What do potential customers look for when searching for a financial adviser?

26 May 2022

Besides considering whether you, as a financial adviser, have the right technical skills, charge fair fees and put their interests first, potential clients look for an emotional connection with their financial advisers.

A 2019 Vanguard study found that a client’s emotional relationship with their adviser – not their fees or technical skills – accounted for over half of the perceived value of the engagement.

Mr Matt J Goren, Assistant Professor of Financial Planning at The American College of Financial Services, lists four questions clients will typically ask a financial adviser when assessing if he/she is able to connect with them.

  1. Do our values align?

Financial planning is the process of helping clients achieve their goals – whether those goals are to be financially independent, support a charity or anything in between. Advisers are trained to respect and help fulfill all their clients’ goals. But if your goals and values are contrary to that of a client, it can be difficult for you to take their perspective and make the best recommendations. For example, an adviser who tends to prioritise attaining financial independence may consistently push back on a client’s goal of donating 10% of his/her income to charity.

Financial advisers who share their clients’ deeply held values will have an easier time empathising with their financial situation and are more likely to make recommendations that will be implemented.


  1. Will we get along?

It would be great if we could be friends with everyone, but some personalities just do not mesh. Don’t think you need to overthink this (although you are welcome to). Consider what kinds of people you tend to get along with. Remember that you may be spending many years working with your clients, so it helps to like them and feel like you get along.At a minimum, feel free to avoid working with someone who gives you a bad first impression. While our first impressions are not always accurate, they can tell us a lot – and quickly! For example, one study found it takes just a fraction of a second to decide whether you should trust someone.


  1. How will you communicate your recommendations and coach me?

It is critical that clients fully understand the recommendations you are making. Otherwise, they will not implement them! Consider their learning style. How do they understand things most easily: in writing? With charts and graphs? Whatever their answer, clients will find an adviser whose communication style matches their learning style. Often, recommendations take some time to implement and have many steps. Some folks struggle to follow through – especially if they have anxiety around money. The best advisers coach their clients throughout the process.


  1. Do you have good experiences working with people from my background?

A financial adviser’s cultural background and cultural competency can affect whether he/she has a successful relationship. When people share similar experiences and backgrounds, they often have an easier time communicating and empathising with one another.

Moreover, financial advising has not always been offered or provided equitably to women and members of minority backgrounds.

That said, the adviser and client do not need to share a cultural connection to have a successful relationship. Many financial advisers have excellent cross-cultural communication and cultural competence.

Ultimately, clients seek to establish a relationship with an adviser they trust.