Advisor: how I build long-term client relationships

Advisor Jeffrey Wilson explains how he deals with clients when they’re facing personal or financial challenges

Advisor: how I build long-term client relationships

Whether it’s a damaging market swing or an unexpected personal or family issue, unanticipated events have the potential to thrown a client’s portfolio – and life – into turmoil. Advisors become even more important during these tough times, but a reactionary approach will not always suffice. Developing a plan that mitigates hurdles and challenges ahead of time is where advisors can show their true value.

“Before I bring someone on as a client, I have a discussion in which I tell them that we’re going to go through times where the markets go up and down, where there is uncertainty,” says Jeffrey Wilson, an advisor at Sun Life Financial. “The advisor’s job is to be there at the point of crisis, which could be when money is needed for a child to go to school or when somebody gets sick, retires or dies. If planning is done properly, when the time comes, there will not be a major shock.”

Although Wilson doesn’t necessarily receive more calls during times of uncertainty or volatility, he does notice a change in the nature of his client’s questions, which tend to be driven by the current political, financial or personal situation. “I sit with clients ahead of time and let them know they shouldn’t be panicking when markets drop,” Wilson says. “It comes down to the value of advice and being ahead of the game, telling the client that getting the proper advice and plan is for the long-term. In the long run, these things are blips just like anything else.”

Setting client expectations early is also a fundamental part of how Wilson conducts his business. It’s something that becomes even more crucial when, like now, the long-term outlook is for returns to be muted. “You can’t have low interest rates, guarantees and bonds, and expect double digit returns – that’s not the environment we’re in,” Wilson says. “Clients should be looking at slow and steady average rates of returns over a ten year perspective rather than 12 months. It all boils down to managing expectations within the plan right from the get go. Don’t make promises you know can’t be backed up.”

When Wilson first meets a prospective client he looks to find common ground and establish an interpersonal connection. He describes the first meeting as a two-way interview. Before getting into conversations about the client's aims, Wilson wants to understand whether the client can see themselves working with him over the long-term. “People want to know if you care,” he says. “If they feel that you’re genuinely concerned for where they’re going, then you can work towards building a plan. Having that good connection upfront is the basis for building a long- term relationship.”

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