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8 Things You Never Want to Say to Clients


“Kids say the darndest things.” Art Linkletter’s pioneering TV show made the expression famous back in 1952.(1) Financial advisors can also let expressions slip too. Adults are supposed to know better.

8 Things You’ll Wish You Hadn’t Said

Let’s look at eight expressions you should never use, and the reason why.

1. Easy come, Easy go. The stock market is volatile. It doesn’t move in a straight line, it usually moves in cycles. Experienced financial advisors know it. It’s also been said “The market goes up like an escalator and down like an elevator.” Clients see it differently. They know how hard they work for their money. They know it’s difficult to save after tax dollars. They get anxious when statement values go down.

Why it’s wrong: Some people view their advisor as a friendly croupier who isn’t deeply concerned about their client’s success. You’ve just proven them right.

2. That’s why you pay me the big bucks. Some clients assume their fees and commissions go right into the advisor’s pocket. The firm doesn’t get any. In a world where they can trade online almost for free, they are making a conscious decision to invest with you. They are choosing to pay more.

Why it’s wrong: Their friends ask why they aren’t trading online. They wonder if they are overpaying by working with you. You just proved them right.

3. The market took us all by surprise. Also, “It’s a Black Swan event.” The market suddenly declined. The client lost money. If they were leveraged, it’s even worse. You don’t have an explanation for why it happened or a strategy for moving forward.

Why it’s wrong: They took your advice. Now it sounds like you are abdicating responsibility.

4. You wouldn’t understand. It’s a complex product or a strategy, like trading on margin, where lots can go wrong. There are plenty of details the client needs to know because their losses can be substantial. Instead of patiently trying to explain, you want to save some time and just get their agreement.

Why it’s wrong: If something doesn’t work out and the client makes a formal complaint, they are going to throw your words back at you.

5. It’s just a formality. This often involves signing paperwork. Sometimes the paperwork involves client data they entered or you had prefilled. You want to minimize the importance of the paperwork. Your fears are: If they sign it, they will want to read it. If they read it, they won’t understand it. If they don’t understand it, they won’t sign it.

Why it’s wrong (1): A postal worker explained a great rationale: “When you sign your name to a document, you are attesting that everything above your signature is true.” Clients need to know this and review data for correctness.

Why it’s wrong (2):  The document often spells out the rules by which the firm does business. By signing, you agree to these rules. You should at least read them beforehand to know what they are.

6. This is just between you and me. Someone is about to circumvent the rules. Procedures are not being followed or corners are being cut. If something goes wrong and the client finds themselves liable, they will give you up.

Why it’s wrong: You are not being honest. The firm has safeguards in place to catch discrepancies. You will get caught.

7. Is this conversation being recorded? This implies the advisor is saying something that isn’t true or could be harmful to them later. If something goes wrong, they would prefer a “My word vs. her word” scenario instead of something that proves their wrongdoing.

Why it’s wrong: If the client wasn’t hesitant before, they should be now. Asking if the conversation is bring taped implies it would be a good idea.

8. I guarantee you won’t lose money. Also “It’s a sure thing.” Guarantee is an expression that must be used very carefully. It’s been said firms use a “Compliance Spell Check” program on outgoing e-mails. It flags certain words. “Guarantee” is probably at the top of the list. You can’t predict the future. You can’t say “Something has changed.” A guarantee is absolute in the client’s mind.

Why it’s wrong: You think it’s a promise between you and the client. Maybe you think you can wiggle out or deny it later. The client sees you as an “agent of the firm.” They see a guarantee backed by the assets of the firm. You aren’t allowed to give that.

Think before speaking says it all.

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