Most financial advisors have already heard and mastered the more substantive skills they need to succeed. They realize the importance of: being a good listener, able to build rapport, capable of demonstrating their experience and financial acumen, and presenting themselves as professionals who serve with integrity, independence and by placing their clients’ interests above all.
On a more superficial, but still important level, however, what image do they convey in other ways? For instance, what does their office convey about them? Was it designed and furnished to impart a sense of transparency, tradition and success? Take a look at your own offices and ask yourself, if I were a client of the firm’s, would this environment instill trust and confidence in my advisor?
The 2008 Financial Crisis
The 2008 global financial crisis left a black eye on many previously trusted financial institutions, and government agencies charged with monitoring them. Not only did we see the movement of billions of dollars and euros during this colossal collapse of leading banking institutions, we also saw a loss of confidence for many investors that industry observers expect will linger for decades.
So beyond shoring up their skills and continuing their education and training to remain fully competent in the latest financial products, industry regulations and market trends, how else can financial advisors project the best image to their clients?
Brand Identity, Image Building
Financial advisors need to have a clearly established brand identity that is consistent with the values that their clients expect in their financial advisors: trust, stability, wisdom, intelligence, confidence, value, success, etc. As marketing agencies have long relied on, there is a psychology of color wherein certain traits are associated with certain colors. It’s no surprise that blue is a commonly used color in logos of prominent financial companies. Blue conveys stability, trust, wisdom, intelligence and confidence. Contrast that with the color yellow, for example, which is associated with happiness, enthusiasm and friendliness, or green, which reflects hope, growth and balance. Working with an agency, you can evaluate your firm’s brand identity to make certain that it is effectively leveraging the psychology of color, as well as projecting your firm’s core values and corporate culture.
Office Décor and Image
Many of the most successful wealth managers consciously cultivate a certain image that goes beyond the clothes they wear and the car they drive. From the minute you step into their offices, you can tell that they were designed with their clients in mind. Starting with the reception area, their offices are inviting, with comfortable chains and appropriate newspapers and magazines that let clients know their advisors are well-read and informed. Many have distinguishable works of art; nothing too provocative, but clearly well-chosen, distinctive works of art.
For some wealth managers, not conveying a corporate image is deliberate. They instead opt to present a smaller, boutique style environment to project a more accessible, personalized service. Their offices often feel more like a traditional home with paneled walls, flower arrangements and fine china and glassware to serve refreshments to their clients. Then there are those firms with multiple offices that take some of their design inspiration from their locations. I know of a few wealth management firms in Great Britain, for example, that maintain offices in London as well as another office in the country. Each office is consistent with its local; the city offices are more modern, while offices outside of the city border are more home-like and traditional. There is consistency, however, in that the same identity and value system is conveyed through brand colors and logo design.
One of the nation’s top wealth managers in the United States designed his offices to convey transparency. Every office and conference room has glass walls. This is very specific messaging; however, in an industry where fees are constantly under scrutiny with many investors questioning whether portfolio decisions are truly in their best interests, conveying transparency can prove to be a very effective image-building strategy.
Other Ways to Project the Best Image
In addition to having the right skills and offices, financial advisors can further cultivate a strong, professional image by taking advantage of other marketing tools. They can position themselves as thought leaders by becoming editorial sources for leading financial media. They can contribute articles to well-read publications on topics of importance to their client base. They can host events that are consistent with the lifestyle, interests and venues of their current and prospective clients. Lastly, given our digital world, they can create a website that is professional, presents the wealth managers’ credentials, and communicates the value proposition the firm and its team delivers.