The most important elements in building trust with clients

Independent research has revealed the two specific qualities in a financial adviser that are most important to building trust in an adviser-client relationship.

Beddoes Institute director Rebecca Sheils told ifa the group’s research had shown that soft skills and client servicing were the two most critical ‘pillars’ in building a strong foundation of trust between an adviser and client.

“Our Trusted Adviser white paper looked at over 60 different questions across the touch points an adviser had with a client, and we put it all into a model to say what is driving trust,” Ms Sheils said.

“We were able to identify the four key pillars, and what came out as the most important pillar was the adviser’s [personal] qualities. The second most important one is client service, which relates to the individual adviser and the servicing that is done in the meetings they have [with the client].”


Ms Sheils, who will present at the ifa Client Experience Workshop 2020, said strong “emotional intelligence” was a key marker of advice practices that outperformed in terms of building trust and lasting relationships with clients.

“Advisers are quasi-psychologists because that is in fact what they do – it’s not just about finances, it’s about the life goals of the client,” she said. 

“Sometimes clients don’t know what it is that they want, so part of the job of the adviser is getting down to helping the client uncover their own core values and what their goals are on an emotional or values level, rather than saying ‘I’ve got this amount of money to invest and what should I do with it’.”

Ms Sheils said the Beddoes Institute’s methodology, which was used to assess top performing practices in the AFA’s annual awards and those of several other large licensees, had revealed that the best practices ensured soft skills and emotional intelligence were passed on to all advisers, eliminating key person risk and ensuring a consistent client experience.

“For bigger practices with multiple advisers, we find there’s typically some stronger performing advisers and ones that do not perform as strongly, so when you measure performance you can identify those that are more experienced and create a coaching program within the business to upskill those who need a bit more,” she said.

“In the best of breed practices we do see a high degree of consistency in service, meaning across all advisers you tend to see very high scores.”

Ms Sheils said a consistent service experience was key to generating spontaneous referrals from clients, which was critical to advisers growing their business.

“A lot of people don’t take that step [to seek advice] because they don’t have a trusted referral. It’s such a significant decision that a person is making when they are engaging an adviser … [you’re] entrusting the adviser with your financial affairs and your career earnings and often that could be a significant amount of money,” she said.

“A lot of advisers are spread very thin and if you create this busy impression, you can deter the client from referring. But if you create the impression you are open to new clients and focus on providing exceptional service, the referrals come naturally.”

The most important elements in building trust with clients
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