From the August 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

August 1, 2008

Listening to clients from other cultures

"Listening to clients and asking questions about their goals can help you uncover differences within our culture as well as across cultures," says John Comer of Comer Consulting in Plymouth, Minnesota, a marketing consultant to financial planners. He adds that working with clients from other cultures may also help you become more effective with your American clients.

"All your clients want you to listen to their real goals and help them achieve those goals," Comer points out. He suggests that productive listening can begin by asking these questions of a client from almost any cultural background:

  1. What does financial independence mean to you? What would you do all day? Who would you do these activities with? Where would you be in the world? What people and causes would you support during financial independence? What concerns do you have about your ability to achieve financial independence as you have just defined it?
  2. What are your aspirations for your children? What type of life would you like for them? What concerns do you have about their ability to have that kind of life?
  3. Tell me about your family. Who is part of your household? Do you have desires or obligations to provide for your parents, your siblings, or your extended family?
  4. What are some of your early experiences with money? If we work with investments, how would you expect your money to be invested? Are there any investments that you feel must be included or any that you feel must be excluded? Typically, investment portfolios I recommend include ______. Typically, investment portfolios I recommend do not include ______. Would you be comfortable with an investment portfolio like that?
  5. With appreciation to Comer, I would suggest adding a last question: What is your greatest fear, and what is your fondest hope? With this information about your client's desires and emotions joined to what you have already learned, I think you will be able to gain a deep understanding of their wants and needs.
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