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Life Health > Running Your Business > Selling

Emotional Intelligence and Success

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What You Need to Know

  • Self-awareness helps.
  • Listening also helps.
  • Trust is precious, and caring builds trust.

After observing trends related to consumers losing trust in corporations, government and media, Million Dollar Round Table recently conducted a consumer study to dig deeper into how distrust is impacting the financial services industry.

The study revealed that the majority of advisors have earned their clients’ trust, thus rising above other professions in this era of distrust.

Concurrently, the majority of advisors appear to have a higher than normal level of emotional intelligence (EI), which experts in human behavior have reported enhances their ability to gain the trust of their clients.

In fact, most Americans with human financial advisors rate their emotional capabilities highly, with 89% saying their advisor displays strong emotional intelligence. Furthermore, 85% of Americans would be more likely to trust recommendations from financial advisors if they demonstrate EI, which signals it should be top-of-mind for advisors aiming for elevated levels of success.

Based on lessons learned throughout my career, there are three main actions we can take to improve our EI and further solidify the trust our clients have.

1. Become Self-Aware

Before we can improve our EI, we must first define it and understand that it includes self-awareness, self-management of emotions and empathy toward others. For me, exuding authenticity is of the utmost importance, so I find self-awareness is the best place to start to take steps in self-discovery. To achieve true self-awareness, we must recognize our weaknesses and strengths and authentically convey professional knowledge and emotional responses.

For instance, my expertise is guiding others through significant life changes, which was inspired by my own life journey. I am confident in managing my own emotions when it comes to life events that others experience and this allows me to serve as an authentic source of comfort for clients. Therefore, my offerings are focused on this strength.

If your client base needs services outside of your expertise or personal experiences, consider partnering with or referring to another advisor, pursuing additional education, or otherwise seeking resources to guide you. If any mistakes are made along the way, use them to learn life lessons that will serve you in the future.

2. Improve Your Listening Skills

Earning the trust and respect of our clients is vital in service-oriented roles. When clients feel they are heard and understood, relationships become stronger. Using active listening skills facilitates this understanding. Give clients your undivided attention by avoiding multitasking and putting away or turning off potential disruptions.

Keep in mind that you should listen and reflect before forming recommendations. Paraphrasing what has been communicated to you is also an effective method to show your listening skills. Active listening should be applied to all interactions with clients — even small talk can reveal unknown planning needs.

The significance of active listening was something I learned during my first year in the profession. I was asked a question about 401(k) plans and in an attempt to impress my client with how much knowledge I had on the topic, I ended up providing a lengthy and far too detailed educational response. Afterward, the client asked if I could directly answer the question if they repeated it. If I had accurately interpreted their question or asked for clarity, I would have been able to answer the question clearly the first time.

In addition to implementing efforts to truly listen to our clients’ needs, acknowledging their needs creates a beneficial and honest dialogue. In fact, 57% of Americans would be more likely to trust the advice of an advisor if they listen to and acknowledge their needs according to the same MDRT study.

3. Demonstrate empathy and elevate your role

Emotions cannot be ignored in financial advising. Instead, they should be acknowledged as an essential component of every individual’s decision-making process.

To increase our EI, we must empathetically navigate our clients’ emotions, which can include managing conflicts with family members. Providing a neutral stance without interference from one’s own emotions and taking the time to foster trust in the relationship can go a long way. With 52% of Americans stating they would be more likely to trust the advice of an advisor if they show they care about a client as a person, demonstrating empathy is key.

Clients confide personal details to us, and it is our responsibility to give advice from a technical perspective. However, we must not ignore the personal side of financial advising. It is important to be sensitive to their life experiences, perspectives and emotions. Leveraging our relationship-building skills will allow us to truly understand how to best serve our clients.

For additional insights on how we can identify and develop EI and further promote trust, the MDRT study is a great starting point. Consider the following characteristics and the percentage of Americans who would be more likely to trust advisors with these attributes as you continue your journey to reaching high levels of EI:

  • Listen to and acknowledge client needs: 57%
  • Communicate in an easy to understand way: 57%
  • Follow through on their word: 55%
  • Show they care about client as a person: 52%

Regina Bedoya (Photo: MDRT) Regina Bedoya, CLU, ChFC, of Juno Beach, Florida, is the immediate past president of the MDRT Executive Committee. She is a 27-year MDRT member, with seven Court of the Table and four Top of the Table honors. She is also a Platinum Knight of the MDRT Foundation and a member of its Inner Circle Society. Bedoya is president of RB Financial Advisors, a financial consulting firm specializing in retirement and insurance planning.


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