Amanda Panico’s outfit — a jean skirt, a white button-down shirt and white flip-flops — is far from the typical attire for a financial advisor. Yet the Prudential Financial advisor’s wardrobe is perfectly suited to the Tampa, Fla., community where she works, she says. More importantly, it’s a reflection of who she is and a key factor to her success as an advisor.
“I tried wearing suits for a while,” Panico says, “but it just wasn’t right for me and for the market that I serve. I wasn’t myself and actually, my practice wasn’t doing so great either.”
Once she let her personal style come through, though, Panico’s practice started to flourish. Her client list grew and, through word of mouth and her own outreach efforts within the broader community, has continued to expand.
“Like attracts like. I was able to relate better with clients because down here in Florida, this is how clients dress. Being who I am matches up with the attitudes and beliefs of the community,” she says.
Attire is just one part of what Panico calls the new era of financial planning. As much as clients are seeking out financial advisors for their professional knowledge and expertise, they’re also looking for people they can relate to as individuals in order to forge long-lasting and trust-based relationships. Gone are the days of the “guy in a black suit sitting at the back of a limo that so many wirehouses featured in their ads,” Panico says. “They really vilified our profession and that’s not what people want today.”
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Given all that’s happened as a result of the financial crisis, investors are still wary and even fearful of financial advisors. In fact, returns on their investments are probably their last priority right now, Panico says, and many individuals are reluctant to commit to a financial advisor unless they believe they can truly trust that person and relate to them in different ways as individuals.
As such, today’s advisor-client relationships, Panico says, need to be open and equal, and being able to assuage investors’ fears and concerns should be a top priority for financial advisors. That means understanding the behavioral biases that ultimately affect their investment decisions and the subtleties of their psyche to be able to cultivate a relationship based on ease and trust.