Client Communications

Guest Blog Post: Words to avoid in your investment communications with regular folks

By | Advisor Education, Client Communications | No Comments

SusaFinancial Advisor Trainingn B. Weiner, Investment Writing, is our guest blogger today. Susan helps financial advisors to increase the impact of their writing on clients and prospects. She writes and edits white papers, articles, and investment commentary for leading investment and wealth management firms. Her Investment Writing blog is popular with advisors who care about writing that deepens their connections with clients and prospects.

Big words make your readers work harder to grasp your message. This is particularly true of jargon, such as “duration,” unless your piece is strictly for investment professionals.

Below are some words to avoid when communicating with regular folks. Most of them are financial jargon. Others—like “mitigate“—are unnecessarily long or confusing. Replace jargon and long words with shorter, less technical words that pack more punch. They also make it easier for readers to absorb your message.

  • Accommodative monetary policy
  • Active share
  • Alpha
  • Barbell
  • Basis points
  • Constructive, as in “we are constructive on small-cap stocks”
  • Contango
  • Convexity
  • Disseminate
  • Drawdown
  • Duration
  • Ecosystem
  • Efficient frontier
  • Expected return
  • Flight to quality
  • Headwinds/tailwinds
  • Inverted yield curve
  • Levered names
  • Liquidity
  • Long/short
  • Mitigate
  • Pricing power
  • Rerate
  • Reversion to the mean
  • Risk assets
  • Risk on/risk off
  • Risks to the upside
  • Secular
  • Sharpe ratio
  • Spread product—a Google Alert on “spread product” yielded results related to margarine and Vegemite
  • Tranche

On a related note, don’t use acronyms without first defining them. This means words such as AUM, CAGR, CAPM, CLO, DOL, EBITDA, EPS, LIBOR, MBS, MLP, TTM, YOY, and YTD. It’s often best to avoid acronyms completely. I’ve discussed this in “How to capitalize financial acronyms.”

Want to learn more from Susan? Susan’s class “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read” for financial advisors starts on Monday, February 27. Register hereregistration ends February 24.


Women, Finances, and Feelings

By | Client Communications, Women and Wealth | No Comments

Women, finances, and feelings go together. In this video, discover how the financial services industry usually views emotions like fear, and how advisors can actually use this data to help women plan for retirement.

Next time there is an “Elephant in the Room” (also known as a client’s emotions) remember these 3 tips:

  1. Notice feelings

Don’t skip over emotional content in your meetings. Instead, use it as additional data to help you understand your client. If a woman expresses worry about running out of money in retirement, ask her to tell you more about this fear. Ask open-ended questions with the goal of putting yourself in her shoes. This type of noticing and listening will foster trust and make your client feel truly heard.

  1. Don’t rush to problem solving

There is a tendency in this field to offer financial solutions too quickly. Slow down and listen to what your client is telling you about her thoughts and feelings about retirement. (Click to Tweet) Find out what triggers certain feelings to arise and what causes them to subside. This insight is valuable to you and the client; so don’t skip this important step.

  1. Use non-technical data to help clients

It is normal for a person to have mixed emotions about planning for or transition to retirement. Treat clients’ emotions as important data points. Gather this non-technical information to help you create a retirement plan that speaks to your client as a unique individual. By taking the time to do so, the likelihood that your plan is successful increases.

How do you handle emotions as they arise in your advisory meetings? How do you think using this data is helpful or not helpful to the financial planning process?

Do you use behavioral finance in your work?

By | Advisor Education, Client Communications, Financial Psychology | No Comments
Behavioral Finance

Namika Sagara, Ph.D.
Creator – 3B Assessment

Behavioral finance is a fascinating area of study, but can be a bit daunting to incorporate into your advisory meetings. Thanks to the power of LinkedIn, I think I found a way for you to give it a try.

Prasad Ramani reached out this past week to tell me about his company’s new assessment called “My 3B Assessment Report(R).” After a brief call I decided to give the test a try. And I liked it!

My 3B(R) Assessment Report offered by SAPERE helps you identify clients’ behavioral strengths and blind spots within a few minutes. The goal of the assessment is to accelerate advisors client acquisition by concretely demonstrating their value to clients within minutes. The assessment also also offers a way to discuss behavioral finance in an interesting manner and can be useful with a client who easily gets defensive when discussing his blind spots.

My 3B Assessment Report(R) has three sections and one measures financial literacy. I liked that component as it helps an advisor understand where some of the gaps may be in knowledge for each client. My goal is to have my husband complete this assessment as well and send the reports to our financial advisors. Every little bit of information he has can help him help us plan for our future.

The assessment was created by Namika Sagara, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist with 15 years of experience in leading and managing behavioral science and decision-making research. Besides conducting rigorous academic research, she applies decades of proven academic insights to help her clients understand and guide irrational human behaviors. She currently holds a visiting position at Duke University. Her colleague, Prasad Ramani, CFA, FRM, CAIA, has over 16 years of experience in Quantitative Risk & Portfolio Management, Financial Modeling and IT Consulting.

To take the assessment, click here . Trust me you will enjoy it and learn something new about yourself in the process.

How do you communicate with your clients about their blind spots?(Click to Tweet)

Do you use behavioral science in your practice?

Kathleen STEPS Up at the Advisor Conference in Canada

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National STEP ConferenceOn June 9, 2016, I had the honor of serving on a panel at the 18th National STEP Conference in Toronto, Ontario.  STEP stands for the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and is a global organization.

The title of the presentation was Gender Implications of International Wealth Transfer. The panel was moderated by Peggy Gates-Hammond of the Bank of Montreal and my fellow panelists included Pina Melchionna from Concentra Financial and  Maria Spanakis, 3 MACs,  The beauty of being a speaker is you get a chance to work with wonderful colleagues and this conference was no exception.  In fact, Maria Spanakis, released a great video a few days after the conference that addresses some of the information that was highlighted during this program.  Click on the video to take a look.


The panel also received some media coverage, with Elaine Blades writing a favorable piece on our talk in a popular Canadian blog, All About Estates.  Click here to read this article.

Here are my 3 biggest take aways from this experience:

  1. Canadian advisors are struggling in similar ways to the United States advisors when it comes to being gender savvy.
  2. Globally, it make good business sense to learn how to communicate more effectively to women. (Click to Tweet)
  3. Powerful women and men are ready and up for the challenge, whether they live in Canada, the United States or elsewhere.

What are you doing in your practice to meet this challenge?

5 Strategies for Winning over Women Entrepreneurs

By | Client Communications, Uncategorized, Women and Money, Women and Wealth | No Comments

Women EntrepreneursWomen entrepreneurs are hardwired and socialized to value relationships and typically take a collaborative approach to running their businesses. Many wear multiple hats in one day (CEO, wife, and mother) and tend to value commercial lenders and advisors who appreciate the rewards and challenges of this juggling act. They want financial professionals who show they care, truly understand the complexities of their daily lives, and are willing to be a part of the team that helps them get things done.

Here are 5 tips that will help you win over women entrepreneurs: 

Be Curious: Start each relationship by asking curious, open-ended questions and really listening to the answers. Explore what inspired her to start the business and how this decision impacts her personal life. These meaningful conversations will help you understand what she needs from you and how you can best deliver it. 

Be Direct: Entrepreneurial women aren’t afraid to speak up. Ask direct questions to find out how they want you to communicate with them, what events they are interested in attending, and how you can be most useful to them personally and professionally. 

Be Efficient. Women who are the CEO of their businesses and their families are short on time. Make sure your meetings are efficient. Start on time, end on time, and when possible meet at a location that works best for her and her family. Send an e-mail with the proposed agenda one week prior to your meeting and ask for her feedback. This ensures that your meeting goals align with her priorities and your time will be well spent.

Be Empowering.  Women have a tendency to be less financially confident than men. Take the time to assess if the female business owner you are working with needs a boost in financial confidence. If so, use education and conversations to empower her. For many of these women it’s not about being less financially literate, it’s more about needing support while practicing new skills. 

Be YOU! Authenticity builds trust, especially in the female culture. Share a bit about who you are, your hobbies, and your family life. Women business owners enjoy working with professionals who are willing to share a part of their life with them.

How to Help Your Couple Clients Overcome Common Myths about Money and Conflict

By | Client Communications, Couples and Money | No Comments

Money and Conflict We live in a society where talking about money is taboo and the majority of couples admit to avoiding talking about finances with their partner. As an advisor, this is the dilemma you are tasked with: to help partners talk about financial matters so they can plan for a secure future.

There are certain myths about money conflicts that get in the way when working with couples. Here are the top 3 and what you can do about each one:

Myth 1: Conflict is bad and should be avoided at all costs.

Imagine a couple who have been married for many years. When asked if they disagree about money, they insist they never fight. At first you think this is delightful and then you realize that they have not resolved any issues in their 50-year marriage! The truth is that conflict is healthy and an important part of a couple’s financial planning process. As an advisor, you need to remind couples that financial disagreements from time to time are healthy, and help everyone gain clarity regarding important goals and objectives.

Myth 2: Conflict has a winner and a loser.

Just look at sports. There is a winning hockey team and a losing hockey team. When one or both partners approach a money conversation with the goal of winning the argument no one comes out ahead. Your job is to gently remind couples that the goal of conflict is to understand each other, not to win the fight. Teach them how to actively listen to each other and, when necessary, act as a mediator.

Myth #3: Conflict is innate skill.

No one is born knowing how to engage in a healthy conflict; it is a learned skill. Most of us learned how to disagree by watching our parents and family members resolve or not resolve differences. Let your clients know that you can help them develop the skills they need to talk about money in a healthy way.

Helping clients identify and bust through these common myths about conflict and money leads them to see you as a trusted professional who has their best interests at heart.

Don’t Get Fired! How to Engage Both Partners in an Advisory Meeting

By | Advisor Education, Client Communications, Couples and Money | No Comments

Approximately 70% of women fire their couple’s advisor within one year of the death of their spouse. The main reason: The advisor failed to include both partners in advisory process, and when the female client took control of the assets she went to an advisor she felt more comfortable with.

Avoid this common mistake by building a trusting relationship with both partners and inviting both to participate in advisor meetings. Here are 3 strategies for doing so:

  1. Invite both partners to the table. Some couples don’t realize the importance of meeting together with an advisor. Start by inviting both partners to all meetings. Educate the couple about how this helps you help them plan for their financial future.
  2. Get curious if the answer is NO. When a client politely declines a joint meeting, find out his motivation by asking curious, open-ended questions. For example, if he says that his wife is not really interested in investments, ask him what financial topics might interest her. Would she be interested in finding out more about raising financially fit children or ways to fund her new business venture?  If he says she doesn’t have the time to meet, find out how you might accommodate her schedule. Often it is what the client is NOT saying that is the information you need to help them take the step toward joint meetings.
  3. Develop a plan to connect. Think outside the box and find a way to connect with both partners, even if it’s not in the context of the traditional meeting. Be respectful but persistent. Consider inviting the couple to a casual dinner meeting, or inviting the wife and a friend of hers to a bank-sponsored event. Pick up the phone when you know the nonparticipating partner is home and ask them if they have any questions for you. The goal is to foster trust and show you care about both partners—not just the one attending the meetings.

It may take a while for a couple to agree to meet together, but it will be worth your efforts in the long run. How to Give Financial Advice to Couples gives you the expert insight and proven tools for navigating the unique dynamics of two people planning for their financial future.

What strategies do you use to encourage joint meetings?

3 Techniques for Balancing the Triangle When Advising Couples and Money

By | Advisor Education, Client Communications, Couples and Money | No Comments

One of the most important skills for an advisor working with couples and money is  the ability to balance the needs of each individual within a couple. “Balancing the Triangle” is a tool I often talk about—and one that I originally learned from Kol Birke, a financial behavioral specialist at Commonwealth Financial. The concept is that an advisor needs to balance the triangular relationship he or she has with their couple clients. This means including each partner equally in meetings, decision-making, and goal-setting. If this is not done well then one partner feels neglected and overlooked, placing the advisor’s book of business at risk during times of transition such as illness, divorce, and death.

couples and money triangleWhile this concept sounds simple in theory, it can be complicated in real-life situations. Here are a few tips to help you balance the triangle in your couple engagements:

1. Maintain neutrality. The goal in balancing the triangle is to be and to stay neutral. Sometimes the balance is tipped or gets tilted when one of the partners starts getting more attention from the advisor. This often happens unconsciously and may be well intended. But it is important to not take sides when couples are disagreeing about a financial matter and to work diligently to maintain your objectivity when advising couples. One way of doing this is to ask yourself silently during an appointment, “Is the triangle balanced?” If not, then shift your body posture toward the person who may feel left out and ask them a question to reengage them in the dialogue. Even if they give a similar answer to their partner, it shows them that you want to hear from both of them.

2. Ask questions of both partners. One partner may be more verbal than the other, or know more about finance. Don’t fall into the trap of only meeting with or talking to that person. Instead invite both partners to all meetings, and work diligently to involve both of them in the conversation. Ask the same question of each partner and then really listen to the answer. This may feel like you are repeating yourself, but in fact it is a great way to allow both individuals to give input and have a voice in the relationship.

3. Balance the triangle outside of meetings. This technique is not limited to client meetings. You also need to balance both partners’ needs before and after the appointment. Make sure your waiting area has magazines that speak to your female and male clients. When you address correspondence to the couple be sure to address it to both parties and double-check the spelling of their first and last names. Lastly, take an interest in what both partners like. For instance, if he likes golf and you buy him tickets to a pro tournament once a year, then find out more about her hobbies. If she loves hockey, treat her to a professional game, then follow up to find out who won.

By taking these extra steps to include each individual in a couple both inside and outside of meetings, you will foster trust and gather important data that will help you develop a more effective financial plan and investment strategy for their family.

What techniques do you use for balancing the triangle in your practice?

Are You A Couple-Friendly Advisor?

By | Client Communications, Couples and Money | No Comments

Advising CouplesWhat does it mean to be a couple-friendly advisor? Here are a few key questions to consider when assessing your skills when advising partners. As you answer each question as honestly as possible.

1. True or False: The person in the financial meeting who is most financially literate is the one whom I should interact with most.
The answer is false. It is important to interact with both partners and not focus on just the financially dominant one. It is a common mistake that the individual who appears to be more financially literate or vocal in meetings should be the one to take the lead. However, leaving one partner out of the conversation minimizes the importance of their perspective to the advising process. Avoid this mistake by including both partners in meetings and developing a trusting relationship with each person. This protects your book of business and allows you to provide better couple-friendly service.

2. True or False: Couples tend to balance each other out in terms of financial habits and behaviors.
The answer is true. You probably have heard the statement that opposites attract. The same thing happens with partners around money. Savers tend to attract spenders and vice versa. The good news is this dynamic helps couples balance each other out. The bad news is it sometimes leads to financial conflict. As a couple-friendly advisor, your job is to notice these differences and help partners appreciate and learn from each other’s money styles.

3. True or False: Women who don’t attend meetings are not interested in finance.
The answer is false. This is a common misconception in the industry and is used frequently as an excuse to exclude women from the meetings and financial discussions. As couple-friendly advisor you need to take the time to ask questions of both partners and really listen to the answers. Leave stereotypes about women and money at the door. And if one cannot, or does not, attend your appointments, find out why and then think outside the box to engage both partners.

For more information about how to be couple-friendly, check out an excerpt from How to Give Financial Advice to Couples by clicking here.

What was your score, and going forward, how can you improve your work with couples?

Stand Out In the Crowd: Be Creative When Showing Client Appreciation

By | Client Communications | No Comments

Yarn Light Bulb 1The holidays are a great time to show your female clients and their partners you care about more than their assets. Show your client appreciation in a creative way, so your message is not lost in the pile of holiday cards and emails. My suggestion is to think outside the box. Find a way to capture your personality and brand, and personalize your message for each client. Here are a few questions to get your creative marketing juices flowing:

  1. What is unique about you and your firm? Before you order 1000 blah corporate holiday cards, stop and ask yourself this question. Holiday cards are a dime a dozen, so you need to make them reflect your unique brand promise and personality. In my keynotes I mention my love of skiing, and how sports have taught me a lot about business and working in a male dominated industry. My holiday card reflects this sentiment and includes a picture of my first chairlift ride of the season. For me, this picture captures the excitement I feel standing on stage and delivering a talk to an awesome group of professionals.
  2. What is special about each of my clients? Relationships matter in this business and that means you need to personalize all your interactions with your clients. Take the time to think about each client or couple. What are their interests or hobbies and how can you incorporate them into your message? When possible, write a personal note on each card, or send a gift that reflects each client’s interests. Remembers details matter to women so invest the time in making it personal and specific. Otherwise your card, gift, or email will end up in the slush pile and you will have missed an opportunity to stand out in the crowd.
  3. What is the most effective way to deliver this message? Going “old school” is a great way to rise above all the noise online. Printed newsletters and handwritten notes actually get noticed more than emails and online cards. Another idea? Save the paper and make phone calls to all your clients. You may get a bunch of voice mails but something tells me you will be one, if not the only, financial advisor who takes the time to personally wish each client a happy holiday season. (Remember, don’t sell; just say happy holidays!)

Think outside the box in the New Year and consistently show your clients you appreciate them, first as people and second as clients. Be innovative and don’t be afraid to break the mold. It is the business people who do things differently that often make the biggest difference in their clients’ lives. (Click to Tweet)