A good advisor can help clients deal with a crisis, Mack says.

Wells Fargo Advisors President Mary Mack does not seek the spotlight nor share her views regularly with the media.

But the head of the bank’s brokerage group — which includes some 15,000 registered reps — has made some highly personal remarks about her own work with an advisor and what such relationships mean in the context of the new Department of Labor fiduciary standard.

In an online column for Wells Fargo customers, Mack acknowledges that the new fiduciary rules “are complex,” and that the bank is “taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach as we assess the impact on our clients and on our business.”

But she then digs into the heart of advisor-client relationships: “In reality, though, clients typically don’t have just a retirement account or just a brokerage account with us. Our financial advisors have relationships with people, not accounts,” Mack explained.

“Yes, I, too, need a financial advisor,” she said.

For Mack and her family, the relationship with an advisor became much more significant in 2014.

“Nearly two years ago, our family faced one of the hardest, most heartbreaking events in our lives — the death of my daughter, Mary Warner, who died suddenly after a brief illness,” she said. “We are a close-knit family, but a loss like that sends even the most functional family reeling. We didn’t know how we would cope.”

The family’s financial advisor filled the gap.

“The one person who wasn’t afraid to gather us together, sit down with us, and help us get our heads on straight was our financial advisor,” Mack said.

“As we sat there in our living room, in a total state of shock, she helped us think about the things we had not thought of. It took a lot of courage on her part and took a tremendous burden off me and my husband,” she added.

Other Clients

To Mack, this personal connection and wider relationship make the role of advisor critical, regardless of the regulatory context.

“As baby boomers retire and millennials accumulate savings and start to invest, there is a great need for personal advice from someone who understands who these clients really are, not just what they need financially,” she explained. “It’s more than just giving financial advice; it’s being there when decisions need to be made and tough, uncomfortable conversations must be had. I know this firsthand. And, I believe our clients deserve no less,” Mack stated.

From Mack’s column, here are the four “musts” that clients deserve from advisors, which Mack says should be pivotal in determining how Wells Fargo positions itself to comply with the new DOL rules:

1. Access to clear and understandable financial advice: Financial advisors who sit down with clients, discuss goals and create a documented plan contribute to a financial experience our clients can have confidence in.

2. An investment strategy aligned to their goals: Financial advisors who use our planning tools to discuss investment performance and client preference contribute to a transparent experience.

3. Answers to tough questions (and regular reviews). As I learned firsthand, life is unpredictable. When faced with the unexpected, clients need to feel comfortable seeking sincere professional advice. Plus, financial advisors who meet regularly with clients for annual, in-depth reviews of their plans and goals create relevant relationships.

4. To be served how they want, when they want and where they want: Financial advisors who do what’s right for clients provide options for clients and help them access the best ones available for their needs.

Again, speaking from her experience as both a client and a parent, “You should feel like much more than just an account to your financial advisor,” Mack said. “A relationship involves working with someone to plan for the best of times and who has the courage to take your hand during the worst.”

— Check out The Year of Fear: How Advisors and Clients Can Handle It on ThinkAdvisor.