Want to Know How Your Clients Value You? Ask Them!

david-edwards-heron-wealth

This time we hear from David Edwards, president of New York City-based Heron Wealth. He explains how a client survey transformed how he thought of his work.

When I started my career as a financial advisor 25 years ago, I was very focused on stock performance. I thought of myself as a stock picker and I defined my value using a very specific mandate: I was an expert in U.S. mid-cap stock picking and growth.

Around 2000 my clients began asking me personal questions that had nothing to do with stock picking. They wanted to talk about their retirement plan, or saving up to send a grandchild to medical school, or buying a vacation home, or even their divorce.

At first, I would tell them to call their financial planner, their trusts & estates attorney or their accountant. But that wasn’t the answer my clients were looking for. I was the guy with my hands on their money, and they wanted answers from me. I began doing financial planning and estate planning for my clients, but still considered my true value to be my work as an investment manager.

Then in 2007 I surveyed my clients to find out how they valued the firm. As part of the survey we asked clients to rank 10 reasons why they liked working with us. When we tabulated the results, investment performance came in sixth place overall. The number one reason was trust. As one client wrote, “Good news or bad, you will always hear it first from Dave.”

These results completely surprised me. Up to that point I had assumed my job was to beat benchmarks. But the survey showed me I wasn’t in the U.S. mid-cap stock-picking business anymore — I was in the “good advice” business.

Read the full column at Financial Advisor IQ