Building ladders of trust in your Discovery meetings

The thought of handing over my financial information along with my personal hopes and aspirations to a potential stranger is a huge leap for an individual. This is why we appreciate that building trust with an Adviser from the first engagement is critical for individuals.

Research house Core Data observed that trust levels in financial advice fell through the period of the Royal Commission from 60%in 2018, down to lows of 35%. It has since recovered to consistent levels of about 40%however, there is still a long road to recovery to go. This means that individual Advisers need to be more proactive and intentional in the way they build trust with clients and prospective clients.

Trust can be a tricky thing. It is not binary – it’s not as simple as "I trust you" or "I don’t trust you". There are layers of engagement, communication, competence and emotion that all feed into the levels of trust an individual may have towards a person or an organisation. It can be gained quickly, and it can be sustained but can also be slowly eroded over time or lost in an instant.

I often think the early stages of trust in a relationship is like the board game of snakes and ladders. If you played this as a child yourself, or play it now with your own children or grandchildren – you will know that as you progress through each square of the board, there is a chance of landing on a ladder that will take you up the board quicker, giving you an advantage over other players. There is also a chance of landing on a snake that will send you backwards or even back to the beginning.

The same can be said in a new relationship between a client and adviser, the positive experiences will lead to building ladders of trust. Being intentional and investing in building these ladders of trust can help accelerate the trust journey with a client. The more we can do to build ladders of trust, particularly early in the relationship, the stronger the foundation of the relationship will be and the more it can survive setback and successfully navigate challenging times.

There will always be snakes. Just like the board game, there will be events and experiences that will detract from your ability to build and sustain trust. This may be things in your control – so an honest reflection on your delivery and process as well as client research on your service can assist in identifying these. But often there are detractors not in your control. Whether we like it or not, this may still reflect negatively on you and your service. Poor administration or lost paperwork at a platform or an insurer, delays in issuing Statements of Advice, technology failings – the list can be long.

To offset these negative experiences, advisers need to invest in building authentic and meaningful ladders of trust early in the relationship. The more positive the trust relationship is, the more it can endure the detracting or distracting events along the way. So, where do we start?

We start at the beginning - How can we deepen trust in an initial client discovery meeting?

First impressions last, so your initial engagement is critical to build a strong foundation of your relationship. Consider these things when reviewing your discovery meeting

  • Experience is everything – from website navigation, booking a meeting with you or visiting your office for the first time. Make the experience simple, positive and memorable. Consider what you can do ahead of time to ensure the client sees the value in what you have created for them.
  • Get them talking and listen – our research shows that Advisers run the risk of spending too much time talking about their service and process, instead of investing time in building deep connections and empathy with clients.
  • Understand their aspirations and vulnerabilities – once you get them talking, keep them talking. Find ways to understand not only their financial goals, but their personal aspirations and priorities. Find out about their current barriers to success or worries. Helping clients articulate and define their goals and express their vulnerabilities is a powerful way to build trust in a new relationship.
  • Reframe and support – use this information to reframe their story back to them, it shows you have heard and understood, and is an opportunity to clarify. From there, succinctly deliver how you can support them through your process and together work towards achieving their goals.

The key here as an advisor is to build trust quickly and keep that trust, even when things may take an undesired direction. It is the foundation to maintaining a long lasting relationship with your client which both of you will benefit from. Use specific strategies and talk to your Russell Investments relationship manager for more detailed information on how they can help you with this.