There is a very basic and strict rule that advisors must follow called “Know Your Client”. It refers to our obligation to have a thorough understanding of our client’s financial position; things such as their employment, income, assets, liabilities, and their capacity for and comfort with risk.
All of this is essential, but if you ask me, this just scratches the surface. Getting to know about them as people is equally important and the information is not recorded on any forms. I don’t learn everything about them in a couple of meetings. Like any relationship, we get to know each other more and more over time. It’s one of the best parts of my job – hearing people’s stories. And I love it.
What was it like for you growing up? How did you end up in that career? How did you two meet? How did you make your way to this area? Each story is unique in most ways. But we all have some similarities too. We’ve all had ups and downs. We all have dreams and fears; strengths and insecurities.
One of the things that fascinate me is how new information about a person will come to light even after I’ve known them for a while. One time, I was talking with a couple who had been clients for 7 or 8 years and who I felt like I knew fairly well. I knew that they had three children, but out of the blue one day they mentioned Jack and Jill (not their real names) and I said “who are they?”. They said “oh, they are two other children we had.” Huh? Turns out they adopted these children for a number of years. That same family dropped another doozy on me not long ago. We had a laugh about it and I told them I can’t wait to find out what else I don’t’ know about them. Sometimes, real-life stories are better than the movies!
So why is this important? Does it just entertain Matt? No. It’s very important because it sheds light on who people really are. It allows me to offer advice that aligns with peoples’ sensibilities and values. It allows me to understand what is most important to them. It tells me what the information on the forms doesn’t.
I find that this type of understanding, this way of knowing people, is most important when life is most difficult. It’s what allows me to show up in the right way and with the most appropriate solutions when for example, someone in the family is very sick, when someone is not themselves due to aging, or when family dynamics have caused a rift.
I feel so privileged when people trust me enough not only to show me what’s in their bank account, but to show me what’s on their mind or in their heart.
On two occasions in the past couple of weeks, after going over some concerns with clients, they concluded the call by saying “thank you for the financial advice. And thanks for being a friend”. I was both flattered and proud that they said that.
Like I said, there is no place on the forms for that.