Last Updated on July 20, 2020 by John Prendergast
They say the best hockey referees are the ones you don’t notice.
The fewer whistles blown, the more flow there is to the game. Fewer disruptions means the players have space to focus on what’s important, like getting that little black piece of rubber into the opposing team’s net.
As financial planners, we can apply this same principle to how we interact with clients. The less time we spend with the “rules and information”, the more flow and value there is in our relationships. Think about how much more time would be available for deeper conversations if we weren’t so hung up on the details.
Data Gathering vs. Data Discovery
In the past, we have spent an exorbitant amount of time working with clients on the mundane task of gathering data. It’s definitely a necessary process, as it establishes the foundation from which we can create an action plan for the future… but let’s face it, gathering data gets in the way of more important discussions… and a monkey can do it.
With the advent of recent technologies, the data gathering process has become much less intrusive to the relationship building process. No longer are these conversations taking up valuable time during client meetings, freeing us to do what we’ve been trained to do; add value to the relationship by asking the questions that clients’ may never have thought about – In other words, data discovery.
I recently sat down with two new clients; professionals (husband and wife) in their late 30s. This was no ordinary meeting, though, because of my newly implemented process.
In the past, the majority of our time together would have been spent on data intake; filling out that long and tedious form that captures all the clients’ information: Name, address, driver’s license #’s, family member names, account balances, outstanding debt and mortgage info, signatures, etc.
Today was different. Two weeks before the meeting, I had sent my clients two emails, one with a link to an online data intake form and another with my financial planning agreement for them to e-sign. Not only was I walking into this meeting fully prepared with the facts and signed paperwork, but also with a boatload of time for something much more valuable… building a relationship with the people entrusting me with their future.
I was able to dig deeper by asking more penetrating questions.
“Mr. and Mrs. Client,” I said, “What has been your relationship to money thus far in your life? Talk to me about how money was viewed in your family when you were growing up.”
My previous work in email created the space for the husband to share that he grew up in a single income family, where his mother would constantly need to ask his father for more money to buy groceries and other necessities for the family.
“We didn’t have extra money,” he said with a face that suggested that he had just come to this realization for the first time. “It was a struggle for us and we were limited to what we could do… huh, my parents were extremely conservative.”
Through this conversation, it suddenly became clear to me why the answers to his risk questionnaire (which was done online prior to this meeting) were so drastically different to those of his wife. I had wondered why he seemed so much more conservative, and his comments had given me the answer on a silver platter. Truly amazing!
This insightful conversation would never have happened had I spent 45 minutes with the data intake form. And that’s just the beginning. These same time-saving techniques used during what can now truly be called a discovery meeting can be applied to my future interactions as well. This is giving me and my business a leg-up. And the best part is that my clients’ experiences have completely altered the way they previously viewed the financial planning process. And that’s a win for the entire industry!
With the addition of account aggregation and performance reporting technology, review meetings will never be the same. I can only imagine how these meaningful conversations will impact my client relationships moving forward.
There’s so much “data discovering” I can do now that my “data gathering” is automated. Rather than scouring my notes for specific data points after a meeting, I can instead focus on fine tuning my conversations to allow for more authentic communication.