Connecting to clients
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Connecting to clients


Success as a financial adviser is built on your capacity to build trust with the people you are seeking to help. But how do you achieve trust? One way is to share your personal story, which essentially is about why you do what you do.


Success as a financial adviser is built on your capacity to build trust with the people you are seeking to help. But how do you achieve trust? One way is to share your personal story, which essentially is about why you do what you do.


This is important as much of the technical language used by advisers can be distancing for lay people.

Diversification and asset allocation are key concepts, for instance, but they’re easier to communicate if you have built a bond first.

The problem is most advisers instinctively feel their own stories are dull and boring. That’s because they tend to think of their stories like a resume, a sequential list of events encompassing their entire professional history. But the personal stories I am talking about are more related to turning points – the time in your life when you decided to focus on becoming a financial advisor.

As human beings, we tend to want to connect with someone emotionally before engaging their services. Of course, we will rationalise our decisions afterwards. But engagement is won first through the emotions.

As an example, one adviser shares the heart-breaking story of his elderly father who lost a life’s fortune by speculating on small mining stocks. This motivated him to want to help people avoid risks they don’t need to take.

Stories of this kind are important because you aren’t going to stand out from competitors because of your ability to produce an SOA or roll over a super fund. You are going to stand out because your personal story is unique to you. It shows how exceptional and passionate you are about helping your clients.

Of course, these anecdotes shouldn’t be cheesy or rehearsed. To resonate with the client, your story has to be unforced, authentic and relevant. The resulting connection means the client is often more willing to open up themselves.

To those sceptical about this approach, there is a huge body of research showing personal storytelling is highly effective in building a sense of common purpose. In a sense, the story provides the ‘heart’ to balance the ‘head’ of your technical advice.

Together, the analysis and the personal narrative shared between adviser and client generate a shared understanding that forms the platform for a productive relationship, one grounded in respect for each person’s story.

Advisers unsure how to develop a personal story can think about what motivated them to join the profession. Often it might have been a particular event in their lives or it could just be a genuine desire to help people. 

The important point of developing the story is not so much the superficial details of where you studied and what you learnt, but more about what motivates you as a person, who influenced you and why. One way to start is to ask yourself: “Why am I so passionate about serving clients?” 

A personal story also helps your clients tell other people who you are, what you do for them and why they want to be a client – which is the hardest part of referring. The significance of the story is about getting below the surface to what we value and what gets us out of bed in the morning. It communicates our humanity and in so doing encourages others to do the same.

Of course, the personal connection takes time. And it can’t be forced. But reflecting deeply on your story increases the chance that your clients and prospects will drop their natural reserve and share their own narratives. In sharing your story, you greatly increase your chances of helping them get where they want to go in life. 

And you demonstrate your value as a trusted adviser.


Carolyn Holmes-Hannaford is regional director for DFA Australia Limited.

Before joining Dimensional in 2006, Carolyn spent ten years in financial planning and personal insurance. 

She started as a paraplanner in 1996, built a small client base, and ran her own business until 2003 when she moved back to her native US, where for three years, she worked for a small personal insurance agency in Breckenridge, Colorado. 

Carolyn holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering from the University of Maryland, a graduate diploma in applied finance from the Securities Institute of Australia and a diploma of financial planning from the FPA.



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