Are You Positive?
You get home after a long day. You open the mail. You see that a letter has come from your financial services provider—ah, it must be a confirmation of transferring funds to your niece’s educational savings account. You open the letter and it starts with:
“Unfortunately, we can’t initiate the transfer of funds. It is against our policy to accept transfer instructions without a letter of authorization. You must provide a letter of authorization at your branch.”
Just what you need—to be told what can’t be done and that you have to do something else. What if instead of that letter, you received a phone call from a service representative or even a different letter saying:
“We’ll be happy to help with your funds transfer request. All we need is the completed letter of authorization. We’ve enclosed the form, and a postage paid envelope.”
Totally different feeling, right?
A simple change to a positive tone and the rearrangement of a few words can make a significant impact on how a client feels in that exact moment when they are directly experiencing your brand. Indeed, you’re making a statement about how you relate to your clients at every single client touch point—including account service letters.
Many companies put all of their voice and tone emphasis on their marketing communications, leaving operational or account servicing communications out in the cold (no wonder those letters might be so negative!). Consider for a moment that a client may receive far more operational communications than marketing pieces, and you can see where there becomes a disconnect between what the marketing team thinks the client is getting, and what the client actually experiences.
The opportunity and solution lies in customer experience, marketing, and operations teams working together to create a set of easy to follow communications guidelines that capture brand principles, writing styles, and writing strategies. When developing communications guidelines, we always recommend to that our clients look at how their voice and tone come across in operational or account servicing communications—especially whether the voice is negative or positive. There are often a lot of quick fixes (i.e. really negative letters) that can be made to create a positive change in the client experience.
There are many wonderful experts in the field of using positive language, particularly in training programs for staff who are on the front lines, interacting with clients every day. Google “positive language in customer service” and you will discover a great list of resources.
Many of the tools used in shifting customer service interactions to positive language can also be used in written communications. One of the most used negative words in operational communications is “unfortunately,” as we demonstrated at the beginning of this post. There may well be cases when you can’t get away from using the word “unfortunately,” but we’re willing to bet that you could reorder a few words and shift the tone to positive language for most communications.
Here’s another example of negative versus positive language from Robert Bacal at Bacal & Associates:
Negative: "We regret to inform you that we cannot process your application to register your business name, since you have neglected to provide sufficient information. Please complete ALL sections of the attached form and return it to us."
Positive: "Congratulations on your new business. To register your business name, we need some additional information. If you return the attached form, with highlighted areas filled in, we will be able to send you your business registration certificate within two weeks. We wish you success in your new endeavor."
The contrast is night and day.
The good news is that once you start using positive language, it becomes habit. And you can be positive that your clients will appreciate it.
An Advisor's Guide to Helping Women Become Savvy Investors
Today, more women than ever are involved in managing their personal and household finances. In a recent study, nearly half of the women surveyed (44%) stated that they are solely responsible for their household financial decisions, compared to 35% of men1. But the study wasn’t all good news. While women may be taking the lead when it comes to their finances, they also reported that they are not confident in doing so. In fact, in every financial category included in the survey, men reported much greater confidence than women. Where was the biggest gap? You guessed it: investing.
For advisors, this presents a challenge and an opportunity. There is a 90% likelihood that a woman will be financially self-reliant at some point in her life due to divorce, becoming a widow, or choosing to marry later in life or not at all2. By taking steps to help your female clients become confident, savvy investors, you’ll not only be more effective at serving in the best interests of these women and their families, but you’ll also be able to build much stronger, more trusted relationships to help ensure each family’s assets remain in your care for decades to come.
Follow these five steps to help your female clients invest with greater confidence:
1. Urge every woman to put her financial needs first.
Women do have a weakness when it comes to planning for the future, but it has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge, skill, or smarts. Their primary weakness is a willingness to put others’ needs first. This is a huge mistake when it comes to planning for the future. Investing for retirement simply can’t wait until the kids are grown or aging parents no longer need care. In fact, based on average life expectancies, women should plan to accumulate enough funds to last at least 20 years after retirement. The following chart illustrates the power of compounding based on an 8% rate of return to help bring that point home:
This hypothetical example assumes an annual 8% rate of return and does not take into account income taxes or investment fees and expenses. This example is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific investment. An investor’s actual return is not likely to be consistent from year to year, and there is no guarantee that a specific rate of return will be achieved.
2. Educate women about the power of investing.
Security about any topic is rooted in confidence and knowledge. Educating your female clients about investment basics can help drive more confident decisions and more positive long-term outcomes. From the basics of compounding to the nuts and bolts of researching options and understanding the pros and cons of different asset classes, make it your job to help every client understand what she is buying—and why.
3. Dive into the details of asset allocation.
Asset allocation is by far the largest determinant of a portfolio’s success—even more important than the individual securities selected and timing of an investment. This is critical information for your client to understand as she pursues her financial goals.
4. Discuss how her investment strategy needs to evolve over time.
Part of every client’s financial education should be to understand how financial needs and goals change with each stage of life stage. Because a shorter investment time horizon creates greater vulnerability to market volatility, she needs to understand the impact of shifting a portion of her investment portfolio to more income-oriented investments as she moves closer to retirement. This Life Stages Guide can help you paint a clear picture of how allocation strategies need to evolve to fit her changing needs.
5. Be sure she’s covering all the financial bases.
Smart investing is vital, but missteps in other areas of financial planning can thwart even the best investment plan. Offer every client a basic planning checklist that includes these three important steps:
- Focus on the big picture. Organize your important financial papers and schedule an annual review of your investment strategy with your advisor. Regularly monitor your net worth—including your assets (all investments and savings) and liabilities (mortgage, credit cards, and other debts) to be sure you’re always moving toward your end goal of a secure retirement.
- Pay down any outstanding debt. Debt reduces your net worth, threatens your financial security today, and reduces your ability to invest for the future. Do whatever you can to minimize debt, and build an emergency fund to help pay for any unexpected expenses.
- Make estate planning a priority. Once a year, review your will and your beneficiary designations for every account to be sure they continue to reflect your wishes. If you have children under 18, work with your advisor or estate planner to establish a trust and select a trustee to ensure your assets are managed for the benefit of your children.
As a trusted advisor, make it your mission to provide your female clients with the education and guidance they need to become savvy investors and make the smart, educated financial decisions. By doing so, you can help every woman you work with not only enhance her financial security, but also gain the confidence to take greater control of every aspect of her financial life.
Click here to learn more about IndexIQ.
 Survey conducted by Regions Financial Corp. in partnership with Vanderbilt University, 2015.
 The Simple Dollar, “Guide to Financial Independence for Women,” 2014.
Disclosure: The information and opinions herein are for general information use only. The opinions reflect those of the writers but not necessarily those of New York Life Investment Management LLC (NYLIM). NYLIM does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness, nor does New York Life Investment Management LLC assume any liability for any loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. Such information and opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security or as personalized investment advice.
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