The great reassessment
There is no question the COVID-19 pandemic has given us all ample opportunity to reflect on our lives, to reset priorities that draw us closer to our core values, to sharpen our focus on what is deserving of our time and what is not. In many cases, this period has forced us and our clients to reexamine and make major life changes: relocating, adult children moving back in with parents, a new or lost job, or a different work/life balance. Many families have navigated the changed educational landscape through homeschooling, private schools, tutors, other care-giving resources, college gap years, or forgoing college completely. What about Covidivorces? Yes, that is a new term being coined for divorces that happened during COVID-19.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the world has experienced major upheaval and unprecedented change. Those periods get special treatment in history books and in our language. Ironically, they’ve been labeled with the words The Great: The Great Depression beginning in 1929. The Great Recession from 2007-2009, a period that resonates with me personally, having lived through it.
Will we look back at this time, when a global pandemic gripped the world, shutting down businesses, closing schools, halting everyday life as we knew it, as another period of The Great something? It’s likely. In fact, some are already calling this period The Great Reassessment, because regardless of our wealth, status, race, gender, age or demographic, COVID-19 has affected all of us in some capacity, large or small. It has truly been the great equalizer because it has spared no one. But unlike other Greats, this period has meant more than just financial upheaval impacting bank and investment account balances. Rather, this stretch has forced everyone to reassess their priorities.
The great reassessment—and trusted financial advice
This personal reassessment is happening all around us, and financial advisors are in a unique and valuable position to help their clients distill and synthesize these shifting priorities, make sense and plan for them. But that means being able to go deeper with clients in a way that is differentiated, genuine and personal to them. That’s why I think there has never been a better time for client discovery—and re-discovery—than now.
Client discovery, what it is and what it’s not
High-quality client discovery is not only about learning quantitative information about your clients’ financial goals, circumstances and preferences. After all, money is not just measured in zeroes, dollars and cents; it’s measured in experiences. In a high-quality discovery process, the emotional aspects of your clients’ goals take center stage. This process allows you to understand your clients’ motivations and biases that shape those financial viewpoints. It delves into all areas of a client’s life, including their family and relationships, health and wellness, career and work, lifestyle and leisure, and community and giving, to truly understand how all these components of their life intersect with financial decisions. We believe these components make up a holistic picture of a client’s life, which we call the wealth wellness wheel. The deeper you can delve into these areas of a client’s life, the more information you will uncover to be able to help them as life changes happen.
Going deeper with client discovery
Unlike data gathering or fact-finding conversations, a client discovery conversation should accomplish two things: having authentic curiosity for what matters most to your clients, and building trust and an emotional connection with them, perhaps in a way you never have before. One of the best ways to go deeper during a client discovery conversation is to employ active listening where you have a genuine desire to know more. That means allowing your client to do most of the talking; you ask open-ended questions and resist the urge to immediately problem-solve.
Having the right resources to support and enable this type of conversation can be key. At Russell Investments, we have a client discovery online tool that allows you to walk your clients through Wealth Wellness topics to help them narrow down their top three priorities. From there, the trust-building can expand and grow—with existing clients and also with new prospects. Discovery can better inform your financial planning and portfolio selection decisions for clients and could potentially help you gather new assets and organically grow your practice.
The bottom line
This period of inward reflection has sparked something in all of us, something that draws us closer to our core values, that sharpens our focus on what is deserving of our time and what is not. There is nothing like a global health pandemic to put a magnifying glass on our lives and force us to reassess all areas of our life. As your clients are likely reassessing priorities and experiencing significant life changes right now, engaging in a client discovery conversation can be one of the most important activities you do in 2021. Not only can this trust-building exercise uncover their financial and non-financial priorities, but it can allow you to better understand how they correlate to their core values and beliefs that have likely shifted. If done with empathy and care, client discovery can land you on a very short list of the people whom your clients call when something good or bad happens in their lives. That is a list most advisors would love to be on in the aftermath of a year like 2020.
Your Russell Investments dedicated regional team can get you started with our client discovery resources. We’re ready. Are you?