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Meaningful Personal Contact Key to Deep and Lasting Relations

March 9, 2018

We hear from Malik Lee, a financial advisor at Henssler Financial in Kennesaw, Ga. He has learned that, like friendships, strong client relationships require time, effort, and attention to detail.

As a registered investment advisor, we switch clients for a variety of reasons, most frequently when a current advisor’s book of business has become too large and they need to move accounts around.

Last year, I gained a widowed client shortly after she had lost her husband in a tragic accident. The firm transferred her to me because she had not previously been involved in the couple’s finances, so we thought it would be a good time to introduce her to a new advisor.

I wanted to get started with her right away as there was a lot left in her husband’s name that she stood to inherit, including IRAs, brokerage accounts and properties. She was grieving and did not know who I was, so when I first began calling to set up an appointment, she told me to stop calling and hung up on me. This woman had considerable assets and cash left by her husband, so she thought everyone was trying to get a piece of it.

I knew I had to approach the situation from a different angle to build her trust, especially at such a vulnerable time in her life. Otherwise, I risked losing her as a client before we’d even met.

So I sent her a handwritten letter that acknowledged her grieving, introduced myself with a picture of my team, and explained how well our firm knew her husband. When she received the letter, she called to apologize and agreed to get the process going.

Moving forward, I called her on her birthday and on the anniversary of her late husband’s death. (He was a popular figure in the community, so his death was something that was honored publicly.) I checked in on her when Georgia experienced a "Snowmageddon," knowing that she lived alone and may have needed some assistance.

In this way, I created personal touches that weren’t directly connected to her finances. I believe this showed her I was reliable and that I cared about her as an individual.

I also called each quarter to tell her how the market and her accounts were doing. This was new to her because she had never been the lead person on the finances in her relationship. I had to teach her a lot and walk her through the investment processes at a slow pace to bring her up to speed.

After about a year and a half, she had become, and remains, one of my best clients. She is very outgoing and personable. It’s been a pleasure to watch her personality come through as she became more comfortable with me and as she continued to heal from her husband’s passing.

Last year, she gave me a check for over a million dollars from a settlement she closed. At that point, I sat back and looked at the trajectory of our relationship — from thinking I was going to lose her as a client to becoming her go-to guy for anything finance related. Her assets have doubled, and she has referred four new clients to me this year.

I follow this process with all of my clients: birthday cards, calls to check in after a large event in the family, after natural disasters, and following up after people have been ill or have had family members take sick.

I use software to remind me of important dates and events, and I’m not afraid to pick up the phone, even when I fear that there’s not enough to talk about. It takes a lot of effort to build these relationships, but it pays off when you have clients who trust you and rely on you.