My son is working on a grade two family tree project. As is tradition with such projects, my husband and I were interrogated on the names and birth dates of our parents and grandparents. I confess I couldn’t even make it that far without a ‘lifeline’ call to my mother.
The end result was lovely and leafy and yet, somehow, very ‘flat’. I looked at the names on the tree, most of people whom I had never met and some of whom I would give anything to talk to again. And as I looked at the names I wanted more. Who were these people, really? How did they meet? What did they dream of becoming? What would they tell me if they could share a lesson?
I began to wonder how the lessons I’ve learned from my parents would sound if they weren’t filtered through my failing memory and a propensity (I fear we all share) for revisionist history?
And I thought about my son in the future, asking these same questions and being left with names and dates, but no stories, no context and no meaningful sense of connection. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to tell him everything, to share those stories, to let him in on those hard-won life lessons. The problem is that he’s seven and is considerably more interested in Pokemon.
You might wonder what this has to do with you and your business? If you’ll bear with me, I’ll connect the dots. It starts with highlighting the connection between leadership and client engagement.
Leadership is Critical to Client Engagement
In an industry in which good service and a strong offer are table stakes, you’re probably looking for ways to set yourself apart. Time and again, our on-going investor research has highlighted the role of ‘leadership’ as a driver of deeper engagement. And that same research has connected engagement directly tied to referrals.
Going a little deeper, the data suggests that leadership is connected to three things: your expertise, the extent to which you fully understand the needs of your clients and the extent to which you proactively provide guidance.
In fact, “guidance” was the No. 1 word used in an unaided question that asked clients to define leadership. When I think about guidance, I think about you taking your client by the hand and pulling them through the process of defining a vision for their future and helping them to face the difficult decisions they need to make.
In order to demonstrate leadership, two things need to happen.
- You need to change the conversation. Advisors with the most deeply engaged clients have different and deeper conversations with their clients. Yes, they talk about investments but they go deeper and have the tough conversations, from helping couples talk about money to helping them discuss end-of-life issues.
- You need to connect to something important. Advisors with the most deeply engaged clients put money in the context of something bigger and actively support their clients in achieving their real goals. By way of simple example, they recognize that retirement isn’t just about how much is saved, but helping clients to define a vision for their lives once they stop working and providing resources to help them make the transition.
There are few areas in our lives that are more important than our families and, for many, our legacy. It’s for this reason that I regularly suggest that creating a family engagement strategy is one of the greatest gifts you can give your clients and your business.
So let’s bring these disparate points together.
- Family trees are nice, but they are flat
- Leadership is about guidance and deeper conversations about what matters.
- Family and legacy are critically important to your clients
So what if, as my advisor, you not only managed my investments or developed my financial plan but gave me the tools transform that family tree by creating context and bringing the stories, the lessons and the values to life? What if you could help me to do something meaningful for my immediate and extended family that could change how we communicate? That’s leadership; that’s engagement.
The question, of course, is how do you do that?
And then I was introduced to Wishlife and Ben Weisshaut. And I realized the game had changed.
Leadership in Action
Wishlife describes itself as a family communication platform. It helps families to “capture, organize, and share their most meaningful stories, guidance, and instructions.” The company actually started as a passion project for Ben, who wanted to create something meaningful for his son. He realized in the process that he was tapping into something that was missing for many of us and the rest, as they say, is history.
I don’t review programs or tools and only mention specific companies as resources. I hope you’ll indulge me if I spend more time on Wishlife because it hit a chord with me, both as a client and an advisor to the industry. I believe in what it can do for your clients but I share this as a real-world example of leadership and client engagement in action.
This tool is only available through financial advisors and is co-branded to you and your firm or team. I’ll start there because that’s important to the value proposition. However, it’s what the tool does that I think is so unique. It allows your clients to create, digitize and share what Wishlife calls ‘emotional assets’ – the stories, the history and the context you want to share for generations to come.
Here’s a quick summary although I’m sure you’re better off booking a demo than relying on my description.
- You can record yourself (or any family member) sharing stories about the past, using a simple, guided process to answer questions on everything from your childhood, to marriage to education. Choose from video, audio or text to share those stories.
- You can share lessons with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews on everything from your beliefs to parenting, work, health or money.
- You can create a single point of access for all your critical information and instructions, from estate documents to financial accounts or healthcare directives. This is something your clients may have in place but you can now add color and context to those documents. Instead of a link to a trust document, for example, you can include your thinking behind the details of the trust, in your own words. It brings legal documents to life.
As a client, my heart literally starting racing as I looked at the site and then sat through the demo because I kept thinking about how important this was going to be for me and my family. As an advisor to advisors, I could see how this would give you a tool to transform family communication and to create powerful connections across generations.
No, I haven’t taken on a sales role with the firm. I’m sharing this because I consider it an important example of something that will shape the future of client engagement. Increasingly I’m seeing innovative firms that are facilitating true engagement and that’s no easy task.
A Sign of Things to Come?
Wishlife is an example – perhaps the first of many to come – of tools that support you in having different conversations with your clients and support them in having different conversations within their own families. This is leadership and leadership is what sets you apart, engages your clients and, in the end, drives referrals.
Thanks for stopping by,