Displays of emotional intelligence from advisers is more likely to earn trust than digital literacy

The COVID-19 pandemic, its associated market volatility and new regulations to combat the fallout have all served as reminders that trust is the foundation of any adviser-client relationship.

Thursday, May 7th 2020, 8:28AM

A recent Harris Poll study conducted on behalf of MDRT among over 2,000 US adults found that 85% of Americans would be more likely to trust recommendations from human financial advisers if they demonstrate emotional intelligence.

In a time of historic turmoil, advisers seeking to reassure, reposition or even retain clients must exhibit genuine empathy and compassion.

Clarity and communication

With 83% of Americans saying exhibiting emotional intelligence is important to building a quality client-adviser relationship, showing, not just stating, these abilities are key. The size of this majority indicates that emotional know-how is seen as a foundational skill rather than a mark of exceptional work.

People surveyed would be more likely to trust advice from advisers who:

These majorities contrast with just 30% of people who say they would be more likely to trust the advice of advisers with up-to-date websites; even fewer (25%) say the same for advisers who regularly recommend relevant content. While digital literacy makes business operations more efficient and helps bring clients in the door, it does not by itself communicate trustworthiness.

“In this period of societal and institutional instability, financial advisers must connect with clients on more personal levels than ever before,” MDRT President Regina Bedoya says. “Advisers can successfully adjust and help clients navigate this new reality by embracing the sentimental side of financial advising.”

Most people with human financial advisers rate their emotional capabilities highly, with 89% saying their adviser displays strong emotional intelligence. However, room to grow still exists: only 32% of people surveyed who work with an adviser say their adviser can resolve conflicts, and only 40% say their adviser is disciplined in managing their own emotional reactions during their discussion

Trust across generations

While popular perception holds that baby boomers and Generation Z stand on opposite ends of a societal spectrum, the two generations agree on what advisers can do to earn their trust. Sixty-one percent of baby boomers (born 1947–1965) and 62% of Gen Z (born 1998-2002) say they would be more likely to trust advisers who listen to and acknowledge their clients’ needs. In the generational middle, only 52% of Generation X (born 1966–1981) and 54% of millennials (born 1982–1997) say the same.

This gap extends to assessments of other skills. Almost half of baby boomers (47%) and Gen Z (49%) say they would be more likely to trust advisers who check in with their clients frequently, versus 39% of Gen X and 36% of millennials. Tailoring financial plans to economic cycles and policy trends elicits similarly divergent responses, with more baby boomers (39%) and Gen Z adults (40%) saying such work would make them more likely to find an adviser trustworthy than Gen Xers (28%) and millennials (24%).

This consistent divide could indicate that Gen X and millennials expect more from advisers than other generations. Advisers will need to work harder to connect with clients and prospects in these generations and build up the emotional foundations of trust over time.

“Consumers have clearly communicated their needs to advisers and paved a path for us to meet them,” Bedoya said.

Tags: MDRT

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