By Cyril Tuohy
If there’s one goal that binds many financial advisors, it’s that they want to do well by their clients. This is not only because it assures the advisors’ financial and professional success, but also because it leads to their customers’ happiness.
Some of the strategies used by successful financial advisors were on display last week at the inaugural Elite Advisor Virtual Conference hosted by CEG Worldwide, a coaching and mentoring organization serving advisors and institutions employing advisors.
More advice on what top advisors would share with their peers is available on the “Profiles in Success” page of CEG’s website. Some of the advisors were interviewed by CEG Worldwide partners, including founder and chief executive officer John Bowen.
Take Scott Mahoney, senior vice president and financial advisor with Morgan Stanley in Morristown, N.J. Mahoney, the son of an electrician, said one of the best pieces of advice he received was from his father.
“My father said you have two ears and one mouth so you have to listen twice as much as you talk,” he said. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The more advisors listen, the more likely they are to deliver solutions that are appropriate for their clients, Mahoney said.
He learned about wealth management when he saw his father slip cash into his sister’s hand to help her when her husband was too ill to work. His father didn’t have any retirement planning or insurance to protect their assets, but the memory stayed with him.
Mahoney said that his proudest career moments are when clients rely on him in a time of need. When clients have lost a loved one, Mahoney thinks nothing of jumping on a plane to spend a few hours with them, if nothing else then to provide a reassuring presence.
Laura Webb, president of Webb Investment Services in Asheville, N.C., said she has developed her business around helping women become self-sufficient. Many women suddenly find themselves in need of advice in the wake of a transition: a divorce, a death, an inheritance.
She knows all about sudden transitions. Her wedding was called off two weeks before the big day. It was a signal, she said: The time had come for her to take care of herself. She wants to help other women build up their financial confidence.
“Confidence is one of the most important things I can do,” she said, noting that only between 12 percent and 17 percent of financial advisors in the U.S. are women.
The best advice she can give advisors is to aim for congruence between their personal and professional lives; that is, when advisors like what they are doing for their clients and why, then life and work is enjoyable.
Many advisors said they relish making a difference in the lives of their clients, even clients with Ph.D.’s in economics. Those are the kinds of clients who are smart enough to know what they don’t know, and who appreciate what advisors bring to the table, said Susan Feitelberg, a New York-based wealth advisor and Certified Financial Planner.
People are often “overwhelmed” with information and options, she said, so the key is to simplify their financial lives without “dumbing down.”
“I want to take the anxiety out of having them manage their money,” Feitelberg said.
Feitelberg, a marathon runner who routinely sets off on 50-mile-long bike rides, says advisors should not focus too hard on short-term transactions. The bigger picture is what matters, she said.
“It’s really about your clients,” she said. “Come in with no agenda, see if the chemistry is there, is it a good fit?”
Feitelberg said that the question advisors should ask is: What do clients want their money to do for them? Advisors need to keep in mind, though, that “it’s not about the money,” she said.
Tell that to Jeremy Burger, a Seattle-based wealth advisor with Merriman. Burger was sitting in his office when he received a call that his father had just had a heart attack and wasn’t expected to survive.
Burger joined the financial services industry not as a passion but as a way to help pay off undergraduate school loans. He delved into his mother’s financial plight. “I didn’t like what I saw and I realized that life was going to be difficult – it was at that moment that I developed the passion about helping others and making smart decisions with their money,” he said.
The advice Burger gives is to know clients at a deeper level than advisors think is possible. “When you understand who they are, is when you can really give of yourself to them -- financial value, personal value and relationship,” he said.
Burger adds that he tries to give clients “peace of mind. They come to us with issues that they’ve been struggling with for a while. They want guidance from us and we give them perspective and a plan going forward and the time to do things they enjoy.”
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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