Human connection has never been more valuable. The power of client relationships, as many successful financial advisors know, can make or break a career. A recent survey conducted by Edward Jones with Morning Consult found that 55% of Americans who plan to use a financial advisor in 2023 said the advisor should be invested in both their personal and financial well-being, compared to 16% who said they view the relationship as transactional. This is a rousing endorsement around the importance of serving clients more completely through deep personal relationships and comprehensive planning and advice.
More than ever, investors want to find comfort in a financial advisor’s knowledge and experience so they can cut through the complexity of current market conditions and find the right path to help them reach their personal and financial goals. The good news for financial advisors is that those who focus on their clients’ personal well-being help inspire greater confidence during economic downturns and differentiate themselves from their peers.
My advice to today’s financial advisors: to build meaningful relationships, seek to understand your clients’ full personal and financial picture by maintaining an ongoing presence in their lives and finding the right touchpoints to share your life experiences.
Serve As A Stabilizing Force
As market volatility persists and inflation fluctuates, financial advisors have a unique opportunity to break down transactional barriers and connect deeply with clients to help them feel understood and in control of their financial well-being. Listen closely when clients express their concerns around market volatility to understand what worries them most, as well as the reasons behind their fears. Only when you understand their fears can you assure clients that they have an effective strategy in place to help them navigate turbulent times.
To create an effective and tailored financial strategy during moments of economic uncertainty, it’s critical to understand your clients’ holistic picture and goals, starting with a broad view of their full portfolio. This often means holding advanced planning meetings with client’s and their other professional advisors, such as their CPA and attorneys, then reporting the findings back to the client. By establishing a well-defined reporting process, you create trust and built-in accountability with clients and their team of professionals.
It’s also important to create recurring moments where you can reinforce the importance of a long-term financial strategy. This doesn’t have to be in a conference room either. You can invite clients to social gatherings, like coffee club meetings, where they can speak with others going through similar experiences, which can help alleviate their concerns and make them feel heard. This gift of connection with others creates a natural opportunity to be a stable presence in your clients’ lives—a practice that helps build deep relationships, rather than only surfacing during major life moments or market drops. To create these shared experiences, consider your clients’ interests and what matters to them outside of their finances.
By simply asking how they spend their weekends, what their hobbies are, what their ideal vacation looks like and what they do for fun can help you learn what your clients value and what’s most important in their lives. These personal details can also present opportunities for you to show clients you are not only thinking about them but thinking like them in the moments that matter, such as throwing a birthday dinner at a client’s favorite restaurant or sending them a book from one of their favorite authors.
Drive Trust Across Generations
While our survey found that professional experience and success are the biggest drivers of trust for Americans with financial advisors, life experience is increasingly important for younger generations. A majority of respondents from all generations (55%) agree that a financial advisor’s professional experience is the most important quality in establishing trust in a relationship, with 58% of millennials indicating this is the top quality they desire.
Interestingly, Gen Z—whose oldest members are now reaching their mid-20s—places equal value on a financial advisor’s life experience as they do a financial advisor’s professional success when it comes to establishing trust (50%). Financial advisors should consider the next generation of clients, as Cerulli projects heirs will receive $72.6 trillion in assets through 2045.
To adapt to this changing dynamic, it is necessary to communicate your life experiences in both prospecting and ongoing client relationships. This involves considering clients’ unique backgrounds and adjusting the conversation for different generations’ challenges and opportunities. When discussing retirement, many of our firm’s financial advisors find that older clients tend to connect with each of our four pillars—health, family, purpose and finances—while conversations with younger clients may focus more on their top priorities today and what goals they would like to accomplish as they plan for retirement more broadly.
It’s also important to think about leveraging the right technology channel to reach each generation. Firms that provide technology infrastructure, digital training and virtual business enablement tools can support financial advisors in their efforts to go deeper with clients of all ages, but particularly younger, digital-native clients. Incorporating tools that deepen the client discovery process and help build better financial strategies can also help clients navigate changing market conditions. Running scenarios with clients that factor in these personal and financial milestones can provide solutions that, inspire confidence that their long-term strategy is adjusting to life events and contribute to deep, long-term relationships.
As retail investors place an increasing emphasis on personal well-being, the responsibility of financial advisors has shifted from helping clients plan for their financial future to serving clients more completely. To thrive in this new environment, deep connections with clients are vital—moving beyond a transactional relationship to establishing a position as a trusted confidant. By learning about a client’s background, investing mindset and life aspirations, you can gain valuable insight into their interests and create a personalized experience that captures the human element and allows you to serve with heart every day. By adjusting your approach, building trust and understanding around what makes clients tick as people—not just investors—you can meet the needs of clients and prepare them for the challenges ahead.
Ken Cella is principal of branch development at Edward Jones.