For most, if not all, of us, there will eventually come a time when we need to have a discussion with a financial professional. Whether it’s an accountant, a bank employee, an insurance agent or a financial planner, sooner or later we are going to end up in a position where we are face-to-face with another real-live human and wanting help.
Having spent years as one of the people providing that help, I have seen all the different ways people approach this interaction, and I have some definite thoughts on what works and doesn’t work when it comes to getting the help and service you want and need.
So here are my top “do’s and don’ts” for working with financial professionals.
DO: Respect The Person You Are Working With
Sometimes it’s too easy to think that everything is all about ourselves, especially when dealing with service providers. After all, they’re wanting to make money off us, right? Why shouldn’t we expect that everything is “our way or the highway”?
It’s important to remember, though, that these are people too, and no one likes to feel put upon or taken advantage of. We all want to feel that we are respected, and are dealing with people who view us as equals. Fortunately, showing this type of respect is very easy to do.
As an example: show up for appointments and be on time. Your banker, planner or accountant didn’t set aside their whole day just so you could have the luxury of showing up whenever you please. Or not at all. Most businesses these days place a high value on efficiency and the person you are seeing probably has a day full of back-to-back appointments booked. Failing to show up, or showing up late, destroys their schedule and may create friction for them with their employer and other clients.
Showing up late, in particular, is often counter to your own best interests. In many cases, it means your appointment will be cut short, so either you will not get the quality of service you otherwise would, for lack of time, or you will be asked to come back another day.
Secondly: for goodness sake return phone calls! If you’re already working with a financial professional, they’re likely calling you for a reason that is pertinent to whatever they’re working on for you. They are not simply calling to chat. Nothing is more frustrating for a service provider than leaving message after message that never gets returned. It’s aggravating and wastes incredible amounts of time.
At the end of the day, if you make yourself too hard to get a hold of, whatever needed doing may end up being ignored, or glossed over, which could be detrimental to your outcomes.
DON’T: Use Aggression As A Bargaining Tool
Working at a bank, I was always surprised at the number of people who would come barging through the front door, full of self-importance, demanding to see someone now, and then badgering that person for an entire hour or more to try and prove how much they knew and how they were entitled to a better deal than everyone else as a result.
Guess what happened to those people? They got squat.
A perfect example is an older gentleman I met with once. The issue at hand was a simple renewal of some Guaranteed Investment Certificates. This client was a good customer of the bank, and I gave him the best pricing I had available. And I told him so.
Apparently, he didn’t like it and complained that I was pulling the wool over his eyes, wasn’t treating him fairly and that he “knew” I could do better. When I explained that what I had offered is all that we could offer, he called me a liar. Straight out, to my face.
This was clearly offside, and I said as much. But my client was unconvinced. The harassment continued with very aggressive badgering. He wanted to see the branch manager. I explained that neither the branch manager nor the District Vice President would be able to offer a better rate than I had already quoted. Out came the accusation a second time: “LIAR!”
Again, I warned my client that this was the last time I would tolerate that type of outburst. To try to assure him that I was acting in good faith, I swung my computer monitor around and showed him our internal rate information, which clearly showed our posted rate, our break-even rate, and the rates that could be approved at the various levels of authority. This was a significant breach of protocol, of course, as this information is considered by the bank as a competitive secret, but I didn’t know what else to do.
The response for the last time: “YOU ARE A (EXPLETIVE) LIAR!”
That was it. I’d had enough. I asked the client to leave. He refused. I carefully explained what happens when the police are called from a bank branch to remove an unruly customer at which point he decided he was better off going back home. He was informed he was no longer permitted in the branch and he should move his business, all of it, elsewhere.
There’s an old saying: “you attract more bees with honey than you do vinegar”. It’s absolutely true. If people don’t like working with you, you aren’t going to be getting any preferential treatment. It’s as simple as that.
DO: Help Them Help You By Being Open And Honest
A financial professional (or really any kind of professional) can’t help you if you are unwilling to disclose pertinent information that helps them do their jobs. By withholding information, or giving information that is incomplete or inaccurate, all you are doing is making their job harder and increasing the likelihood that the end result of any work they do for you will be sub-optimal.
I once sat down with a middle-aged lady who had about $150,000 to invest. After some initial chit-chat as to what she wanted to discuss, and my own role in the bank and background, I explained that I would need to get some information from her in order to understand her needs.
I started with the simplest of questions: “At the end of the day, how do you plan on using this money?” She said she didn’t want to answer that question. I tried: “When do you see yourself needing this money?” She didn’t like that, either. I asked her about her sources of income, but that was a no-go, too.
After some back and forth, and multiple explanations of why I was asking the questions (in order to make an appropriate investment recommendation, of course) it became clear that this client was so obsessed with privacy that she was simply not going to tell me a thing.
She eventually said: “I don’t need to tell you anything. I have this money, and you need to tell me how to invest it. That’s all I want from you. Don’t ask me any more questions.”
So, I told her to leave it in her savings account. What else could I do? Asking an advisor to make a recommendation when he or she has zero information about you, is like asking a doctor to prescribe medication without doing an examination or knowing what your symptoms are.
For the most part, accountants, financial planners, and yes, even bankers, want to do the best job they can for you. They are people too, and mostly, they take pride in their work. Being open and honest lets them do the best work they can and will almost certainly result in better outcomes for you, as a client.
DON’T: Forget To Show Appreciation For Good Work
When you do get an advisor or other professional that does a good job for you, don’t be afraid to show a little appreciation. Ideally, you’ll send an email to that person’s supervisor or manager. These types of emails go a long way to cementing a person’s value and reputation in an organization and are viewed as proof-positive that they are effective in what they are doing.
Failing that, the next best thing is to send it to the individual themselves, and they can share it as appropriate.
This type of feedback is very valuable, and may give your service provider a much bigger boost than any commission or other financial incentive can. Most businesses I have worked in have had a core group of highly-valued, highly-respected clients that everyone wanted to work with. Often they weren’t the biggest clients, but were the ones that had been generous in giving praise when due.
At the end of the day, getting great service from any professional, financial or otherwise, often boils down to one simple idea: try to be a great customer.
Important Disclaimer:The information above is for general informational purposes only and does not in any way constitute an offer for the purchase or sale of any security and is not intended to be considered comprehensive or personalized financial or investment advice. themoneygeek.info assumes no responsibility for the use or application of this information. Always consult a tax, investment, or other appropriate professional before adopting any new financial strategies.
I am an accredited Financial Planner with 23 years of experience in the financial services industry. During the course of my career I completed hundreds of financial plans and recommended and sold hundreds of millions of dollars of investment products. I believe that financial independence is a goal anyone can aspire to and I am passionate about helping others to live life on their own terms.