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This is not the proposition you’re looking for

Updated: May 8, 2023

Why Statistical evidence for values-based advice is a red herring.

GIF of Jedi mind trick

Every time I hear “What’s the ROI on this stuff?” when discussing values-led experiences, I wish I’d have the Jedi mind trick superpower where I could just go, “This is not the proposition you’re looking for,” wave my hand and let the advisor carry on their merry way of an investment-led proposition.

So in honor of May the 4th, I thought I’d pen this article explaining why it’s not the proposition you’re looking for if your key question is, “What’s the ROI on this stuff?”.

Before I explain, let me first acknowledge you need a commercial ROI for your business - I am not by any means trying to deter you from seeking profit. But you have a choice in how you go about it. And it’s our belief you can do good (be profitable) by doing good (guiding your clients to live their best life).

It’s not just us either. The Godfather of customer-centricity, Rohit Deshpande, an American economist and Harvard Business School professor, researched what a successful company looks like. He found, across markets and geographies, the most successful companies were:

  • Customer-centric rather than product or technology-centric

  • Outcompete other firms in terms of deep customer insights

  • Integrate branding with customer-centricity

  • Reward employees for customer-focused innovation

For us, customer-centricity is a no-brainer, and a values-based approach will be what powers successful advice firms. Why?

  • A values-based experience is the epitome of customer-centricity. You lead with the customer's values, needs, and goals, not financial products. You need to deeply understand your clients and tailor advice accordingly.

  • A values-based experience provides deep, qualitative client insights, which, if captured and measured correctly, can give you an aggregate view of what’s most important to your target client segment. This enables you to design and stage experiences that delight clients and outmaneuver your competition.

  • A values-based experience can help you integrate what matters most to clients into your brand. By having this aggregate view of what’s most important to your clients, you can better embed this understanding into your brand and marketing efforts. You can become more relevant to more people in your target segment because you can better speak to their values and needs.

  • A values-based experience allows advisors to delight clients. When you take a values-based approach, you have to provide highly personalized client experiences. Experiences where advisors have the opportunity to be innovative to guide their clients to live their best life, such as supporting them with non-financial goals. It’s also rewarding, as the feeling you get when you help clients identify their values clearly is magical (in my view).

So, if a values-based approach is a no-brainer, why are so many advisors still offering a product-centric investment experience to their clients and questioning the ROI on this stuff? Particularly when we know: consumers are losing trust in wealth managers; are disengaging from financial services; and are wanting to align with their values and finances.

Well, I think it’s because it’s tough and time-consuming, and - the honest answer - you can be paid for your services without a values-led experience. When advisors ask me, “What’s the ROI on this stuff,” what I actually think you’re asking is, “Why bother with my efforts.” And that’s OK. There are plenty of profitable product-centric, investment-focused advisory firms out there. And there always will be, as some clients will want to outsource their transactional requirements to a trusted third party.

But we would say, this isn’t the proposition you should be looking for.

So what does it take to be customer-centric and deliver a value-based advice experience that increases profit?

The skills of a values-based Jedi

OK - I might be going too far with the Star Wars references. Still, there are parallels between being a Jedi and an extraordinary values-based advisor who drives growth by serving their clients. Let’s take a look:

GIF of Yoda saying teach you will

A guide you must be

You must be someone who wants to be there every step of the way for your client. Help them through minuscule purchasing decisions. Help them navigate the complexities of competing life interests. Be there for them when sh*t hits the fan. Celebrate with them when they hit their life achievements. And, most importantly, guide them towards the light, their best life.

Star wars GIF of a meditating Jedi

You can bring calm and peace to life’s chaos

Life is complex and messy, and a great financial plan should address life, right? So be ready for messy. All the “what ifs,” all the “how does this work,” all the time spent listening to life stories. Because all of this is valuable information tells you the client’s story. One that understands their beginning - their money behaviors picked up from childhood, their middle - their current reality, and their end - their desired future. You bring peace to your client’s life by giving them the knowledge, understanding, and foresight they need to live the life they’ve always dreamed of.

GIF of Padawan learning from Jedi

From Padawan to Master Jedi

You believe working with you is a truly transformational experience - done right, you can help a client find clarity in the noise. Find vision through the mess. Find purpose through a plan. You live for the moments your clients say, “I hadn’t thought of that,” “I would never have felt this was possible,” “I now have clarity with my significant other on what we’re doing here,” or the gold standard “I’m a better person because of working with you.” A good values-based advisor helps clients take their life and financial skills from Padawan all the way through to becoming a Master Jedi.

GIF of princess leia asking for help from Obi-Wan

You believe in servant leadership

Creating a values-led experience comes from humility and sacrifice. The sacrifice of your time and expertise in reciprocity of your client's sacrifice of their time, vulnerabilities, and transparency. Great values-based advisors are there to truly serve, free from agenda, curious to learn about what’s really going on for their client, and use their expertise from a “power under” perspective, not a “power over.” Great values-based advisors internally ask, “How do I lift you up” not “How do I tell you my best idea.”

GIF of May the Force be with you

Have conviction and don’t get seduced by the dark side

Values-based advice takes time, sacrifice, the risk of looking different, the knowledge you’re going to get the awkward look about “Why are you asking this” or even worse, your industry peers go, “Why are you wasting your time on that?”. But you have the conviction that you know this is the role you want to play in your client's life and that they’re better off for having gone through this experience.

If reading this, you have the feeling in your belly, that fire to go, “Yes, that’s me”. This is for you. You’ve come to the right place.

If you’re sitting there going: “This sounds hard,”; “That’s not my job”; ” How long does this stuff take”; “When do I get to talk about investments”; and “How do I even make money from doing this stuff?”....This is not the proposition you’re looking for.

Mark Akeroyd, Head of Product at Lumiant

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Wholeheartedly agree. Great post. #thisistheway

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