How Much Do Your Clients Trust You?


By Laura Hanichak Gregg

Laura is Director of Practice Management and Advisor Research at FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds, managed by Northern Trust. She is also a host of The Flexible Advisor podcast. Laura is focused on leading the firm’s proprietary advisor and investor research and building programs to engage advisors and asset managers through industry intelligence and best practices to help them grow their businesses. She speaks regularly at industry events on a range of business building strategies. Her insights have been published in ForbesBarronsU.S. News & World ReportInvestmentNewsCIO Magazine and other industry publications.

It may be less than you think, but you can build that trust and earn more assets by understanding their emotions.

There’s a clear relationship between how much clients trust their financial advisors and how much money they’re willing to give them to manage. If you can increase trust, you’re much more likely to grow wallet share with your clients.

But how can advisors build trust? First, it’s important to recognize that trust exists on a spectrum. While some clients are very skeptical of financial advisors, others are inherently trusting.

Second, and more important, is that a client’s level of trust is driven by their emotions, beliefs and past experiences. To effectively build trust, advisors need to understand each client’s emotional makeup.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the emotions driving client behaviors is critical.

  • FlexShares research uncovered 5 unique client personas.

  • Tailoring your strategy by persona can build trust and assets.

Five Personas, Five Different Levels of Trust

FlexShares’ new behavioral research looked into the factors that drive clients’ wallet-share decisions. We found that clients can be sorted into five distinct personas, each with a different level of trust based on that persona’s characteristics. By understanding these personas, advisors can develop the right techniques to build stronger, more trusting relationships.

"Each persona requires a slightly different approach to address their needs."  - Laura Gregg

Our research found that clients fall into one of five personas: Protectors, Competitors, Collectors, Verifiers and Simplifiers. Besides encompassing different traits, these personas also occupy different places on the trust spectrum:

  • Protectors and Competitors exhibit the lowest levels of trust. Protectors are risk-averse and approach financial advisors with extreme caution, while Competitors are performance-driven and want to see results before trusting an advisor.
  • Verifiers and Simplifiers are the most trusting. Verifiers are on the hunt for expertise, while Simplifiers have little anxiety and prefer working with a single advisor to handle all their finances.
  • Collectors fall in the middle. They’re often reluctant to trust a single advisor, preferring to spread assets among multiple advisors to reduce risk and gain different perspectives.

Appealing to a Persona's Characteristics

Understanding the traits and characteristics that affect trust for each persona helps you adjust how you work with them. Consider these approaches:

  • Protectors are skeptical of the industry overall. In response, advisors can present a plan backed by research and a clear process, in addition to providing clear explanations of the services they offer and their pricing model.
  • Competitors make performance a top priority and view the advisor relationship as transactional. Build rapport by discussing short-term market movements but remind them of the importance of long-term planning and transparency.
  • Collectors manage multiple accounts and advisors. Their key pain point is complexity. Explain how working with fewer advisors can make their life easier and emphasize comprehensive planning to help them feel confident you’re focused on their long-term financial outcomes.
  • Verifiers seek personal connection and expertise. To show them the value of your relationship, offer an integrated planning approach. And take conversations beyond investments to include insurance, mortgages, cash management and estate planning.
  • Simplifiers like to find a single advisor who will take care of everything for them. Demonstrate your commitment by explaining your complete menu of services and using regular check-ins to communicate what you’re doing on their behalf.

As you can see, each persona requires a slightly different approach to address their needs. But as you solve their biggest problems and address their emotional makeup, you’re building a level of trust that can lead to gaining a greater share of their wallets. Read our new white paper to learn more about each persona. Then contact FlexShares to learn additional strategies that can help you build stronger relationships.

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