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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

What Advisors Can Learn From Politicians

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The results of the presidential election Tuesday and comments shared during the evening point to two important communications tools for advisors and others who interact frequently with clients and community members: the difference between being sincere and being genuine, and the need to exude empathy.

Throughout the race for the presidency, undecided voters looked to understand the two candidates’ character. The debates and campaign speeches were the main avenues for this process.

Certainly, both candidates frequently rehashed canned remarks in person and on television. But watching President Barack Obama on late-night talk shows hosted by Jay Leno and David Letterman, it was striking how at ease he was and, thus, how genuine his on-screen personality came through.

By contrast, it was hard to get past Mitt Romney’s pleasant but fuzzy exterior at times. He left some voters wondering if they had really heard what he deeply and truly thought.

Did his remarks, most notably during the first debate, come over persuasively and competently? Yes.

But while Romney often seemed to explain himself sincerely, he failed to go beyond this and project his genuine leadership and personality. Perhaps it was the long campaign for the nomination or the positioning and adjustments he made to his platform.

The need to go beyond being just sincere and to appear and communicate in a fully genuine manner is what clients look for in their financial advisor and their political leaders. It is the critical issue in shaping trust and building a working relationship.

If an advisor, or any other professional, feels the views he or she is expressing on a financial product, news development, etc., are sincere but not fully genuine, then there is a most likely a disconnect of some sort going on. Clients and others will pick that up.

This type of disconnect also relates to the concept of empathy. How can clients trust an advisor to do what is in their best interest if a deep feeling of empathy is lacking?

Some voters, especially Latinos and those in rust-belt states, did not see Romney as empathetic to their plight.

The Republican candidate may have had ideas and stories that could have helped him overcome this gap, but he did not use them sufficiently.

As he gave his heartfelt concession speech, though, Romney could not have appeared more genuine about his desire for the country to move in a positive direction. Plus, the empathy he expressed for his family members and campaign supporters was extremely clear, not to mention emotionally moving.

At least one commentator described this speech and its delivery as “the most genuine of the entire campaign.”

It is this type of meaningful connection that many of us look for in our politicians, as well as with our financial advisors.


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