March 4, 2024

Plot twists and turns in a client’s financial life are a given, especially in these volatile markets, but financial planners can build successful long-term relationships by meeting clients where they are and avoiding pitfalls that can hinder a relationship. That’s it.

Patrick Hines
Patrick Hynes is Vice President of Business Development and Head of Field Sales at Prudential Advisors

George Schaller Photography

Don’t Commoditize Financial Planning
For every client that walks in the door, a financial planner drafts a personalized plan that includes baseline data. A common mistake among practitioners is to view the program as an end product rather than the first chapter in a lifetime journey. When plans are not viewed as living documents, planners run the risk of basing a client’s path on static points in time, rather than conducting ongoing diagnostics at key turning points, and forgoing important relationship-building opportunities along the way.

Determining the client’s no-fly zone
Meeting customers where they are means developing a strategy that enables wealth to be passed down from generation to generation. But the advice must be one that the client is able and willing to follow. Knowing that the best advice may be the one that clients are reluctant to follow can allow financial planners to make more informed decisions. Say a client refuses to sell a historic home bequeathed to them by a deceased grandparent, even though it is the best financial move on paper. Aligning the advice with the client’s belief system can preserve the relationship for years to come.

avoid technical jargon
Industry research has repeatedly shown that too many financial professionals use technical jargon when communicating with clients. Conversations filled with jargon outside of a customer’s frame of reference are obstacles to effective communication. For example, rather than using the term “dollar cost averaging,” one might discuss investing a fixed amount on a regular basis regardless of the stock price. Likewise, don’t assume clients know the term “simple time-weighted return.” Break down the concept and interpret it as the change in value of your investment since your first deposit.

Evolves with the seasons
Keeping lines of communication open during times of market volatility will go a long way toward building trust. Advisors who understand that financial planning is a dynamic, fluid process can plan for their clients’ future while anticipating the unexpected in an unpredictable economy. During a bear market or economic downturn, clients are more likely to ask questions about their portfolios. When planners do their homework and communicate clearly, clients will fully understand their long-term strategy, thereby reducing anxiety and preparing for the future.

Once a client’s strategy is in place, their evolving financial plan should be reviewed each winter, spring, and fall, at which time planners can discuss different topics related to the client’s goals and aspirations. Fine-tuning individual plans is best done with in-house support from dedicated staff or a leadership team, and with the help of top-notch planning software.

Financial planning is part science and part art. Through the bear market and beyond, a commitment to managing relationships flexibly can provide a more sustainable service model for the practice of financial planners.