Industry Commentary: Watch your language!

Industry Commentary: Watch your language!

Industry Commentary: Watch your language! As a wealth management professional, virtually all of the media we consume, all of the supporting materials provided by investment companies, all of the research reports, and most of the people we interact with on a daily basis speak in terms of bips, beeps, alpha and EBITDA.

To the majority of investors, though, it might as well be the script for an episode of Lost in Space. I believe that financial literacy is a problem for many Canadian investors. After all, clients speak the language of their business, not ours.

So why does it seem that talking heads on television, presenters at client conferences and magazine columnists go out of their way to pepper everything with jargon? Does anybody honestly believe that clients will flock to the person with the biggest vocabulary or the person who maximizes the acronym-to-sentence ratio?

For me, the foundation of any trusted relationship must be clear communication.

Avoid the Jargon Trap

I get it. Clients work with wealth management professionals because they bring much needed expertise to the table. In that role, the temptation to sound like an expert is strong. But sounding like an expert and actually being an expert are not the same thing. You can demonstrate your expertise and professionalism in ways that don’t require you to resort to jargon.

1. Talk less, listen more. The more time you spend listening, the better! You can’t resort to jargon if you are paying attention to what the person in front of you is saying. Remember, the best way to get your clients talking is to ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

2. Remove technical language from all of your support materials. Find a way to relate the same concept in plain language. If you rely on material from third parties, consider discarding it in favour of more communication-friendly solutions from other sources. Alternatively, work with a professional writer to create your own.

3. Get some coaching. Invite a colleague or professional mentor to sit in on a meeting with you, specifically looking out for ways that you can improve your communication skills. Better yet, offer to coach one of your colleagues! Often the act of critiquing others will focus your attention on the areas where you are able to improve. (continued.)

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