the lives they want to live.
Now, THAT is winning.
See a sample of the global survey and learn more about how Dimensional can help you elevate the client experience here.
Paul Turner Heads the Adviser Group at Dimensional Australia, a global asset management firm which has been working with financial advisors for more than three decades in helping people reach their goals.
Dimensional’s Global Investor Study provides advisors with greater insight into how clients perceive their firms. During the survey period, clients collectively submit thousands of survey responses. By gathering direct, anonymous feedback from their clients, advisors gain a better perspective on what clients value in an advisory relationship, their financial needs and concerns, and ideas on how to engage with their ideal target client. Participating firms are provided required questions and options for asking additional questions to their clients. Firms then delivered the survey link directly to their clients. The survey was entirely anonymous and no personally identifiable information was shared with the firm or Dimensional.
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