Trust: a key component to growing your advisory business

November 23, 2018

 

Focus on building trust with clients

What can you do to grow your business? For most advisors the simple answer is to generate referrals from their existing client base.

Vanguard researchers found that the single most important factor in generating client referrals was for advisors to build a high level of trust with their clients. As part of its research, Vanguard surveyed thousands of investors and found that clients who highly trusted their advisors were more than twice as likely to refer their advisors compared with clients who had a more moderate level of trust.

"It may seem obvious that clients who trusted their advisors were more likely to generate referrals. But the level of impact trust, and also a lack of trust, could have on an advisor's business was quite startling," Vanguard Senior Investment Strategist Don Bennyhoff, one of the authors of the research, said.

Trust motivates referrals and drives asset retention

Trust comes into play not only for referrals but also for client retention. Researchers found that clients who had a low level of trust in their advisors were 35 times more likely to end the relationship compared with clients who had a high level of trust.

So what can advisors do to build trust? Bennyhoff said advisors must be committed to making connections with their clients.

"You can't just wave a magic wand and create trust with clients overnight," Bennyhoff, a former advisor, said. "Advisors have to put in the work. Client relationships are complicated and what builds trust with one client may not work as well with others. Our research suggests higher levels of trust are associated with longer-term client relationships."

Trust means different things to different people

The researchers found it was important for advisors to pay attention not only to what they said to clients but how they said it. To help clients feel their advisors genuinely care about them, advisors need to understand what their clients value the most. For many clients, it's their families.

Ethical trust occurred when clients believed their advisors were acting in their best interests at all times and not recommending a product because it might help their firms' bottom line. The researchers found that 30% of clients said that ethical trust was the most important component of an advisory relationship.

Functional trust was created when clients believed their advisors were going to follow through with what they said they would do. Some 17% of clients surveyed held this to be the most important component of an advisory relationship.

A majority of clients surveyed (53%) said emotional trust was most important in their advisory relationships. The majority of clients defined emotional trust as an advisory relationship that helped give them peace of mind about their financial futures.

"It’s not surprising that emotional trust was the most important component for a majority of investors," Bennyhoff said. "Investing is an emotional experience, and advisors understand that. Advisors bear a great responsibility. They have their clients' financial futures in their hands."

The components of trust

Get to know your clients

Bennyhoff said to drive trust in your client relationships you should focus on making sure that clients feel valued, that they are respected, and that their objectives and feelings are understood.

"It's tempting to equate relationship management with customer service, but that's an incomplete picture of relationship management and the scale of the benefit if done well. Relationship management is business development," Bennyhoff said.

The researchers found it was important for advisors to pay attention not only to what they said to clients but how they said it. To help clients feel their advisors genuinely care about them, advisors need to understand what their clients value the most. For many clients, it’s their families.

"Asking a client, 'How are Judy and Jimmy?' says something entirely different about how well you know them rather than simply asking, 'How are the kids?'," Bennyhoff said.

Communicating with clients effectively means hearing what they have to say and treating them as a respected partner in the advisory relationship. Small nuances can make a large and lasting impression. In turn, a negative impression based on one bad experience can be difficult to overcome.

Make sure you have time for your clients

Finally, make sure you don't overextend yourself by taking on more clients than you can effectively serve. Knowing how often a client likes to be contacted and how the client likes to be contacted will help you manage the time that you're available to the client.

"Trust must be nurtured opportunity by opportunity, and that takes time. For the typical advisor, time is in short supply," Bennyhoff said. "Time is an asset to be invested. If an advisor doesn't have time to engage clients, clients won't feel valued. The problem with an advisor having a lack of time to devote to his or her clients will quickly resolve itself since underappreciated clients will leave for an advisor who does have time for them."

Read our research for more information about Vanguard Advisor’s Alpha® and how you can add value beyond portfolio management.

 

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