Here’s what you don’t often hear an advisor tell a client: “It’s irrelevant whether you trust me or not”.
But then again Marty Kurtz, CFP and founder of The Planning Center in Moline, Ill., is known for speaking his mind in clear and succinct language, and a booming voice to boot. He can rattle some with his bluntness and passion and yet, many come around to understanding that in Kurtz’s world, ethical treatment of clients is pretty straightforward.
He began his career in life insurance and transitioned to financial planning in the early 1980s, eventually opening up his own firm in 1998. In addition to having earned “top advisor” awards over the years, he was appointed to the CFP Board of Professional Review, a group which he later chaired. He was also elected to the board of the Financial Planning Association and served as its president in 2011.
What’s interesting about his life path is that Kurtz remembers his life insurance days as a time to “sell to your friends and neighbors”. The personal relationship helped forge the trust between client and agent, with no real thought as to whether this made the situation too cozy. Today, Kurtz reminds advisors that you have to be the planner, not the friend, especially when it comes to difficult talks about money.
From his perspective, there are several elements that are vital to developing successful connections with clients. When he served on the CFP Board of Professional Review, he focused on disciplinary and ethics cases involving CFP professionals. He believes that much of what he saw contributed to raising the fiduciary conversation to the level it is today. “Almost all the cases I encountered were about fairness and how the advisor didn’t adequately communicate conflicts of interest and the like to the client,” he notes.
Kurtz said that trust is at the basis of today’s advisor-client relationship. However, he said his job as an advisor is to be trustworthy, but not to immediately generate trust–a nuance lost on some. “Trust is not necessarily earned, it’s a gift” he said. “It’s not about whether you trust me as an advisor. I have a job to do and I must do it in the most trustworthy manner possible.”