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Be A Gen Savvy Planner: Take Off Your Generational Lenses

Our early environments shape us for the rest of our lives.

That’s why there is so much difference between the generations, said Cam Marston, an expert on generational change and founder of Generational Insights.

Marston told FPA Retreat attendees in April that baby boomers are tough and were never told they were unique or special, so they overcompensated by telling their kids—who are Gen-Xers and millennials—that they were extra special. Therefore, those two generations were raised to think they were unique and that their needs were very important.

“What imprints on younger people impacts them for the rest of their lives,” Marston said. “Millennials and Gen-X have been brought up to say, ‘What’s going to make me happy?’

Planners should understand the vast differences between the generations and know how to talk to and communicate with each one.

Boomers. To connect with the boomer, Marston said, you need to understand how they see the world. They’re hardworking and they have the mentality that retirement is going to be great. They want to hear your story and know where you come from.

Hanging up your diplomas or certificates in your office during your meetings with boomers is a good idea.

Key points about boomers:

1.) Understand and acknowledge their work ethic—which they generally measure in hours (i.e., “I work 50-60 hours a week”).

2.) Ask them about their accomplishments and acknowledge what they’ve done.

3.) Communicate that you are on the same page. Emphasize that you are a team.

5.) Pick up the phone and call them and meet with them in person.

6.) Beware of too much technology.

7.) Know the difference between “leading” baby boomers (older than 62 and like communication that emphasizes how they deserve retirement); and “trailing” baby boomers (ages 53-61 and need to be reassured that they’re going to be OK despite setbacks they experienced in retirement savings thanks to the recession).

Gen-Xers. This generation are stalkers of product and services. They demand to be an educated consumer and are leery of “being had,” Marston said. They are interested in how well you can teach them to make a good decision. Your relationship should be a partnership.

Key points about Gen-Xers:

1.) They are going to do research and have you prove why your advice is better than what they found via this research.

2.) They tend to prefer email and your communication should be brief, succinct and to the point.

3.) Don’t waste your time leaving them voicemails.

4.) Make sure your web presence is pristine—they’ll look you up online before contacting you.

5.) The Gen-X mother has tremendous buying power and influence. She’s coming up in terms of her earning, she’s informed and she’s fully engaged. Keep her happy.

6.) Communicate how decisions will affect them personally.

Millennials. Millennials are individuals with a group orientation. They believe they’re unique but they also enjoy being part of a group.

Millennials think, “You tell me about me and what’s going to happen and how I’m going to feel about it,” Marston said.

Key points about millennials:

1.) They’re optimistic.

2.) You will get more attendance from them if you ask them to bring people. Engage them as a group and they will be more interested.

3.) They feel they are unique and special.

4.) They don’t think so much in the long-term as the other generations.

5.) They are achieving milestones (i.e., getting married, buying houses, having kids) later in life than the previous generations.

6.) Communicate via text messages and social media.

Understand these key points about each generation and try to see the world through their eyes when you’re talking to them.

“Everybody pitches and articulates their value from their own generational lense,” Marston said, “but I’ve got to take my lenses off and put on somebody else’s.”

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org


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4 Ways to Make Clients Feel Special

What has the digital age meant for you? Does the information at your fingertips make you more decisive or paralyzed? Do you command your devices or do they rule your life?

All the technology and information available doesn’t replace the need for special client interactions. In fact, our industry is losing the heartfelt touch that defined what it meant to be an investment adviser years ago.

Communicating is Not Relating
Technology facilitates productive communication between people via email, texts, tweets and posts. However, communicating does not necessarily mean the adviser is relating.

Wealth advisory is a relationship business from beginning to end. When clients entrust their financial lives to an adviser, it’s more than just handling money. Wrapped up in the “money” are families, emotions, conflicts, histories, anxieties and aspirations. These are dimensions visible only through heart-to-heart socializing that make humans unique.

For the majority of the individual investor market, and all segments therein, a human adviser (vs. solely a robo/technology interaction) is the preferred medium for receiving advice and counsel; the trusted adviser is someone to relate to, to share with, and to be inspired by.

Both Feet Firmly in the Relating Business
Over-reliance on digital technology is the greatest temptation facing today’s wealth advisory business. Volume of communication doesn’t equate to a high-quality, adviser-to-client relationship. Advisers may know more surface details about their clients than ever before (because of social media), but this veneer masks what’s really happening within the client as a person.

The volume of “stuff” pouring through an adviser’s smart phone or other device overwhelms particular details about a client that otherwise would allow a relationship to deepen. All this disconnected information becomes white noise to the client/person the adviser needs to know.

Budgeting Daily Time for Relating
The adviser’s communication feed to its clients (e.g. newsletters, LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts, blogs, etc.) is delivered impersonally—but it sure is efficient!

That’s the problem. How often does an adviser pause and read a client’s Facebook page and send a personal email reflecting on the content? Or, after a meeting, sit down and write a meaningful, hand-written reply?

While keeping technology in its rightful place, an adviser can deepen client relationships with these four steps.

  1. Schedule daily relating time. In every day, there’s an hour available to do special relating with clients apart from the normal reporting and associated activities. The time is there, it just needs to be a priority and a matter of focusing on the “few” and not the “many”.
  1. Partition the hour to specific clients. For the allotted time, take, say, two clients and devote 30 minutes to each with the end task being a personal interaction of some form. Write a note thanking them for their business; send an article about one of their interests; write a meaningful comment about a family picture on a Facebook page; send a book with a note inside the front cover; place a phone call just to see how the client’s children are doing or the status of a parent’s illness. Unlike business-type communications, these relational interactions are of a higher standard: something the client will keep. Each keepsake you create for your client, the deeper his or her loyalty to you will be.
  1. Log the activity in your CRM. Make a note in each client’s activity file. It only takes a few minutes of the allotted 30 minutes, but it results in a diary of meaningful contact. Across the year, the adviser will see the volume of these interactions (i.e. there are about 260 business days in a year * two interactions a day = 520 quality interactions). Also, use the CRM’s follow-up system to create a client rotation program such that each client will receive at least two keepsake communications from you each year.
  1. Get the company involved. Make this “relating hour” a company priority. Encourage the team to come up with creative ways to express care and concern. Especially for a client’s life-changing events such as marriages, births and deaths, engage the company in the joy or sorrow.

Relating Impacts
In a people business like investment advice, clients want to be treated specially (and they’re paying good fees for this treatment). Attending to the inner person with focused—and unexpected—communication shifts the business from money to friendship. And, advisers that have both a business and personal relationship with clients always win.

Kirk Loury

Kirk Loury
President
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey