My journey through financial services can be traced all the way back to growing up in West Texas and the work ethic that my family’s farming background instilled in me.
My career didn’t start in finance and I hadn’t dreamt of being a financial advisor when I was young. Instead, I came to this industry later, through a conversation I had with my grandfather.
My grandfather was what you might call a “company man.” He’d worked for the same company for nearly his entire life and as a result, he had all of his assets with that business. He felt that after such a long tenure that the company had done right by him, so he should do right by them.
Unfortunately for my grandfather, he didn’t get a storybook ending to match his commitment. That company eventually closed down in disgrace, and he lost all of his money—more than a million dollars—along with it.
When he talked to me about this, he made a comment I’ll never forget. He said he wished that he’d had someone he trusted who talked to him about managing his money. If he had, he might have not only avoided his own losses, but the losses of other family members who took his advice and invested in that same company.
My grandfather’s experience in retirement planning and investing, and the conversation he had with me that day, changed my perspective on my career.
I decided I wanted to do something with my life that would positively impact people, build trust, and help them change their life for the better. That’s how I found my way into the financial services industry.
My Path Through Financial Services
I started out where so many people in financial services begin—at a custodian.
TD Ameritrade gave me my first job, and then I moved to Fidelity for a time. Eventually I left the custodial world and joined a regional RIA as a financial advisor.
After a few years in financial advice, I moved once again, this time to United Capital. At the time, United Capital was looking for someone with a mixture of advisory experience, operations experience, the ability to manage others, who had worked with both large and small clients, and to top it all off, someone who understood 401(k)s.
Luckily for me, my time as an advisor and with a couple major custodians had given me a wide range of experiences and I got the job. During my time at United Capital, I helped build out an all-new financial planning division within the company and had the opportunity to be part of the growth process of helping build a multi-billion RIA firm.
All of these experiences propelled my consulting work at Herbers & Co., and I am now delighted to have the opportunity to author for Herbers & Co., in addition to the consulting work.
Helping Advisors Create a Compelling Client Experience
One of the biggest challenges in the RIA space today is how they care for their clients. Most people refer to this as the “client experience” (or “CX” in consultant speak).
Those words can mean something a little different for everyone, but a true client experience is the end-to-end life cycle of engagement with a client.
Any interaction the client has with your firm, whether it’s a phone call, email, blog, or even a text, creates a perception and emotion around what your firm is doing to help them advance toward their goals and live the life that they dream about.
Each interaction that a client makes with your firm can have either a positive impact on how they view your relationship, or it can create negative and hollow emotion where the client leaves feeling empty, uncared for, disappointed or misunderstood.
When it’s all said and done, creating a compelling client experience is about one thing: Caring for humans.
Your clients need to feel heard, cared for, and know that someone (their advisor) has their back through any financial situation.
As an advisor, you’re providing all those things that my grandfather wished he had, but didn’t. You give advice, you make recommendations, but you also act as a trusted guide for people to rely on when making some of the most impactful decisions in their life.
At its core, the advisor-client relationship is a personal one. This is why it’s called personal financial planning.
How to Treat Clients: Listen More, Speak Less
Having been an advisor myself, the first step in creating a compelling client experience begins with letting your clients know that “I hear you.”
Each interaction you have contains the power to show that individual that you care about them and that their goals matter to you, not just to them. Whenever you have an opportunity to engage, it’s important to answer questions from a spirit of helping, caring, and listening.
Growing your firm over the long-term is more about doing those little details right then any one monumental break. Building your firm on great client service gives you a chance to win more often than not, and it maximize your organic growth.
When you look across the industry you’ll see that most firms have similar technology. There’s only a few major custodians each firm can choose to partner with. A good-looking report, a trusted custodian to hold assets—these are baseline expectations for modern clients. You won’t win with slicker reports or different technology than another advisor.
The connection you make, on a personal level, is what will stick. Do clients want a mobile app so they can check their account balance anytime? Yes. But, what they really want is a relationship with the people inside your firm.
Remember, you’re doing much more than making a simple recommendation on an amount to invest, you’re helping people plan a life. Prompt responses are important, but personal ones are essential.
In the coming months I will be writing much more about how the advisory firms can package “care” in a process and deliver it to clients.
But, before I get there, if you cannot master the following three takeaways, everything I share with you in the future, will not matter.
Here are three key takeaways I want you to remember about how you can create exceptional and compelling client experiences in your own firm.
Manage and set clear expectations. Take time to listen, and care enough to know—truly know—your clients individually.
Make follow-through a team effort. Your entire team, even if they never talk to a client, is involved in the experience that individuals receive when working with your firm. Focus on creating a great team.
Create authentic interactions. It’s impossible to fake a good client experience, because it all comes back to a relationship. Check your ego at the door and make sure your intentions when helping clients are for purpose. If what you do has purpose, profits will follow.
I am delighted and thrilled to be here to serve you—the financial advisor—through my writing, as well as our consulting work at Herbers & Co. I look forward to designing many new client experiences with our clients and helping you learn through our research and writing.
Jarrod Upton is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company in the Dallas office. He brings over 16 years of experience in management strategy, client experience and operations consulting to advisory firms. He works with start-ups to multi-location/multi-billion advisory firms to provide solutions that impact growth. He can be reached at email@example.com.