As the full impact of COVID-19 continues to unveil itself in the financial services industry, many advisors we are hearing from have begun to plan for a long-term remote practice. If you are contemplating a similar shift for the future, it is important to understand the limitations of the methods you used in the past to get to know prospects. Two of these methods, (a) judgment based on direct interaction and (b) forms with demographic questions, are significantly less effective when trying to build relationships remotely. Making assumptions about prospects’ personalities based on direct interaction always included some biases in our decision-making, but these judgments we make may be even less effective in a virtual world. It is difficult to pick up on non-verbal cues from clients when meeting remotely. Differences between spouses in terms of their attitudes about financial planning and investing can be more difficult to ascertain in a virtual setting, too. The contact forms you may be using today likely focuses on the basics of a prospective client. But they probably provide no insight into a prospect’s attitudes about financial planning and his or her competencies for building and sustaining wealth. This information is critical when communicating with prospects for the first time and in creating a personalized client experience going forward (including, of course, the design and implementation of a comprehensive financial plan).
Even before virtual meetings were the norm, assessments provided a way to accurately and efficiently assess a prospect’s financial personality. In a remote world, assessments serve as a way to bridge the gap left in understanding a prospect’s values, attitudes, and competencies via direct interaction. Specifically, assessments help to identify prospect characteristics, better communicate with couples, and pinpoint the areas to help clients navigate the choppy financial waters they face today.
Check The Accuracy of Your First Impression
In the past, you may have been able to pick up on prospects’ personalities through non-verbal cues or casual, in-person conversations. Even when meeting face to face, our judgment about the personality and characteristics of prospects can be inaccurate. Many of our inaccuracies in decision-making are related to the same kinds of errors that plague investors: our cognitive biases can often alter how we make decisions. Add to this the fact that even our accurate reading of non-verbal cues we use to understand one another can be lost as we move from in-person to remote meetings. We might pick up on an initial indicator (like, let’s say, what the background of the room looks like) and then make judgments about the prospect based on the number of books in the background or the level of cleanliness in the room. Primacy bias can lead to making assumptions about the prospect throughout your meeting and into how you create a financial plan (should the prospect become a client) and even further into the relationship. In an exclusively virtual relationship, the opportunity to gather additional data points about the individual’s actions, reactions, and other non-verbal cues is decreased. To add to the potential distortion, first impressions are tough to change once formed; you might carry an erroneous impression throughout the relationship even when you receive new (more accurate) information.
If you are moving to a virtual practice for the first time, assessments can provide an objective measurement of prospect attitudes and money-related personality. They can also add efficiency in identifying money-related personality or attitudes so that your time is freed up to prepare for the interaction and address their needs in a way that aligns with prospect characteristics. Consider attitudes about budgeting: the word “budget” can even cause some prospects (and advisors) to squirm. Having a valid measure of attitudes about budgeting in advance can help ensure the way in which you discuss planned spending and consumption is aligned with your prospect’s view, thus ensuring more positive reactions during this crucial first interaction.
Focus on Critical Client Characteristics
When a prospective client sets up a meeting for the first time, you may ask them a series of general questions. Demographic information, like income, net worth, age, and gender, can provide some insights about a prospective client that could be useful to your practice. But, demographic characteristics alone will not allow you to understand the client’s money-related personality. For example, simple questions on a form will not help you anticipate whether a potential client has certain attitudes about budgeting and spending. Demographic questions will not help you understand if the prospect possesses the characteristics that will allow her to follow a plan that you’ve put in place without some coaching or guidance. Finally, a simple “how do you feel about investing today?” questionnaire will not identify investor composure or the emotional component related to investing. Instead, scientifically-created assessments are an efficient, objective way of uncovering characteristics about a prospective client that can help you serve that client in the best way possible. As an example, our Building Wealth assessment enables you to understand a potential client’s characteristics when it comes to accumulating wealth over time. This information will not only serve to help you as you communicate with your client in the first (virtual) meeting but will also provide a customized behavioral coaching plan of action that can be used as you create proposals and financial plans.
The Investor Profile is not just an objective measure of psychological risk tolerance. This assessment can also be used to help prospective clients understand their investor personality and provides you with a way to demonstrate that your firm acknowledges the significant impact of behavior on investing success. To learn more about the Investor Profile, check out this video overview or read about the competencies of great investors here.
You can also capture leads from those seeking investment advice and guidance using relevant assessments of financial personality. The Investor Composure Engage assessment can help you attract prospective clients who are aware of the role their mindset plays in investing, and you can easily embed this assessment into blog content, your homepage, or social media posts.
Understand Spousal Congruence
Demographic characteristics do not help you understand what it will be like to work with a particular prospect in a client-advisor setting. This is particularly true when we consider working with a couple. One of the consistent findings in both affluent families, as well as those who are building wealth, is that spousal congruence, the alignment of spouses in terms of financial management, is a critical component in economic success. Households with couples that are on the same page financially, mainly if both are focused on building and sustaining wealth, tend to be more successful over time.
As many advisors know, alignment is not always the norm. Oftentimes, spouses have very different perspectives on money-related matters. By shifting to remote first meetings with prospects, you may have found that it is challenging to recognize some of the nonverbal interactions between spouses. Advisors who use the Financial Perspectives assessment, a measure of money-related attitudes, can compare the outlook of spouses related to seven different areas of financial management. By using the comparison feature for this assessment, you can quickly see if a prospective set of clients are in agreement when it comes to things like investing, budgeting, and spending attitudes. That information alone is interesting, of course, but the real power of it comes into play when you are communicating with a couple.
Knowing personality in advance is especially important when meeting with couples: by comparing their results, you can anticipate alignment and disagreements when it comes to money-related issues. Armed with the profiles of each member of the household, you can then tailor your communication to reach both members of the household effectively. An additional benefit of assessing both members of a household on their financial attitudes or other money-related characteristics is that you can customize future communication to each member of the household as well, especially when sharing knowledge, article recommendations, or other types of behaviorally focused content or suggestions.
Capturing Leads & Sharing Insights
With the increased traffic from those seeking financial advice, our advisors are using targeted marketing campaigns along with short and relevant DataPoints Engage assessments to capture leads along the way. A few weeks ago, we worked with Michael Spencer of Wise Pace to create a custom Engage assessment for his Facebook live event on financial control, highlighting the importance of recognizing how each of us contributes to financial success. Whether you embed links on your homepage like Fintentional or use links in your blog content like Cultivating Wealth, there are several ways to use assessments to help your visitors learn about their financial mindset while also serving as a lead generator for your business.