The phone rang here not too long ago and on the other line was an individual whose first question was “How do I get my money out of XZY and over to you guys?”
Our reply to this was that while it would be likely quite easy to transfer the account, it would be far more important that we first sit down and talk the matter over, a suggestion to which they fortunately agreed. When they came in several days later for their appointment, they again presented a strong desire to leave their current investment advisory firm in favor of us, before even learning who we are or if we would be a good fit for them. When we inquired why they wished to do so, they replied that they no longer had confidence in the advice they were receiving from their current financial advisor, and were not sure what was being done with their portfolios. When they were asked for an example of something that led them to these conclusions they were unable to identify what exactly was making them uncomfortable. Rather, than being able to positively identify what that they didn’t like, they appeared to be simply confused with respect to the services they were receiving, and this lack of understanding promoted mistrust.
We discussed all this of course, but as the conversation progressed, it became clear that replacing their advisor with someone new was perhaps not what they needed, or not yet anyway. Rather, what the prospective clients really needed was some enhanced financial education and clearly communicated professional insight into their investment strategy and financial plan, and this was still something that could be easily provided by their current advisor. Furthermore, the clients were undergoing several other significant lifestyle events, the types largely out of their control. Hence, whatever they did not understand about their investment strategy or what their advisor was doing or saying regarding their finances was magnified exponentially by outside stresses to the point that the couple felt that they needed an entirely fresh start with the one area of their lives over which they did actually have some control: their money. Many of us can understand this – given the absence of history with a new relationship, there is no old baggage or lingering confusions irritating the mind. A blank slate can be very tempting when life becomes challenging.
Rather than accepting the new business, the clients were advised that perhaps the best thing to do is assemble a list of questions that they would like answered (and to give them some things to think about, we provided them a list of questions off of the SEC’s website) and, in essence, to re-interview their current advisor to determine if it remains the right place for them. And to ensure there was no conflict of interest, we also gave them the name of another, unaffiliated CFP® in town to interview as well in case the clients truly did determine that they should move their accounts… but this time the determination would be, hopefully, well informed.
We find that the practice of good estate and financial planning is the art of moving slowly with great efficiency; and with deliberate pauses along the way for perspective. When a client states unequivocally that they need to do something radical and immediate but are not quite able to enunciate why, principle dictates that we not blindly (and heaven forbid, avariciously) do whatever is requested, but rather seek to properly understand the issue. The goal should be that clients are clear and confident in whatever decision, whatever course of action they choose take, and feel settled that they made the right one. And, nearly as important, that in the future they’ll remember why they made that choice.
– Chad Campbell