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The trust equation to build advice around

Good job text on adhesive noteHow do advisers stay relevant in an increasingly automated world? People can equip themselves with an ever-growing armoury of apps and robo solutions to help with their financial planning needs. Why pay for an adviser?

As an adviser, your unique selling points are the things that make you human. Your emotional intelligence allows you to build trust with clients in a way no machine can. Trust is the most important currency between an adviser and client.

So, what exactly is it? According to author David Maister’s trust equation, the key elements are as such:

I would say that, while credibility and reliability are vital, they are just the starting points. Without discrediting their importance, they will not distinguish you from the competition. Clients will just expect them. After all, an app can be credible and reliable.

So, it is not enough to rely on your qualifications, the organisation you work for or even your expertise. The key is to nurture high levels of intimacy and maintain low levels of self-orientation.

Let’s look at these two concepts in detail:


This is to do with the unique relationship you create with your client. Your emotional intelligence and ability to listen to, understand and respond to their needs create intimacy. This catapults the trust you build.

It is this element of a relationship that appeals to the limbic centre of the brain where emotions are stored. It has no language or rational thought; it is where human behaviour is governed and decisions made.

Jason Butler: Do you always serve the client’s best interests?

It is extremely powerful when you communicate with this part of the brain. People often say, “I’m going with my gut” or “I don’t know why, I just get a good feeling”, then they rationalise that feeling, leaning on the more tangible: your credibility and reliability.

Low self-orientation

This is the ability to be fully client-focused. You are there to take care of your clients’ needs now and in the future. To do this, you need to know and understand them.

It is not just about vast sums of money and high levels of technical expertise; it is about quality of life for them and their loved ones. Having clarity over this will determine how you interact with clients on a daily basis. This keeps you relevant. No robot offers this.

With all of this in mind, the trust equation for advisers should look something like this:

So, the key areas of focus must be:

  • Continuing to be an expert who delivers on your promises.
  • Getting to know and understand the specific needs of clients.
  • Making sure you are 100 per cent focused on their unique needs.

And here are four practical steps can you take to put that into practice:

  1. Spend some time working out how each of your clients best likes to be contacted (phone, email or face-to-face) and how regularly. It is about understanding the bespoke nature of each client relationship and respecting their needs and preferences, thereby building intimacy.
  2. Set aside 10 minutes before your next client meeting to clear your head entirely. Leave your personal needs at the door and focus 100 per cent on them.
  3. Take some time to re-connect with your purpose as an adviser. Write it down. Make sure it is crystal clear and resonates with you. Think about why people invest their money and why they trust you to look after it. That is why you are here.
  4. Create a plan as to when and how you will implement the above, write it down and commit to it. You are 42 per cent more likely to achieve your goals when you commit them to paper.

Actively valuing and nurturing your relationships, you provide a service no robot, machine or app can replicate. Be intimate, truly care, build trust and stay relevant.

Chris Wickenden is co-founder of JCCommunicate


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There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. And be open and transparency about all costs and charges. Surprised down the road will earn a bad reputation and lack of trust.

  2. Good article Chris. My consultancy business (Flat Mountain) have developed a beta test system that looks to help an adviser establish how trusted they are in their clients eyes, harnessing the trust equation, so if anyone is interested in testing the system with their clients please get in touch.

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