Industry commentary: The secret behind building client trust

Relationship building with clients takes more than selling them a well-glossed strategy or return-driven investment, explains leading advisor Craig Swistun.

Successful advisors know that their business depends on their ability to build trusted relationships with their clients. For many, it boils down to their intuitive ability to listen to client needs and address them directly.

If you’re the type of financial advisor that goes into a meeting with a client or prospect with all the answers, you’re probably missing out on the chance to build more profitable relationships.  Good financial advisors listen more, and talk less. They understand that trust is built by responding to client needs, not trying to sell them on the merits of Strategy A or the importance of Investment B. If their advice doesn’t solve a client problem, it isn’t worth very much.

A Listening Meeting

For face-to-face client meetings, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you’re spending more time listening and less time talking.

  1. Always follow your agenda. If you’ve sent an agenda earlier to manage expectations, you earn trust by following through and lose trust by deviating.
  2. Start conversations. Successful interactions often begin when you ask an open-ended question. These types of questions cannot be answered “yes” or “no”. The client will need to think about them before answering in a much longer form.
  3. Take notes. When clients are speaking, make sure you are genuinely paying attention to them. Listen carefully and take note of any important details. Be sure to save your notes into your contact management system later.
  4. Follow-up. If you’ve taken appropriate notes, you should have no problem writing a letter, email or proposal that incorporates some of the person details. This demonstrates that you have actually listened to the problem the client put forward and are now recommending a solution for that problem. (continued on Page 2)


Open-ended Questions

Many advisors fear the open-ended question, preferring to stick to a standard investment or product review. While uncomfortable at first, embrace these questions as trust-builders.  The more you practice, the easier it gets. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Tell me about your family, your career and your plans for financial independence?
  • What would your ideal retirement look like for you?
  • When assessing the probability of achieving your goals, what worries you?
  • Beyond retirement, do you have any other objectives for your wealth?
  • Tell me about any other professionals that you work with who may be providing financial advice?
  • How do you evaluate the service you receive from those professionals?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

None of these questions can be answered with a “yes” or “no." They are all designed to engage in a conversation, through which a broader client profile can be established. Not only is this good for your KYC, it is good for your ability to earn trust. And with trust comes success. Happy listening.

Craig Swistun is a Vice President with CC&L Private Capital Ltd. and can be contacted at [email protected].  CC&L Private Capital Ltd. is an investment counseling firm that provides traditional and alternative solutions to high net worth individuals, foundations and endowments, first nations and trusts. More information about CC&L Private Capital Ltd. can be found online  at