Financial advisors are warned on a regular basis that their profession is changing in fundamental ways. They must adapt or perish. These admonitions apply to many aspects of the business (technology, marketing, recruitment), but are perhaps no more prevalent than around the subject of client engagement and relationship development.
Advisors are told they need to focus more on people and less on numbers. They should endeavor to become life coaches. They need act more like… therapists.
I am not a therapist or any kind of mental health specialist. But I have collaborated professionally with many psychiatrists and have several friends who work in the mental health field. (Living in the Boston area they are hard to avoid.) And one thing I am consistently struck by are the parallels between what mental health specialists do, especially those who work with older adults, and what financial advisors do, or at least what they are being told they should do.
Mental health specialists work with people to solve important personal problems. Their patients look to them for expert advice. They create individualized plans for each patient. They often include family members in conversations about the plan and seek their help in its execution. They are frequently engaged in emotionally charged, “difficult” conversations. They strive to prevent their patients from making harmful or impulsive decisions.
But a crucial difference is the training each type of professional receives. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals spend years learning how to identify, diagnose, and treat cognitive, emotional and behavioral disorders. Few financial advisors have been taught how to do any of this, yet they are increasingly expected to behave as if they had.
Here at Whealthcare Planning, we are fortunate to be able to tap into the minds of some truly outstanding mental health professionals. First up is New York Times best-selling author, long time Harvard Medical School professor, and psychiatrist Dr Edward “Ned” Hallowell. In this short video Ned offers tips to advisors on how to become your client's consigliere, or trusted counselor. He explains how most families lack a trusted confidant, like a pastor or family doctor, who in previous generations they were able to look to for advice. Financial advisors who can fill that role, he argues, will see their business thrive.
In subsequent blog posts we will be offering insights from mental health experts on a range of topics related to the “people” side of the wealth management business, including how to:
- Build alliances with clients
- Work with “difficult” clients
- Conduct conversations in sensitive areas
- Manage memory loss and other forms of diminished capacity
- Become a trusted advice giver
- Deal with grieving and personal loss
- Understand the emotional meaning of money