What High-Net-Worth Prospects (Really) Want From A Financial Advisor


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In the early days of wealth management, a financial advisor’s value proposition was relatively explicit, typically focusing on a limited range of portfolio management activities (e.g., selling and trading) or on sales-oriented advice that centered on implementing insurance products. As the industry has evolved, though, the value offered by financial advisors, especially for High-Net-Worth (HNW) clients,  has come to involve a far more comprehensive range of services in addition to traditional investment management practices, such as estate planning, tax advice, and charitable planning, all while using insights from financial psychology and behavioral finance to help clients stay on track with their long-term financial planning goals. While this shift has enriched the advisor’s role, it has also introduced challenges in aligning the advisor’s offerings with the nuanced needs of HNW prospects and clients.

In this ‘hybrid’ video-based article, Michael Kitces and John Bowen, CEO and founder of CEG Worldwide and CEG Insights (formerly Spectrem Group), dive into CEG’s extensive data on the “gap” between the services that financial advisors actually offer to their clients and what HNW clients truly want from their advisors. The discussion highlights the often-misinterpreted needs of HNW clients and how advisors can ensure their services are aligned to meet their clients’ expectations most effectively.

As a starting point, while the language that describes what prospective HNW clients want and what advisors offer may often sound similar, in reality, what each party actually means can be quite different. For example, an advisor may think of “risk management” in terms of life and property insurance coverage, whereas HNW clients may instead think of tax and estate-planning strategies as asset protection measures – particularly for the future wealth of their heirs. If clients and advisors approach issues with a fundamentally different psychology, then an advisor’s ‘comprehensive’ advice may not address the client’s actual problems. Even with the best intentions, this disconnect can ultimately damage an advisor’s perceived value over time.

Fortunately, financial advicers can bridge these communication gaps in a few ways, starting with their discovery process. Foundational to understanding what a client will perceive as valuable advice is first having an understanding of their goals, relationships, and values. Identifying these principal elements before delving into the client’s situational details of their finances can help the advicer address the issues truly of concern to the client. This approach not only tailors advice more effectively, but also serves as an impactful marketing differentiator in a competitive environment where many advicers describe themselves as having excellent customer service, comprehensive advice, and fiduciary standards, especially when the advicer is able to convey how their strategies address their clients’ real problems – as the client understands them, which can be incredibly powerful!

Ultimately, the key point is that what most HNW clients actually want is an advisor who understands and can solve their unique problems… and that the value of such advice may go unrecognized unless an advisor is able to explain how their solutions align with the client’s core values and goals. However, when an advicer prioritizes identifying and understanding the client’s values and goals, they can more easily showcase the real value of their advice, leading to mutual success and long-term client satisfaction!

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What High-Net-Worth Prospects (Really) Want From A Financial Advisor

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