How Behavioral Finance Can Help You Grow Your Practice

Behavioral finance and financial advice are intrinsically linked—or, at least they should be, argued Betterment's Dan Egan on a recent podcast appearance with Mike Langford and John Prendergast of the Augmented Advisor.

Betterment's Dan Egan recently appeared on the Augmented Advisor podcast with Mike Langford and John Prendergast. Their discussion illuminated how harnessing different strategies that are based in investors' psychology can help advisors evolve their practicesand grow their business as a result.

Below, we highlight a key takeaways from the discussion. Listen to the podcast in full here.

What pricing says about your service

In the age of social media investing tips and democratized trading, advisors might be thinking about the impact of free financial products on the wealth management industry. But this sends a message to potential clients, says Egan.

"One obvious piece [to consider] is being aware of where consumer expectations are and leaning in," he said. "People understand that when they don't pay for something, it's not a premium product." He continued by saying that retail investors, "can get a free product without a doubt," but he encourages advisors to "lean into the notion that your client and your client's time are worth more than that."

The human element of advice

Relatedly, the discussion turns to considering what distinguishes advice from trigger-based recommendations. Egan reflects on the element of heightened liability with financial advice. "At some level, there's a piece of accountability, liability, and responsibility of saying this is the right thing for you to do. It's not just the calculations that matter exactly, but who is bearing the responsibility for a good or bad outcome." 

Further, Prendergast adds that human empathy, in addition to this accountability engine, is the dividing line. What distinguishes advice, he says, can often be the "empathy and understanding that a human delivers." This human interaction, he goes on to say, is critical for helping many investors feel understoodand therefore more confident in their financial decisions.

Pushing yourself up the value chain

Increasing your value as an advisor can also come from a practice of frequent communication and "context building." 

For many, pivotal life events trigger demand for heightened guidance. Building a strong connection with clients over time goes a long way in instilling confidence in clients during those critical decision-making moments.

To truly avoid staying stagnant or complacent in this industry, the team asserts that advisors must start actively pursuing client feedback. Advisors can self-reflect: Have I set up feedback loops? How do I start hearing about things that are not going well, even when it's uncomfortable? Opening the door for hearing negative, but often silent feedbacknot just noisy, positive feedback—is crucial to advancing a practice.

There are also ways that an advisor can utilize technology to free up their time to really focus on elevating client service and evolving their careers. The experts discussed "learning to let go" and moving away from tasks that a computer excels at, like routine ongoing maintenance. "By pursuing automation of this rote work, advisors will have more time for higher value-added interactions." 

A key marker of practice maturity

The group wraps up the pod debating an ongoing pursuit: how to craft a book of high quality clients. While firms often find success refining service offerings and narrowing down a target niche, Egan reflects on an interesting duality here: "The more that an advisor doesn't take into account how their clients are different [from] them, the bigger the gap created… There's a duality of growing small and being high quality in your space, but also thinking about the next segment of your career and how what you're working on today is going to allow you to have grown into something better five years from now."

Moreover, attracting the right clients requires being able to reject clients well. Being able to have a comfortable conversation, and identify reasons to not work together, is a skill mastered by advisors who grow their books efficiently. "Getting comfortable with the idea of why we should not be involved saves so much time and heartache, rather than attempting to work together and change someone's mind about core held beliefs later on." 

This is, perhaps, a crucial marker of practice growth—with time, the best advisors figure out they can't take on everybody, and the very best can articulate why. "It does take courage to look someone in the eye and say, 'I just don't think I’m a very good fit for you,' and it can be uncomfortable, but I think it's the marked maturity of a practice."

Listen to the full episode of the Augmented Advisor here.

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