November 23, 2009

Giving Back and Going Forward

One of the most common questions wealth managers ask is: "How can I build deeper and stronger relationships with my clients?" For the wealth manager who serves affluent clientele, especially today, few things forge better bonds than sharing in their philanthropic and charitable interests.

Even as the affluent face a decline in asset values, they continue to give time and treasure to the causes and organizations they care most about. In fact, even as some affluent investors are giving less treasure, perhaps out of necessity, involvement and volunteerism continues to be a high priority to support the organizations and causes they are passionate about. As an example, in April 2009, arguably during the worst of the downturn, hundreds of delegates from Junior League in four countries gathered in Atlanta as part of the Association of Junior Leagues International to share ideas, recognize accomplishments and develop local leadership skills--all focused on the Junior League mission of improving communities through the effective leadership of trained volunteers.

People tend to trust people who they can relate to and share interests with. This is why wealth managers who want to build and grow an affluent practice absolutely must become "students" of their clients' aspirations. Building long-term, mutually profitable relationships with the affluent requires a full understanding of how they define value, make decisions, and the psychological needs that influence them.

Advisors who do this quickly find how important these clients' philanthropic and charitable interests are to them. Many people involved in such work have a desire to be recognized for, and share, their influence and accomplishments. The best way to relate with clients on this level is to give some of your own time and treasure to charitable work. Your goal is to gain a clear understanding of the passion that clients have for their philanthropic interests, and share that with them during your partnership.

The first step is to deliberately discover what charitable interests your clients and prospects have. One way to do this is just to ask the question. For instance:

  • If there were three things you wish you could spend more time doing now in our community, what would they be?

  • What charitable, cultural or community interests motivate you to continue to grow assets beyond the security of your family?

  • What are three things you want to accomplish with your wealth as part of your legacy in life?

Once you understand your client's philanthropic passions, you can begin to share them. This doesn't mean you need involve yourself in the same causes, per se. It means developing your own charitable interests and passions that can become a point of discussion with clients. People enjoy talking about the things that motivate them from within. In addition, such work will raise your involvement level and profile within the community. Your interests might be cultural (supporting the arts), ethnic, religious, or community related. Whatever they are, your clients and prospective clients will take note!

By getting involved in philanthropic work, wealth managers can develop an altruistic mindset. This helps you better understand your clients' aspirations. It will also demonstrate that you, like them, believe in giving back to the community. It shines a positive light on your professional reputation and personal character, an incredibly important marketing strategy in light of the current challenges facing the financial services industry.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. If a wealth manager has no clear understanding of the special interests of his or her clients, and does not exhibit similar passions that clients value, it creates a void in the relationship. In some cases, it can also lead to a potential breach that competitors can capitalize on.

The real key to a wealth manager being successful at community involvement is to do it for the same reasons clients and prospects do. That is, you give in order to make a difference, not to get a sale. People do business with those they know and trust, especially those they interact with in areas outside of financial business. Friend-raising precedes fundraising. Wealth managers who embrace this altruistic mindset will find that brisk business and growth will follow--with increased credibility, visibility and access to the right clientele.

Richard Weylman is founder of Richard Weylman Inc., a marketing consultancy helping financial businesses market to the affluent and wealthy through coaching and educational services, including The Weylman Center for Excellence in Practice Management.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.