Most of our clients are high net worth individuals and have relationships with our firm that span well over a decade. Not only do I work with these clients through all kinds of life transitions, I often have the opportunity to work with their children and, in some cases, their grandchildren. While these kinds of long-term relationships put us in the unique position of being able to advise in many areas of an individual’s financial live, they also require us to learn how to confidently support our clients through difficult times.
Although I have dealt with deep grief personally with my father dying when I was in my late twenties, I still struggled with how to convey my experiences with personal loss and grief to clients in transition. Like others, I have limited professional experience communicating in these situations and often felt my comments were just anecdotal. Not really knowing what to say, I would mostly tiptoe around in conversations in order to avoid emotional topics, keeping the conversations fact-based and focused on the work-at-hand.
Prior to working with Amy I felt awkward dealing with clients in transition. Corgenius training has deepened my connection with my clients and has given me the confidence to expand the depth of conversations with them -- whether it’s about end-of-life planning and final wishes, caring for a parent with a cognitive impairment or starting over after divorce.
Working with Amy impacted me on a personal level as well. Her insights were invaluable on how to share my father’s legacy with my two sons who never had the opportunity to meet him. She also gave me advice on how to help my young sons process their great grandma’s death.
Our motto at Telemus is “Enrich your life. Enjoy your wealth.” In many ways, my work with Amy has given us more avenues to help my clients do exactly that. I wholeheartedly recommend Amy and the Corgenius program to my peers. It is an excellent resource for not only improving your interpersonal skills, but offering a better client service experience overall.
The Business Need
As the clientele ages and the business environment becomes increasingly relationship-centric, financial advisors must be able to appropriately interface with clients on a professional as well as personal level. This includes knowing how to support them through major life transitions.
Once overlooked, this skill is becoming increasingly relevant to advisory firms. Oak Brook Asset Management Corp., an investment advisory firm based in Scottsdale, AZ., is no exception.
Consisting primarily of engineers, nurses, teachers, school administrators, and business owners, most of the firm’s clients have been customers for decades. Now reaching or at retirement age, they are encountering losses, retirement and job terminations, divorces, and other major life transitions with increasing frequency. Like other advisory firms, Oak Brook Asset Management was skilled in handling their clients’ business needs, but much less equipped to appropriately communicate with them about their grief.
Like many other advisors, Firm President, Alexander J. Cudzewicz, long felt he had difficulty relating to grieving clients. Feeling awkward, he was often unsure of what to say or do and wondered if his approach was sufficient to support these clients as well as maintain the relationships.
Because there's never been a guide that really explains how to handle these potentially challenging and often professionally awkward situations, training is crucial to help firms learn how to assist clients in transition.
Working with Amy Florian, the firm began to develop the insight and practical skills to communicate and support clients in their time of grief. For example, they learned appropriate responses for uncomfortable moments at a funeral or wake. They learned how to react when a client breaks the news of a loss situation in their lives. Most importantly, they learned the value of taking the time to listen and understand what clients are experiencing as they work through their grief – even if their conversations only briefly mention finances.
The Business and Personal Value
The financial advisory business is all about trust and relationships. Learning how to effectively communicate with clients in transition has been a strong influence in the firm’s ability to reinforce trust and strengthen relationships. As Oak Brook Asset Management increasingly sees in its business, clients hire you and, more importantly, stay with you because of that.