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Generally speaking, bank customers are a breed apart from those who invest through discount brokerages or other sources. They tend to be far more conservative investors, even timid when discussing their financial matters.

The important thing to remember about bank investment customers is that while they are in the bank environment, they expect to be protected by a certain level of professionalism. The job of the investment representative working in a bank environment is to live up to this image and to help make them feel comfortable about putting their trust in us.

The keys to developing a trusted relationship with bank investment customers lie in the following simple recommendations.

Be interested in the person, not just the sale. By asking probing questions and discussing their answers at length, you can uncover how an individual feels about investing, what their life-cycle needs are and how they view their ability to handle their financial future.

Keep explanations honest, simple and direct. Stick to the basic facts. Be genuine, forthcoming and open.

Help clients get to know you. People are more likely to trust someone they know. So get acquainted when you sit down for the first time with a potential client. I like to start out by talking about my company–its history and reputation. Then I like to talk a little about myself–my background and experience. These conversations help the customer understand your position and the strength of the company you represent.

Avoid promising anything you cant deliver. One of the surest ways to damage or destroy a client relationship is to make a promise or offer a guarantee that cant be fulfilled. One of the best ways to get clients to refer friends and family is to deliver on what you promise.

A good time to get referrals is during financial reviews, which I try to conduct with every one of my clients every six to 12 months. After that amount of time, you are likely to have proven yourself with the customer. And happy customers are the ones most likely to give you referrals.

Be willing to pass up a sale. There are times when a potential client might ask about a specific product that you feel is inappropriate for them. Dont be afraid to tell them so–and to decline to sell it to them, even if they insist. You may find one day that the client comes back and thanks you for your original advice.

Ask questions about the customers goals and expectations. Explain that asking those questions helps you to make the recommendations most appropriate to their situation and life style. Theyll appreciate that you are not there to push product on them.

Avoid surprises. Always inform customers exactly what they can expect following their transaction with you. I tell them to expect a confirmation, and when they will receive statements–and I let them know I will be calling them in a few months to set up an appointment to review their investments.

Also very important: Let them know how to contact you. People become very uncomfortable if they cant easily reach you when they need to discuss an issue.

Work on your internal bank relationships. An investment executive working in the bank environment must build trusted relationships on two fronts–not just with customers but also with the branch personnel. Thats why its important for the bank representative trying to build trust to be a team player.

One of the advantages of working in a bank is the opportunity to get referrals from the branch personnel. To get referrals, you must always project a sincere empathy with the people who work with you, because they are the ones who will entrust their customers to you. They count on you to treat their customers with honesty and respect.

It is especially important to spend face-to-face time with branch employees to explain clearly how their customers can benefit from speaking with you. In many cases, you will find, branch personnel will themselves become your customers. This raises their confidence in you even more.

To sum up these simple, basic tenets: Be genuine, honest, professional and a team player–and youll ultimately get the trust you deserve.

is an Investment Specialist with Lantern Investment Services, serving the Ocean County, N.J. branches of Sovereign Bank, Philadelphia. LIS is a service of IFMG Securities, Inc., a registered broker dealer of Independent Financial Marketing Group, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., the firm responsible for managing Sovereign Banks investment program.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 22, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.