Freud asked the question: “What do women want?”
Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, wealth psychology expert, has the answer — at least what women want from their financial advisors (it’s what she calls a “pleasure boost.”). Kingsbury knows what men want from their FAs, too.
Focusing on money personalities, she coaches advisors and other financial services professionals on how to retain clients and increase profitability.
Many FAs lack good communication techniques big-time; but Kingsbury, 48, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, can give them the scoop on how, when and what to say in building a strong, ongoing person-to-person connection.
A former psychotherapist in private practice for 15 years and before that a bank examiner commissioned with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Kingsbury blended her two specialties and became a certified professional co-active coach (CPCC). In 2009, she launched KBK.
It was just after the worst part of the financial crisis. Clients were struggling with painful emotions about money and needed to talk. Kingsbury took the opportunity to help advisors connect with them on a deep level.
Ever since the meltdown, clients have expected more from their advisors when it comes to understanding their psychological needs about money, Kingsbury says.
Author of “How to Give Financial Advice to Couples: Essential Skills for Balancing High-Net-Worth Clients’ Needs” (McGraw-Hill-2013), among other books, Kingsbury, who has a master’s degree in psychology, is a faculty member of the Investment Management Consultants Association’s Certified Private Wealth Advisor Program and teaches psychology in financial planning at Bentley University.
Among her clients are AXA Advisors, Commonwealth Financial Network, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and TD Ameritrade Institutional; and she is a frequent speaker at industry events, such as the Million Dollar Round Table 2014.
ThinkAdvisor recently reached Kingsbury in her Easton, Massachusetts, office to talk about how advisors can not only reach clients but retain them.
ThinkAdvisor: What do men want from their FAs?
Kingsbury: On average, men want advisors to be experts and to “fix it.” The advising world is tailored to be fix-it focused. That works great for a man who walks in and says, “I have a financial problem. I want you to fix it.” The advisor fixes it, and everybody’s happy.
What do women want from their advisors?
The No. 1 complaint I hear from women clients is that their advisor doesn’t listen very well. Women want to talk about emotions more than men do. If a woman doesn’t have a chance to talk about the [emotional side] of the fix-it process, it leaves her flat. Women tend to be more focused on connection.
This can be challenging when advisors are working with a male and female couple.
It’s a dilemma: They have to balance his need to fix it and her need to talk about it.
What’s the biggest mistake that FAs make in dialoguing with clients?
[Typically] they’re more transaction-based than relationship-based in their selling. But I can empathize with the advisors: When you have a supervisor asking how much you’ve produced this week and measuring your success by productivity, it’s very hard. If you invest more in the client relationship upfront, though, you’ll tend to have very loyal clients. How can advisors improve connecting with clients?
What makes a producer a top producer is having good communication skills. Often advisors have a long agenda they want to get through; and instead of putting it aside and meeting the client where they’re at — asking what’s on their agenda — they go into their own list. They need to actively listen to clients and really understand where they’re coming from.
A client may be thinking, “Can I take care of my mother financially if she gets ill?” or “How am I going to be able to afford to retire?” But often advisors are talking about return on investment and portfolio strategies. So there’s a disconnect. Advisors are living in the world of investments and financial plans, whereas clients are living in real life.
How do you remove this barrier to effective communication?
Advisors tend to forget that clients don’t live in the financial world and that they need to speak to them in plain English — not because clients aren’t smart but because they don’t live and breathe finance the way someone in the industry does. Advisors need to meet clients around the things that are happening in their lives and how they relate to their financial situation — what is considered the “soft side” of finance.
In other words, FAs need to be empathic.
Yes. They have to put themselves in the client’s shoes: What are the emotional benefits of the service I’m providing and how can I talk more about the non-technical aspects? That will help me achieve my goal, which is developing a successful financial plan and strategy for the client.
You say that advisors need to employ active listening. What does that entail?
It’s listening to understand — not listening to sell. A lot of sales programs teach how to listen in order to gather information to position yourself for a sale. That’s not true active listening. Active listening involves asking open-ended questions, and then really paying attention to what the client has to say, often reflecting back what you’ve heard so that you make sure you understand. It’s taking the time to interview clients almost as a journalist would so you can understand their perspective.
But isn’t selling product an ultimate goal of most FAs?
The advisors who are most successful want to do well, of course; but at the same time, they’re interested in having highly satisfied clients. Once you really go out of your way and show them you care, they’re likely to refer more people to you, they’re more loyal and they can tolerate the market’s ups and downs because they have an ongoing relationship with you.
It makes sense that building loyalty helps to retain clients.
It does so if you can wow them.
What’s “wowing them”?
Letting them know that you’ve thought about them and are interested in their lives above and beyond your professional relationship. It’s almost like they’re walking down the red carpet — making sure they know that they’re special and important and that you care in an authentic way. If you’re not authentic, then it’s not going to work. You have to do it in a way that’s true to who you are. Where does behavioral finance — how people interact with money and investments — come into play?