In Act I of his career, James Grubman, Ph.D., collaborated with physicians to help patients battling the psychological stresses of head injuries, strokes and chronic pain.
In Act II, the psychologist is collaborating with firms to help advisors help families grappling with the stresses of inheritances, trusts and succession planning.
Not such a big stretch, really. About a decade ago, “I saw how the whole movement of the collaborative, integrative approach to psychology and medicine could be transferable to the financial arena. I knew the pieces would be different but that the process would be the same,” says Grubman, 56, who became intrigued by the financial world as an investor in the bull market of the ’80s and ’90s.
Founder of FamilyWealth Consulting, in Turners Falls, Mass., the genial clinician has been ahead of the curve in the trend of psychologists consulting to FAs and their wealthiest clientele — a need created by the expanded role-shift from broker to advice-giver.
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“In 10 years, Grubman says, “many major firms with affluent clients will be incorporating psychological services as part of financial management at the highest level. That integration of services is going to become much more the norm.”
Grubman, whose clients include Wachovia Wealth Management’s Calibre division (for clients with at least $50 million of investable assets), Citi, State Street Global Advisors and many fee-based independent firms, early in this decade created a grad course about the psychology of money for Bentley College. Its aim is to arm future financial planners with top-notch client communication skills.
Not long after he began teaching the course, in about 2005, Calibre’s soon-to-be Family Dynamics Practice asked Grubman to help design its advisor training, among other programs, and to counsel clients.
“We’ve helped each other’s practices take off,” says Keith Whitaker, managing director of Family Dynamics. “Jim brings the skills of a diagnostician, together with warmth and empathy. He has a real good bedside manner and sense of humor. You don’t want ‘Dr. Freud’ coming in to meet with the client!”
Grubman offers affluent investors an array of counseling options, such as family therapy geared to financial issues, advice on holding productive multi-generational family meetings and guidance for wealthy parents on how to rear children with wealth.
For advisors, Grubman provides training in client skills like how to listen accurately and communicate with empathy, and he also gives presentations about the psychology of wealth.
In Grubman’s meetings with Calibre’s Family Dynamics clients, the FA typically is present. “I like to strengthen the relationship between advisor and client, not take it over,” Grubman says. And often clients don’t want to be referred out to see a shrink. They like that it’s more of a consulting model.”
Clients look to advisors to help them — “not just to provide a service,” Grubman emphasizes. But most producers don’t fully grasp this.
Wirehouse FAs and other advisors who are “product-focused” are less attuned to the “helping” model, according to the psychologist. “Fee-based advisors ‘get’ it more that they’re not just in a service profession. Clients come to their financial advisor because they’re nervous and unhappy — they have a problem they’re stuck with. And they’re looking to the advisor for help.”