Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jack Comeau on How Community Involvement Helps a Financial Planner

Finance (Photo credit: Tax Credits)
Undoubtedly, the responsibility of a financial planner, which is to provide sound, accurate financial advise to his or her clients in the goal of protecting and creating wealth for that client, is not a simple or easy thing. It takes years of experience in working in the financial markets; it takes acute people skills; and perhaps above all, it takes a real love for delivering quality client service.

The mentioning of this second requirement – people skills – touches on a point that I would like to write about. I think there sometimes exists among financial planners the erroneous idea that, in order to gather and deliver accurate financial recommendations to clients, knowledge of the client’s financial portfolio and the trends of the markets is the only thing needs to be known.

However, I think this is a real misperception in the financial planning industry and one that can lead to real consequences. I would argue that in order for a financial planner to be truly effective in their role, that is, in order for the advisor to be truly effective in sustaining and building their client’s wealth, an advisor needs to build profiles of his or her clients that go beyond simply including the client’s financial background and data. Questions need to be answered like, where is this client in life? Is the client close to retirement? Are they just beginning to set aside money? Does the client have any major short-term or long-term goals in mind? These types of questions are what I call “key life facts” and I would put my name, Jack Comeau, beside the argument that a financial planner’s knowledge of them is equally as important as his or her knowledge of the client’s financial facts.

But, how can a financial planner go about learning some of these key life facts about their client? Well, naturally, the first and easiest opportunity to do so comes when a financial planner first meets a new client and engages with him or her in an in-depth introductory conversation. Topics obvious to this conversation include how you, the financial planner, can best serve the client’s financial goals; a description of what the client’s financial goals are; and an introductory explanation of how you will go about achieving the client’s goals.

Needless to say, having this kind of introductory engagement with the client is paramount to creating a healthy, productive relationship between client and financial planner, and no relationship should go without it. However, what this sort of formal or informal meet-and-greet also provides is the perfect opportunity for the financial planner to ask the client about key life facts that, although fall outside of the direct sphere of the client’s finances, play a definite part in helping the financial planner get a more useful and more well-rounded idea of the client’s financial picture.

I would also argue that there is another way for a financial planner to gain a more well-rounded perspective of the client and his financial picture, and that’s through active community involvement. The benefits for a financial planner of community involvement I think are often overlooked, but I know from personal experience just how important it can be. I’ve been living in the Saskatoon area now for many years now and community involvement has always been a priority of mine. I’m a member of the Saskatoon Estate Planning Council, the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce and my area’s CLU Chapter, among other community organizations. Now, yes, taking an active role in my community means that I have the opportunity of meeting more potential clients and, thus, expanding the business of Comeau Financial and advertising my name, Jack Comeau, to more people.

However, business interests set aside, I have come to find that networking and regularly connecting with members of my community does something far more vital for my role as a financial planner – since many of my clients are also members of my community, associating with them outside of my office yields a much better and much more intimate understanding of such things as their values, where they are in the path of life and what kind of short-term and long-term goals they may have. This in turn provides me a much stronger base of understanding for my responsibility of delivering financially sound advice to them.

In the end, we as financial planners must realize that making financial recommendations for a client is not something that happens in a vacuum. Our recommendations to our clients both affect and are affected by a client’s values and the milestones in their lives, two “key life facts” that we must continually strive to gain a better understanding of.

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