What virtues do clients seek in financial advisors?

Whether prospects say it or not, there are virtues they’re looking for in financial advisors to be able to trust them and then build a long-lasting relationship.   

Here are seven virtues most prospects are seeking in ideal advisors. This isn’t like school, though, where four out of six represents 67%, or a passing grade. The ideal advisor needs all seven virtues.

  1. Integrity. You’re ethical. You and the client are on the same side of the table. You are acting in their best interests when you offer advice. When in a position of authority, you put the interests of others first. This is why the fiduciary concept is so attractive.
  2. Honesty. Honest clients want to work with other people who share that value. People who trade on inside information often fall under scrutiny and get caught. This can be a career-ending event for the client, even if the advisor was the source. Clients want someone who knows and follows the rules.
  3. Confidentiality. Clients want their secrets to stay secret. Money is a touchy subject for many people. They might want to appear outwardly wealthy, but their advisor (or banker) knows the true state of their finances. They do not want an advisor who reveals the names of their clients or the state of their finances to other people. Confidentiality is also imperative for doctors and lawyers.
  4. Be direct. Clients want someone who will tell them what they need to know, not simply what they want to hear. This can be important when clients are senior executives who are surrounded by people playing office politics. You have probably heard the expression, “Speak truth to power.” They want you to speak frankly. They also want you to get to the point.
  5. Communication. A common reason clients leave their advisors is due to a lack of communication. Clients assume if they haven’t heard from you, that you are not paying attention. Everyone wants to be considered an important client. They don’t want to feel like a number.
  6. Reliability. Call when you say you will be in touch. Show up for appointments on time. When you say you will do something, make a note so you do not forget. Keep in mind the expressions, “Underpromise and overdeliver” and “Your word is your bond.”
  7. Knowledge and experience. Clients want to know you have solved similar problems for others. They want to hear reassuring things such as, “This isn’t the first time I have come across that problem.” They are paying for your expertise. They do not want to be part of your learning curve while you “practice with their money.”
  8. Performance. When investing is involved, they want to know you deliver. Consider stocks as an example. They want to know you have made money for someone in their social circle. That person talked you up. They called you and said, “I want to be a client.” You charge fees for what you do. They want to believe they are getting good value.

There are many traits people look for when considering an advisory relationship. You can think of several more. Most of these tend to be soft skills. Clients might not request them in words, but they’re still part of the building blocks of trust.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.

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