by Tony Vidler
Not long ago I met the son of a (former) client…a young man in his mid-twenties now, who is well on the way to pursuing his own professional career and carving out his own place in the world. To be honest I’d never spent that much time talking to him in years gone by – the occasional “hello” when I was visiting his parents, perhaps with a minute or two of polite conversation about his studies and sport. At a superficial level we had “known each other” since he was perhaps 12 or so.
He reminded me of a very simple thing that I had done years ago, which I had placed little significance upon, but which he said was a incredibly influential.
All I did though was buy his parents a book.
Not just any book I suppose, but one of the classics: The Richest Man In Babylon.
(If you are interested in financial planning and haven’t read it, it is a “must read”)
My memory of it was that a local book store was having a big sale (always a magnet to me!) and I wandered in, saw that they were selling this fabulous book for about $10 or something, so I asked how many copies they had. I ended up buying something like 25 copies of it, and promptly gave them all away to my best clients who had young’ish children.
To me it was a useful and highly complementary “client gift” at a bargain price. In the year or two that followed I recall getting some nice feedback from a number of the clients, and the usual expressions of gratitude, but I don’t recall any earth shattering life changes occurring as a result of it.
Until recently that is.
So here we are, about 15 years afterwards, and this young guy says his parents gave him the book. He decided it was boring after glancing through it at the time. A couple of years later he needed some inspiration for a school project and dragged it out and used it…and read it. Since then he has saved a good sum of money, and been prudent when going through university, and avoided bad debt. He’s doing pretty well financially for a young guy (certainly way better than I did at his age). He’s thinking about buying a flat here in one of the more expensive cities in the southern hemisphere….
This casual meeting with a young man I didn’t recognise, but who recognised me and initiated the conversation, reinforced the profound impact that professional advisers can have.
I know that could sound a little grandiose and self-serving, however it is true. When we do our work well and provide sound advice to individuals and their families we can make a significant difference to the life they can have. When we combine that with providing education and meaningful resources and tools which are more than just promotion of our own services and expertise, we create the opportunity to make lasting behavioural change within entire families.
Don’t let anyone tell you that there is little or no value in what you do as a professional adviser.
Frankly, there are not that many professions or careers that have the potential to shape an entire families future quite so overtly. When we get right down to it the reality is for most professional financial advisers is that we don’t have exclusive technical or market knowledge that gives our clients an inside edge over the world around them. It is the ability to understand and visualise somebody else’s aspirations and then help shape their thinking and coach them through a process of change that is the most valuable thing advisers do.
That really is about changing the future for clients…helping them attain a different outcome from what they are currently on track for. Perhaps if we helped more people understand that, getting new clients wouldn’t be quite as hard as it seems to be a lot of the time.
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