MELISSA: Welcome to the Purposeful Planning Podcast. My name is Melissa Mitchell-Blitch and I serve as PPI’s Dean of Individual Development that focuses on helping families develop the skills necessary to navigate decisions, transition, and conflict related to family, business, and family wealth. I am delighted to have today as our guest, my friend and colleague, Dr. Richard Orlando, who is going to talk with us about “What does love have to do with serving clients?” Richard, welcome.
RICHARD: Melissa, thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to talk with you and share with the PPI community and beyond.
MELISSA: Fantastic. Richard, give us just a little bit of your bio before we jump into the conversation.
RICHARD: Probably most relevant to our topic of ‘What does it mean to love your clients?’ or what does it have to do with loving clients? I’d summarize it by sharing that I’ve spent almost two decades serving coaching, training, and consulting to advisors of all shapes and sizes across the industry as well as almost that amount of time serving their clients and families, like you described family businesses and families of wealth. So although I’m always learning, I think there’s a passion for that relationship that the advisor and families have with one another, and the focus we’re going to discuss is what’s love have to do with that relationship? And I think background has given me some insights that hopefully will be beneficial to those who listen to this.
MELISSA: Fantastic. Well, Richard, let’s start with the obvious question. First, what does love have to do with serving clients?
RICHARD: I always laugh when I listen to that idea that I even titled the book over called ‘Love your clients.’ I think what really was the genesis of this idea was the journey I’ve been on and my professional journey of serving advisors over the years. I look back and I remember when I first started in the financial service industry — which was now in the late 80s — the advisors were referred to as account executives, and then they evolved to brokers. And then they evolve to advisors, and then trusted advisors, and eventually teams of advisors. And why that might be relevant is because along the way advisors — whatever they will call — overall wake up every day and say, “How do I add more value to the clients I am serving?” Those titles I refer to from account executive to trusted advisor and team advisors, still primarily had the value proposition of serving the decision maker or decision makers. And although that’s very, very important, I think it really still misses out on the opportunity of expanding the value that they can bring to their clients. And so what do I mean by that? So we’re encouraging them that the next way to think about the role of the advisor is to think of him or herself as the whole family advisor. And that’s very intentional because we’re encouraging advisors in the industry to think that their value proposition is built on that decision maker or decision makers, but there’s a whole family of branches and generations that they are representing and maybe even speaking for at the time of the work that they’re doing now with their advisors. So when I think of love, and I think of the clients that we’ve been serving, as you do too, Melissa, over the almost two decades now, “What do our clients, what do the parents, what do the wealth holders care about most? What do they love most?” And I’d say in my experience, 95 plus percent of them really care most or love most of their loved ones. And if that is true (which I believe it is true) then, how can advisors not care for what their clients care about most? And that’s exactly where love comes in. We think the concept of love means get to know what your clients care about most, in addition to their financial capital, which is, in most cases, the core value proposition and expand it to say, “Well. Let’s make sure we’re loving on the family.’ Meaning we’re trying to do our best to care about their children, their grandchildren, their spouse, their significant others. And that value proposition, as we like to say, barring the expression, ‘It’s always where the pack is, and it’s always where the pack is going.’ And that’s really the future. I believe that the advisor world is to start thinking more about what it means to love our clients. And one of the mindset shifts, I think, begins with moving from seeing the client as the person that they’re interacting with most frequently, as important as that relationship is to seeing the client as the whole family. And that doesn’t mean that tomorrow, they’re going to be able to go out and have a golf outing with their daughter- or son-in-law. But it does mean that there is an intentional pursuit of adding value to the whole family. So that’s what love has to do with serving clients.
MELISSA: Okay, so Richard, take that to the next step. What difference will that make that shift of approach and mindset so important?
RICHARD: Yeah, it’s really, it’s really so important to both the advisor and the client that they’re serving, and vice versa to the client and their relationship with the advisor world. Because, as you know, Melissa, from your work to when we’re serving the families, not only is it very important isn’t there’s obviously every family has their own set of priorities, but we know at least two of them are to continue to protect and grow their financial capital, and to help their family grow. And that usually means the next generation and in some cases, their significant other or spouse. So I don’t think most families think that their adviser or their advisor firm or their family office, beyond maybe financially educating their next generation could or should, or even is thinking about doing more about getting to know their family. And so, we all know the statistics that when the world is transferring through the families, most of the time it’s quite a bumpy ride for families and too often, not successfully accomplished in the way the family wants. So on the family side, could you imagine advisors who not only know how and have an expertise to move the financial capital through the generations, but how about providing a little wisdom guidance and facilitation and helping the families prepare the family for their assets (as we like to say) and therefore be more successful in accomplishing what they want with both their values and their valuables? On the adviser’s side, advisers in most cases are not doing this work for not-for-profit service. They are trying to build businesses, and in some cases, very, very successful businesses. So it’s important on the advisors side that they’re continuing to attract clients and retain clients. And so for them, it serves a retention strategy and in a business development or acquisition strategy, when they start broadening their mindset and skill set to think as a whole family advisor and love on their clients.
MELISSA: Richard, I’d love for you to really tell us a story, an example of an advisor that you’ve seen do this well to love their clients, and just kind of paint that picture for us of the impact that it had, again, both for the advisor and the family.
RICHARD: Yeah, a couple come to mind. There’s an advisory firm that’s in the midwest that we have served and known for many, many years. And this is now a handful of years back. And I remember the advisors brought — I’m kind of paraphrasing what we learned through them — this is a firm that is much more in the whole family advisor approach philosophy. But they’re still learning and navigating what that means for them. But anyway, this is a number of years ago, when I remember them saying that one of the families or one of the — I don’t think they use the word family — clients that they brought on was a family. Their quote was below their minimum, but they knew this client had assets away. So they decided as a team of advisors to serve this client, but not only serve this case to the matriarch and patriarch, but to serve the next generation. And they were hoping that in doing that, not only were they trying to do the right thing, but they were hoping to win the assets that were away. So it went on for a year or two. And sadly, and shockingly, while serving two generations — particularly I think, in this case, it was the son and the daughter, and the next generation that was part of the overall engagement — the dad did pass away suddenly and unexpectedly. And that alone is obviously very important and sad for the family. But the point of the story was what happened after, in fact, was the son and the daughter (I don’t remember the details) inherited a significant amount of assets, quote: the assets that were away. And they proactively shared with this advisor team that they decided to keep those assets with this firm with this advisor team because they felt they didn’t use this language. But in essence, they felt looked after and cared for, and I would add, even loved. So it was amazing that the advisors didn’t know any of that was going to happen. They were hoping it would happen, but they didn’t think it was going to happen in that way. So I think that idea that they were serving the whole family, and loving what their parents loved, most helped secure and ultimately keep the assets that were inherited. I got one more story because this was an advisor. That was not someone that we were consulting to work with. They were in our training. And we were going through the different concepts of whole family advising and the processes and the tools and all of that. And I remember he stood up when we were going back and forth on Q&A. And he stood up and it was probably a group of roughly 30 or 40 advisors in the room. And he shared this and it literally was a drop the mic for everybody. It just caught everybody in a beautiful way off guard. He said that recently, he lost a long-term, longtime client. The main client in this case was the patriarch of the family, but he had a client. He had a relationship with both the matriarch and the patriarch. And he said that was fairly recent to the training that we were in. And he said that in his recent one-on-one with the matriarch, the matriarch said this to him. She says. “I’m very grateful for my husband for lots of reasons. But two in particular, that he left me these resources, and he brought you into my life in every way.” There was nothing else to say. And I don’t know what that advisor did, because I never worked with that advisor. But I think that is exactly what it means to love your clients.
MELISSA: So Richard, you’re describing advisors who really see themselves in service to their clients and want to benefit their clients as a whole, even their families, not just their bank accounts. If someone’s listening to this, and they’re saying, “I am inspired. I’d love to work more multi-generationally. I’d love to love my clients and help them see the resources, including the financial resources, but not only the financial resources as tools to help foster and support where they love and care for most.” How might an advisor even begin that process?
RICHARD: That’s important. This is where we want to help advisors and anyone for that matter serving families practically do something about this. One place to start is, if I’m the advisor or part of an advisor team at a firm, first place to start is to understand how many rising gen members in your client base. Let’s even just start with young adults and older. And I’m saying 18 to (it could be) 50 years old. How many rising gen family members are in their client base? And in our experience, when we ask that question in our training programs, most overwhelmingly they don’t know what that number is. So the question is, begin to get to understand your client base from a next generation perspective. How many next gen adults are there? And then, do we have any kind of relationship with them? Similarly, let’s not bypass the spouse or the significant other or the partner? Do we have a relationship with them, not just do we know them? Or do we have any kind of relationship with them? So that’s a starting point from the advisor. We’ll call it a practice management lens. But then the next question (which I just hinted at) is, do those spouses or significant others, and do those adults in the next generation know that we know them? So I want to repeat that, because when we share this with advisors, it takes a second to click in. Do they know that we know them? So that’s different than saying, because most advisors will know who’s in the family, they might even know birth dates, or anniversary dates. They might send cards out and so on. They might have had dinner with the spouse, and so on. But do they have a relationship with those people so that they were able to, in some way, acknowledge what was important to each of those family members or added some value or at least at a financial plan something where the family member or family members knew that the advisor and that firm knew them? That’s the starting point. It’s about building value-based relationships, which leads to do we know what they value? Meaning the other family members who the firm or the team has not yet secured that genuine relationship with. So we have to learn what they value. And it’s not really that much magic. You have to put timing. You have to ask questions. You have to put yourself in a context to get to know each other. And then once you know the value, then you could start bringing value to the clients. So clearly, the adviser world has varied expertise which is vital. I go to my advisors to make sure that they have all those professional and technical designations and expertise to take care of my financial capital. But that’s not always what defines relationships. So what other values are sitting inside the family and how do we bring value to those other parts of who we’re serving? Now the mindset shift is to say, when we talk about this, “It’s not so much that it’s your client’s family, but it’s your client family, Mr. or Mrs. Advisor.” And there’s that shift again. That it’s not overnight, and it needs to be genuine. But those would be a few steps to take ranging from. Let’s just understand what set of clients and their rising gen do we have relationships with or the spouse? Do we know them? Do they know that we know them? Do we know what they’re passionate about? What do they care about? What do they value? And have we bought any value to them in the way we can? So I would say that’s a great place to start.
MELISSA: I just want to repeat that last point that you made because it was so subtle. You said the mind shifts from my client’s family to my client family. It’s not the client who has a family, viewing the family as a client, even if you’re only serving right now the matriarch at the end the patriarch or the partner. A subtle shift that I wanted to be sure people heard you. Thank you for letting us know some very practical next steps that advisors can take in this process. You started out with practice management, relationship, and then mindset. And in the podcast notes, we’ll have some additional resources for folks who want to go even further, but thank you for sharing those ways that an advisor can simply get started and being intentional to love their clients. Richard, it’s been a pleasure to have you with us today. Any final thoughts that you want to share?
RICHARD: I just want to say thank you and the PPI community. And I know Melissa, I’ve enjoyed being on the professional and friendship journey with you. I know you’re in the business of loving your clients, too. So just thank you for this opportunity and I hope it has an opportunity to bless others out there, both from the family side and the adviser side.
MELISSA: Absolutely. Thank you so much.