Coaching is a growing focus for many financial planners wanting to get a deeper understanding
of their clients’ goals and motivations. Chartered financial planner, Alasdair Walker, tells us about
What inspired you to develop your coaching skills?
At the PFS Festival of Financial Planning, I saw Chris Budd, chairman of Ovation and Jan Bowen Nielson, founder of Quiver Management, talk about the importance of coaching skills for financial planners. I was so inspired that I enrolled on a coaching and mentoring certification with Quiver Management.
What difference has a knowledge of coaching techniques made to you and your business?
I have benefited from improved self-awareness and I now give much more consideration to the values and world views of those I come into contact with. The business has benefited from more engaged clients, but I am also having better conversations with members of my team.
What difference has it made to your clients?
Let’s look at a typical adviser and client ‘fact-find’ discussion. This is often considered a necessary evil, or ‘just getting the figures we need’, but it can be a fantastic entry point to more meaningful discussions with clients. For example:
Adviser: “What do you have in savings?”
Client: “Well, after a decade of hard slog, we have £200,000.” [Adviser notes down £200,000 on fact-find document]
Adviser: “Great, and what about ISAs?”
Client: “Oh, we have never really understood ISAs, so we just kept the money in premium bonds; it’s really nice receiving a little win cheque through the post every so often.” [Adviser notes down ‘no ISAs’ and moves to the next question...]
When viewed through the scope of a facts-and-figures-meeting, there is little wrong with this approach; we are filling in the boxes on a form, columns on a spreadsheet, entries in our cashflow planning software. But when we open our ears, we start to hear the important nuggets of information being given by clients. ‘After a decade of hard slog...’ is a statement certainly worth exploring.
How do you get clients to open up?
There is a growing body of work on great questions for financial planning sessions; the question that has most helped me with these meetings is brilliantly straightforward – ‘talk to me about that’. This is an invitation to share, to expand, to give the adviser more than the fact and figures, but it also allows the client to lead the conversation and does not push them to give up more than they are comfortable with. For example: Client: “Well, after a decade of hard slog, we have £200,000.” Adviser: “Talk to me about that...”
Client: “It’s been really hard work and we have made sacrifices in the past 10 years to get this money saved. We are proud of having done so, but we don’t really know how to make it work for the long-term.”
Adviser: “Thanks, that’s really interesting – thank you for sharing. Can you talk to me about what you mean when you say, ‘for the long term’?”
Client: “Well, both our parents died in their early 70s and we’d really like to enjoy our retirement while we have our health. We decided long ago that we’d do whatever we could to give ourselves that option.”
This exchange moves the conversation to a different depth from the previous example and is simply the result of pausing, listening and asking an open question. I am now convinced that coaching is an area that can really help to improve our approach to client meetings.
What are your tips for a planner thinking about developing coaching skills?
- Understand your motivations – what are you looking to get out of the learning?
- Seek out experts and learn from them.
- Reflect. One of the hardest and most rewarding aspects of the course was writing ‘reflective notes’ following meetings. These shouldn’t focus on the content of the meeting, but instead, how you behaved and why.
Alasdair Walker FPFS is a Chartered financial planner and member of the PFS’ Financial Planning Practitioner Panel
Image credit | Alamy
If you would like to hear more about the possibilities coaching brings, join us for a webinar on 28 January 2020. Both Chris Budd, financial planning practitioner, and Jan Bowen-Neilsen, founder of coaching training firm Quiver Management, will be giving advisers tips on listening and questioning skills that can build strong rapport with clients and help to bring out their deeper goals and motivations. Visit www.pfspower.org to find out more and register for the webinar.