As the clientele ages and the business environment becomes increasingly relationship-centric, financial advisors must be able to appropriately interface with clients on a professional as well as personal level. This includes knowing how to support them through major life transitions. Once overlooked, this skill is becoming increasingly relevant to advisory firms. Oak Brook Asset Management Corp., an investment advisory firm based in Scottsdale, AZ., is no exception.
Consisting primarily of engineers, nurses, teachers, school administrators, and business owners, most of the firm’s clients have been customers for decades. Now reaching or at retirement age, they are encountering losses, retirement and job terminations, divorces, and other major life transitions with increasing frequency. Like other advisory firms, Oak Brook Asset Management was skilled in handling their clients’ business needs, but much less equipped to appropriately communicate with them about their grief.
Like many other advisors, Firm President, Alexander J. Cudzewicz, long felt he had difficulty relating to grieving clients. Feeling awkward, he was often unsure of what to say or do and wondered if his approach was sufficient to support these clients as well as maintain the relationships.
Working with Amy Florian, the firm began to develop the insight and practical skills to communicate and support clients in their time of grief. For example, they learned appropriate responses for uncomfortable moments at a funeral or wake. They learned how to react when a client breaks the news of a loss situation in their lives. Most importantly, they learned the value of taking the time to listen and understand what clients are experiencing as they work through their grief – even if their conversations only briefly mention finances.
The financial advisory business is all about trust and relationships. Learning how to effectively communicate with clients in transition has been a strong influence in the firm’s ability to reinforce trust and strengthen relationships. As Oak Brook Asset Management increasingly sees in its business, clients hire you and, more importantly, stay with you because of that.