When it comes to financial services, we are of the opinion that having a good relationship with your provider matters a great deal.
Part of the reason we hire professionals is that we don’t have the skill (or perhaps the time) to make certain decisions or to evaluate products on our own. When it comes to our financial lives, partnering with someone who is aligned with our goals, objectives, and preferences can make a huge difference in what we get out of the relationship.
In any relationship, personal or professional, communication is the key to whether that relationship can be successful. As we know, life does not always go smoothly. If you have established a good relationship with an advisor, he or she is likely to do everything they can to help you navigate these challenging periods, including sharing resources, making introductions, and providing additional information outside of the normal course of business. A good advisor is a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on.
Your responsibility in a good relationship is to provide information in a timely manner and to be clear about your expectations and what you are seeking to solve. That includes providing timely feedback and/or questions if something is not clear or agreeable. And yes, you can say ‘no’. Most advisors would prefer a ‘no’ than to be left wondering. We have all experienced what we thought were clear conversations with others and then to be ghosted. Not only is it frustrating, but it is a drain on our most important resource!
Find the Right Fit for You
Not all firms are created equal and not all clients need or want the same thing. Spend some time thinking about what you really want. How much time are you willing to invest? What type of individual would you prefer to work with? How important is experience and training? Some financial advisors have minimums; some charge premium pricing; others discount. Let’s not forget the robo-advisor firms. Are your expectations reasonable? Are you looking for premium service at a discount price? Or are you a DIY kind of person? Depending on state regulations, many financial advisors are not permitted to use or seek testimonials, hence reading reviews may not be possible. However, you can ask for references.
Great Advisor Differentiators
1. Navigating & educating: The banking, insurance, and investment industries are heavily regulated. Most advisors within these industries have enormous compliance requirements with which to adhere. While these rules and regs are for your protection as well as theirs, if you are not familiar with them, they can be overwhelming.
A good advisor can and should guide you through the rules and provide clear explanations of what you are signing and agreeing to. Ask questions before you sign up and, if you are uncomfortable, listen to your gut and look elsewhere.
2. Providing information: Hiring a financial advisor, banker, or insurance provider almost always involves providing them with a full set of your personal and financial information. Don’t be offended. Not only is it often required by law, but it also helps the advisor provide you with the best advice and pricing for your situation. A great advisor will provide you with their requirements and will follow up to see if you have questions.
3. Setting expectations: Depending on your needs and circumstances, engaging an advisor should save you time in the long run. What does that mean? Your advisor should have a clear and understandable process for providing you with the service or product you are seeking. It should be easily understood with a timeframe to properly set your expectations. However, it is important to note that you also have a responsibility to deliver the information they are requesting within a reasonable amount of time. Discuss that with the advisor so that there are no misunderstandings.
4. Communication: How often do you want to meet with your advisor? How often do you want to hear from your advisor via newsletters and other updates? How quickly can you expect a response to a phone call or email? Understanding the frequency and mode of communication your advisor provides you with is an important question to ask when deciding with whom to partner. With good communication comes trust. A great advisor will listen to what is being said as well as what is being unsaid. If you do not feel heard or understood, it is time to speak up or make a change.
Financial advisors can be an invaluable resource and partner to you. Finding the right one who is a good fit for YOU, understanding that you play a role in the relationship, and making sure you communicate your thoughts, concerns, and expectations can help you get the most out of yours.