Patient with a doctor (Image: Shutterstock)

People see them regularly. Numbers tell the story. They give advice, which the listener promises to (but rarely) follows. They make another appointment before leaving. Are we talking about the family doctor or the financial advisor? These roles are more similar than you think.

Why is this important? The public holds physicians in high esteem while a financial advisor is often considered a securities salesperson. If the advisor can align how both professions work to make the person’s life better, the advisor’s status should rise as a result.

10 Ways Advisors and Doctors Are Similar

1. It’s all about you. Although the word “fiduciary” is a hot potato, both the physician and the advisor work in the person’s best interests. Each wants the person to have a long, stress-free life with as few bumps in the road as possible.

2. Get out in front of the problem. People get regular physicals and checkups because physicians want to identify problems as early as possible, when it’s often easier to address them. Advisors look at a client objective like retirement and try to persuade the client to start preparing now.

3. Checkups. To be in the position of acting, not reacting, doctors want to see you regularly. Your next appointment is scheduled before your current one is over. Advisors want clients to have at least a comprehensive annual review, hopefully with quarterly reviews in between.

4. By the numbers. You get a blood test before your physical. They weigh you and compare it to your previous weight. Ditto your blood pressure. Your doctor looks at a screen, noting what numbers are borderline our outside the accepted range. They recommend a course of action. By looking at the numbers at your next appointment, they know if you have been following instructions and taking your medicine. The financial advisor’s annual review and progress to goals reporting is very, very similar.

5. Part of a larger operation. The physician is affiliated with a hospital. They have specialists. People know their doctor isn’t an expert in everything. They refer you when necessary. Data is shared. Many financial advisors have a big firm behind them. They have specialists. Data is shared here, too.

6. Licensed profession. You can’t just say “I’m a doctor” and start seeing patients. You need to qualify. Generally speaking, you can’t hang out a sign saying “I’m a financial advisor” and start advising people. You need the right licenses. Many advisors study to earn their CFP designation.

7. Continuing education. Medicine didn’t stop advancing when you doctor qualified. Your doctor is likely required to keep up with their field through continuing education requirements. Most financial advisors are in the same situation.

 

8. Long-term relationships. Getting medical care isn’t like buying gas for your car. You don’t shop around, constantly switching providers. Continuity has a value. Most people prefer to stay with their primary doctor who knows their history. Financial advisors seek to build long-term relationships, often lasting generations.

 

9. Face-to-face relationships. Your doctor rarely diagnoses you over the phone. They want to see you, listen to your heart, poke and prod. Why? Because many people keep symptoms to themselves, fearing it’s something serious. It’s why doctors ask lots of questions. Financial advisors ideally want to see clients face to face, because they are looking for clues. “What aren’t you telling me?”

10. Medicine is a highly regulated business. Everyone is looking over their shoulder. Lawyers are waiting to pounce after the fact, implying a doctor overlooked a problem or misdiagnosed something. It’s a reason why they put patients through so many tests. Any financial advisor who has met their local compliance officer knows theirs is a highly regulated business, too.

4 Ways They Are Different

Advisors aren’t doctors and vice versa. There are differences. Here are a few:

1. It’s easier to get your advisor on the phone. Generally speaking, you can’t reach your physician directly unless it’s very serious. Even calling their office often ends up with leaving a voicemail.

2. Clients pay for an advisor’s services directly. Unlike medical care, there’s no insurance company or Medicare program paying the bills on your behalf, or leaving you with a nominal co-pay. Fees come out of a client’s account, one way or another.

3. Becoming a doctor requires much more education. Many financial advisors entered the industry as a second career. It’s been said doctors spend almost a third of their life studying.

4. Prices aren’t negotiable. When you need surgery or treatment for an illness, it’s extremely difficult to shop around. Ever see an itemized hospital bill? So many line items! You go to a doctor you trust. You follow their advice. Cost is secondary.

What have we learned? Both physicians and advisors want clients to live long, healthy lives. Problems need to be identified and addressed early. Each has an ongoing relationship where numbers are important. By the way, both professions pay pretty well, too.

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Bryce SandersBryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.