Roundtable – February 2014
Highlights from the February 25, 2014 Leading Advisor’s Roundtable Series hosted by Bob Greenberg, CFP and Mark Rylance, CFP from RS Crum, Inc. on the topic of “Getting It Done – Helping Clients Take Action on Their Giving”
Every advisor has times when clients just won’t execute on their plan whether charitable or otherwise, so OC AiP asked Bob Greenberg and Mark Rylance from RS Crum to share how they promote client empowerment and make them comfortable with taking action and moving forward.
RS Crum is a wealth management firm that works with clients who are experiencing major life changes such as selling a business, widowhood, divorce or significant inheritance. These life transitions that accompany sudden money come with two parts to the equation: technical and personal. They are equally important and complex; however, in this discussion Bob and Mark emphasized the personal side of this equation and provide us with some helpful tools and tips to help clients move forward through transition.
Understanding that “change starts with an ending” is important in recognizing client’s behavior going through transition. For example, a successful business owner that sells their business, no longer has the identity of being the owner and in charge. The death of a spouse or a difficult divorce can be dark, devastating and very stressful for an individual. This time of transition can evoke erratic behavior, distractions and tangents in their thinking pattern until they can achieve their new normal.
RS Crum shared with the group “Ten Characteristics of Transitions” to help the advisor be more effective in recognizing this behavior: narrow thinking; inconsistent behavior; inability to concentrate; loss of possibilities; fractured focus; victim behavior; short attention span; isolation; hyper reactive and fear-based decisions.
Bob and Mark then discussed some tips and tools on how to conduct meetings and communicate with your client, navigate through transition, and achieve results. The most important factor is to understand how your client communicates. Some people are visual, others audio and others kinesthetic. Directly asking your client how they would like to be communicated with is respectful. Ask them if they would prefer to read spreadsheets and articles ahead of time before reviewing in person. Perhaps they would prefer a summary of bullet points with verbal explanations in a meeting. Other tips include keeping meetings short and focus on 1-2 topics. Say the most important things first. Prepare a one page summary for the client to take home with them. Reach out to your clients more frequently with personal phone calls, just to ask them how they are doing. Avoid jargon. Clients are normally not willing to admit what they don’t understand, so keep it simple, ask for feedback and listen.
RS Crum shared their “Purpose, Method, Outcome” process. The Purpose is to understand what the client is trying to accomplish. For example, the client wants to make a gift as a result of selling a business. The Method becomes how to accomplishing that task, for example, contributing an asset to a trust or foundation. The Outcome then becomes why they are doing this. The outcome is the personal and emotional reasoning behind aligning their goals with their action.
Donors usually have pure philanthropic intent to give to a cause they are passionate about – for instance to honor the memory of a son, or perhaps even create a legacy for their family. This pure philanthropic intent sometimes is lost in the details and the plan is never executed. It is important to continually ask your client how they feel throughout the process and address what is holding them back. Fear, affordability and family dynamics are a few of the unseen obstacles, so keep asking, listen, and respond with sensitivity.
A conversation among the advisors ensued on how to approach the subject of giving with their clients. One advisor suggested that the tax return is an easy place to begin by asking the question on charitable contributions, who do you give to and why? This identifies organizations or causes the client supports or is passionate about and can open up a broader discussion on giving options. Another advisor shared with the group how rebalancing a portfolio may provide an opportunity to ask the client if they would be interested in gifting capital gains towards a specific purpose. Marty Dutch, AVP of First Foundation Advisors, shared how she asks her clients for a “Philanthropic check-up”. This provides a great opportunity to re-evaluate their plans, intentions and passions.
For the advisor, addressing the personal side of money issues for clients that are going through transition should be a dominant factor in your approach and communication. Keep things simple, focus on one or two key topics and align your communication skills with their ability to understand. Focus on their primary purpose, the method to accomplish that task, and be sure to understand the emotional reason for why they want that outcome.
Hopefully these tips and tools will help you become a better advisor in helping your clients take action and getting things done.
Submitted by Sandra Bensworth
Education Committee member
CFO, OC United Way