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Millhaven: Let the negotiations begin

We wanted to bring you a story from one of our longest customers and supporter, James Williamson, Managing Director at Millhaven. James has been with Lumiant almost since the company started and has conducted over 100 values sessions with clients.

Having practiced values-based advice for a number of years, James has become a pro at getting clients to unpack what is truly important to them in life. However, that doesn’t mean every client he meets is necessarily open to this process.

None more so than a new client he brought on this year. The financial spouse was a CEO of a reasonably sized firm and wanted to get financial management ticked off his to-do list. In fact, the client was so direct James thought he might not be suitable for a values session - and rightly so, the client just wanted to get stuck into financial planning and didn’t even see the need to bring his spouse to the meeting.

But James knows to never assume and pressed ahead, convincing the client that the first meeting must be with him and his partner if he wanted a personalized plan that would help him and his family to live their best lives.

So they did - they came in and spoke with James. Immediately, there was some tension in the room, as the financial spouse was not sure if this was for him and couldn’t comprehend how this session would impact his financial plan.

As James started to go through the values session - starting with the non-financial spouse - he saw the balance of power shift. The non-financial spouse was starting to take control of the meeting and was actively engaged in the session, to the point that she was asking all the questions to both James and her partner.

Once the individual values sessions were complete, the couple had two cards they were aligned on. The financial spouse’s selection was largely financial, while the non-financial spouse selected more emotional and social cards around family and nurturing relationships. So, they came to the negotiation table to determine what was truly important to them and their family.

The couple found a compromise with a mixture of financial, emotional, and social cards selected, including 'Feel confident in my finances', 'Dedicate more time to those I care about' and 'Spend without guilt'.

The outcome could not have been better for the clients and was incredibly important as they hadn’t necessarily talked about what was important to them for a number of years.

And that’s one of the benefits of Your Values. It gives couples the space they need to actually think about and articulate what matters most to them in their lives. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard for people to find the time to stop, reflect and plan what their ideal life would look like.

This couple had finally had the opportunity to do just that and left feeling inspired about what the future would hold for them now they had a financial advisor that would help guide them to live their best lives.

James’ top tip - never assume.

What you think are the key drivers in a client’s life are often wrong and it is only by allowing them to unpack their values that you can truly get to the heart of what motivates your clients.

If you’re struggling to get clients across the line for a values session, James offers three top tips:

  1. Have a pre-vet call to find out whether they fit your client roster, determine their burning issues (that must be addressed, as that’s why they’ve reached out in the first place, and explain the why behind your process and what it entails.

  2. Frame Your Values as a diagnostic process. In Jame’s words, you might go to the doctor about a problem with your arm but it might be something else that’s causing the problem. The doctor will never assume and will instead ask you questions to help diagnose the true cause of the problem. Financial advice is the same. Without diagnosing what’s important to them in life, you’ll never be able to create a personalized plan that enhances a client’s wellbeing because you could be targeting a symptom rather than the underlying desire of the client.

  3. Let the financial spouse know there will be a time and place for the more tactical financial elements. When you start getting into the weeds of a financial plan, there will be moments when you want to have meetings purely around financial matters - such as tax planning or portfolio management. Let the financial spouse know that it is during these meetings that they will be your point of contact. However, before you get into that detail, you need to get the entire picture from both spouses to enable you to pinpoint the financial strategies required to meet the needs of the family.

Want to learn more? James was interviewed for Lumiant Live podcast, discussing this case study and how he went about a review process using Lumiant. You can find it below.

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