Guest Post By Michael Levin, Platinum’s Book Editor in Chief.
When average financial advisors look in the mirror, what do they see?
Financial advisors, of course.
That’s why they’re average.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
What could you see?
The purpose of this note is to help guide you to a different vision of yourself, one that’s aligned with the way your clients see you already.
Or should see you, if they don’t so far.
So who are you really?
You are a magician. You have the ability to help your clients hold onto the wealth they have created…grow it…and protect it. You save them money through your deep knowledge of financial services. To you, it’s your job. To your clients, it’s magic.
You are a storyteller. Where your client sees indecipherable columns of figures on a financial statement, you can translate raw numbers into a story that tells the client how he’s really doing, what he needs to improve, where he needs to focus. The typical client cannot turn numbers into a story that’s both meaningful and actionable. You can.
You are a confessor. You may well know more about the client’s financial situation than her spouse, religious leader, attorney, or best friend. Your clients trust you with secrets that you perhaps might rather not even know. Not all those secrets are financial. You probably know, well ahead of the client’s spouse, of plans for divorce, of legal trouble, and 1,001 other secrets, because of the trust and confidentiality with which you hold your client’s financial and personal affairs.
You are a trusted advisor. Your client looks to you not just for financial planning but also for planning related to the future of her family, in her lifetime and afterwards. What may seem obvious to you, based on the numbers you review, may come as a complete shock to the client, immersed as she is in the urgency of handling the day-to-day affairs of her business. Your advice is solid gold to the client, because of the deep trust she places in you.
You are a dreamer. Not in the speculative, detached from reality sense. Instead, you are what Lawrence of Arabia referred to as the individual who dreams during the day. “All men dream, but not equally,” Lawrence wrote. “Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” You create visions for your clients of where their financial lives could go. You help them look beyond the current moment and help them envision what is possible.
You are the wise man or woman. In every tribe, there are individuals who have learned the mysteries that govern the sun, the moon, the stars, and the tides. In our “civilized” society, the wise men and women are those who understand the mysteries of the stock market, bond ladders, the vagaries of Social Security, taxes, and the complexities of all forms of insurance. You are the individual whom the client trusts either to answer her questions about these matters or to refer her to those you trust with specific expertise in these areas. They trust the people to whom you refer them based on your say-so (and those experts should be referring you new clients as well).
You are an architect. You construct the financial plan and the tax plan for the client. You build the framework in which the client finds the freedom to succeed running his business with maximum efficiency. Without you, there is no edifice. They are fumbling in the dark, hoping to fall forward instead of backwards or to the side. You earn not just your fee and their referrals but their gratitude.
You are the final word on money. People who go to doctors typically seek second opinions. Those who see lawyers run the advice they receive past their attorney friends at the club. But no one second-guesses a financial advisor! If you say, “You should put away this much,” or “You should sell this,” or “You need to invest in this,” the client nods and acts in accordance with your advice. You are the authority when it comes to one of the most important, intimate, and ongoing relationships in every person’s life: their relationship to money. What you say is almost invariably what they do.
So when you look in the mirror tonight, who will be looking back?
A financial advisor?
Or a magician, a storyteller, a confessor, a trusted advisor, a dreamer, a wise man or woman, an architect, and the final word on money?
If you want your clients to see you as more than a financial advisor, shouldn’t you see yourself as something more…first?