One size does not fit all. When you hear the expression “Someone who looks like me” diversity is one of the first things that comes to mind. The expression is far reaching. What different client profiles are we talking about
The expression “Someone who looks like me” can also be stayed as “Someone who understands me” or “Someone I can relate to.” It can cross over cultures and ages.
- Culture. The US is a multicultural country. As an example, there are many people from Asian backgrounds living in the US. You cannot assume everyone is fluent in English, especially when it involves explaining and understanding complex financial terms. It is also important to understand the values inherent in different cultures. “Your word is your bond” in one culture might be overridden by “I got a better deal” in another culture. These clients want a financial professional who speaks their language and knows what is important to them.
- Younger clients. Do you remember the GM ad campaign, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile?” I guess it didn’t succeed because the brand was shuttered a few years later. Younger clients often feel their values are not shared with advisors from their parents (or grandparent’s) generation. They communicate and use technology differently. Younger clients want someone “their own age” who has similar experiences and uses technology like they do.
- Young families. They are starting their lives and careers. They have responsibilities. Unlike the younger clients in the previous example, their lives are more complicated. Ideally they want an advisor was has gone through or is now going through the same phase of life.
- Older clients. Lots of money is in the hands of older people. They value experience and are often uncertain about taking advice from people younger than their children. They also have certain attitudes towards money and a tendency to do things in traditional ways, staying within their comfort zone. This clients are often comfortable with someone of the same age who speaks their language.
- First generation wealth. There are people from segments of the US population whose parents and grandparents never had serious money. Perhaps these clients are the first generation that went to college and got a high paying job. It’s possible they are older and have inherited money. They do not want to feel they need to turn their money over to “the establishment” who they suspect will take advantage of them. These clients want someone who came from the same background and succeeded in the industry. Ideally they came from the same neighborhood. They are a role model, showing you can succeed on your own. This advisor needs the patience to explain complicated investment concepts in understandable terms.
- Different families. Same sex couples represent a significant segment of society. They have different needs, especially in areas like inheritance and providing for people who are not blood relatives. They need an advisor who respects their lifestyle choices and understands the legal aspects of how they want their finances handled.
- Religious beliefs. Faith based investing is a newer category. There are many people with strong religious believes. Some cultures do not believe in lending money and earning interest because it clashes with their faith beliefs. Others want to invest alongside principles outlined in the Bible. These advisors need to understand and be respectful of their beliefs to the point of specializing in this area.
- Environmental concerns. Years ago, people who cared about the environment were called tree huggers. Today, climate change takes center stage. It is not the top priority for all Americans, but it is for many. These investors want an advisor who understands their concerns and will not tell them to conform to traditional patterns of investment selection but will help them invest according to their beliefs.
- Handicapped clients. This might mean they have an issue, their spouse has one or they have a special needs child. There are needs that must be addressed during and after their lifetime. They need an advisor who, although they might not be in this situation, is empathetic and is trained to address these needs.
Many of these areas can be adequately addressed through training, but that does not solve the issue of “I want to work with someone who looks like me.” The opportunity for individual financial professionals is answering the question “Who do I look like” and finding a niche.