Whether it is personal or business, solidifying relationships takes time. Most times, you should probably classify it as quality time because it is. It is building a strong foundation.
For example, when we have a new client come on board, we admit it is going to take some time to really partner together, especially if they have only known us for a few weeks. They have taken a huge leap of faith to trust their assets to us. We get that.
For that reason, we don’t take anything lightly, or for granted, and we will work hard to build trust over time. Notably, trusting their nest egg to Hefren-Tillotson, and to me, as their advisor, is a huge responsibility. We want them to know that we understand that.
We Do What We Promise
We have a good process of listening, asking questions, addressing questions, bringing up valid discussion points and recognizing concerns from clients who have accomplished so much throughout their lifetime by hard work, saving and growing a nest egg they want to protect.
Prior to a meeting, we ask them to come up with questions or agenda items. As the meeting progresses, we answer all of those items. At the end of the meeting, we follow up by making sure that we did what we said we were going to do, and that we did in fact answer all of their questions and concerns.
To me, that is a hallmark of how the advisory process helps to solidify relationships. When advisors do not follow up on the things they’ve promised, it chisels away at however much trust has been developed and severely weakens the relationship.
One of the most important questions we ask is, “What keeps you up at night?” Running out of money is a common one, but also anything having to do with health, or a change in the family dynamic, beneficiary designations, politics, of course, and the 24-hour news cycle.
When we talk through the issues I explain the differences and disconnects between the political arena and what drives stock and bond prices. Often, they equate what happens in Washington, D.C. to what happens on Wall Street. I explain how very different the two are, and also help them realize their concerns shouldn’t be spawned from the media.
What We Don’t Do
We avoid the typical review that opens with: “Well, this is what’s happened in the economy, this is what’s happened in your portfolio, and this is what we think for the year ahead.” While relevant and important, they are not: “What’s going on in your life? How are your daughter and that new grandbaby?” I could go through an annual review session and 90 percent of it would be about life, family and health. Then, we talk about their portfolio and their returns. Sure, many clients want to be close to the benchmarks with their returns and be competitive, but it is not the most important aspect of the relationship. It is more personal, and they look at their personal goals and what they are trying to achieve.
I always talk through the risks acknowledging how they feel about them. I listen and try to bring in other pieces of information or talking points that perhaps they hadn’t thought of. But basically, I develop the strategies and methods to get them where they want to go.
More recently, I’ve been asked about Bitcoin. Well, Bitcoin is real; we have to talk about it and share exactly why it is relevant and what we see in it, but in the macro sense. We’ll then share why we are not recommending it and why it does not make sense in a retirement portfolio.
We Build Confidence
Plans we develop for clients are very personal and individual. How our advisory process solidifies each relationship and their planning is done through MASTERPLAN®.
When it has to do with the investment recommendations, every person’s situation is a little bit different from the next. One client may have more money in IRAs; another might have money that’s already been taxed. With each person’s goals and outlooks so different, we have to approach it from that perspective.
And that is why our recommendations must be customized. We have no issues doing that; it is something we embrace.
We monitor the macro view, what is going on in the United States, and any type of political unrest. We listen, we understand our clients’ concerns, and we provide them with some kind of rationale for putting things in perspective. Actually, 9 times out of 10, we can lower their anxiety.
What I have heard from clients at the end of a meeting who had specific concerns is, “I feel so much better about this.” They know that is our responsibility to make them feel more confident and let them see that we’ve got this; it is what we are paid to worry about and they are not in this alone.
It is the human element – showing that you care – that solidifies a relationship. It happens because we do care. Having empathy for people is important. You know, advisors have two ears and one mouth. Sometimes I think they spend way too much time using the one and not enough time using the two. It definitely goes a long way.
If you would like more information on anything in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact me at Hefren-Tillotson today. I would be glad to help.