Complex Estates are Hard

It’s a tough task helping clients to connect with the complexity of their money, especially as wealth and the number of associated structures increases. If that’s true, it also means that clients don’t really understand the value that we’re adding to their lives. They’re still clients though, probably, for other reasons. Ever wonder what those reasons are? Nice offices, thoughtful birthday cards, friendly staff, good coffee? Are these reasons sustainable looking forward? Are they a good foundation from which to grow fee income off a tangible value proposition for the future?

Why aren’t clients connecting? It comes down to the experience that they have with us. We’re a very “left-brained” profession, which has meant that the basis for engaging with clients has largely followed suit … technical discussions, jargon-laden language, lengthy word documents, spreadsheets and maybe the odd graph. Understandable though, given the amount of regulation, analysis, and complexity that we need to cut through. Even so, it’s an unfortunate reality that we carry all this “rationality” through to our client relationships, especially considering the learnings we’ve taken from behavioural finance. We know that clients are actually anything but the left-brained, “rational” humans we all thought we were. Fifty years later (!), we have scarcely taken these learnings into the engagement process that we have with clients.    

Clients just don’t connect with the same stuff that we do. They don’t care about the complexity of the regulations, the intricacies of the sums that we do, the fine print in the contracts. They care about leaving a legacy. They care about seeing their children thrive. They care to know that they’re safe. They care about feeling good about themselves. These are the ingredients of a value proposition that forms the foundation from which to sustain a practice and grow fees.  

If we’re leaving clients rather, feeling dazed, confused and generally overwhelmed you can bet your bottom dollar we fit into the “grudge purchase” category. We need to take an outside-in view of the service we offer our clients. Start with the feelings we’d like to stir in our clients.  If we’re crystal clear on that, we figure out the relevant conversations, technology, documents, and stories that will get us there. 

Everything can still be “technically correct” to meet our personal OCD requirements, but what we exhibit for the client cannot be the same!

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