Historically, we have seen advisors selecting their ideal clients based on easily observed quantitative and qualitative factors. These often include (i) meeting a minimum of assets under management, (ii), shared values, (iii) preparedness to delegate, and (iv) being able to meet a specialist service need (estate planning, family business, business exit, etc.).
However, based on our work using Financial DNA over nearly 20 years, we have affirmed that there are deeper issues that need to be identified before taking on a new client – or retaining them once you see the pattern.
DNA Behavior International recently polled our advisor user base on their “worst client”. We got resounding feedback that most advisors worst client was “an engineer”. In my more than 30 years of serving clients, working with engineers was a challenge for me interpersonally because many of them constantly wanted to benchmark and finetune the portfolio. So, clients who are not relationally compatible with the advisor and therefore are hard to communicate with would not be suitable.
But in my experience, engineers aren’t the worst clients. The worst clients were hiding in plain sight during client onboarding but slowly required much more time and risk to manage throughout their financial journey because they are financially destructive.
In our 18 years of client discovery experience, we have found a trend of financially destructive clients. The most destructive clients tend to be the ones that require the most behavioral management and are not associated with a particular occupation. For instance, the couple that brings in $300k + per year and spends it all, the mother that cannot say “no” and the couple that constantly switches plans or presents with ideas for deals from dinner parties.
So, how can you identify these Molotov Cocktail Clients and avoid them? Look for these Molotov Cocktail Client traits:
- Have low Financial Behavior Compatibility because they are more prone to making destructive financial decisions that get in the way of wealth accumulation, and
- Are a low Relational Style because they are interpersonally harder to manage; thus, there is a greater chance trust will be lost and advisory risk will increase.
Discovering the Clients Financial Personality
The next evolution in discovering whether a client is ideal and how to behaviorally manage them is to get more insight into their decision-making and relationship behavior. Some clients will do a “behavioral flip” when who they naturally are at the core (Financial DNA Natural Behavior style) intensifies under pressure and in emotional situations – often caused by market and life events.
Related: Becoming a Behaviorally Smart Advisor
They go from seeming to be a congenial and desirable client to being too hot to handle. Is your firm prepared to manage clients who are not behaviorally ideal, even if they simply meet the four main criteria specified above?
We have adopted the belief that it is the client’s complete financial personality (their “Financial DNA”) which is a significant driver of wealth creation. Understanding a client’s risk profile is only one dimension that needs to be understood.
In particular, we believe that having a high ratio of spending to disposable income is the biggest destroyer of wealth. If a client spends all of their income then, unless there is a windfall event (bonus, inheritance, business sale), there is nothing left to invest. Also, of the clients who are spenders, many will invariably have high debt which puts their wealth creation further at risk.
Clearly, being a high risk taker can jeopardize wealth creation if poor decisions are made. Nevertheless, in order to create wealth, risks do need to be taken. So, in terms of a client’s Financial Behavior Capability, having a high risk tolerance is important. Clients also need to have a higher level of goal drive to build wealth. They need to be motivated to work harder and push themselves over a long period of time.
Financial Behavior Capability Research
DNA Behavior conducted a recent research study across 65,000 randomly selected participants who had completed the Financial DNA Discovery Process to determine which clients would be ideal from a behavioral management perspective. We identified the following statistics about a person’s Financial Behavior Capability when you combine the propensities for saving (or spending), goal drive and risk-taking:
Interestingly what we found is that only 3% of clients would be ideal from a behavioral management perspective when you combine a high Financial Behavior Capability and have a relationship style. All of the remaining 97% could be Molotov Cocktail clients who are prone to making financial decisions which would counteract accumulating wealth for meeting their goals and/or would be difficult (or not enjoyable) to inter-personally manage.
The behaviorally ideal clients (3% of the population) exhibit the following characteristics:
- High Financial Behavior Capability based on the 11% of the population having the propensity to: (i) save money (low spender), (ii) emotionally manage losses (high risk tolerance) and (iii) build wealth (high goal motivation).
- High Relational Style based on the 11% of the population with high financial capability as defined above, only 27% of that population (roughly 3% of total population) will have a desire to congenially work with the advisor to build a long-term relationship and not simply for performance management. Put another way, more than two thirds of the population with a high Financial Behavior Capability will be more relationally difficult to work with because of their strong results focus and demanding nature.
Will you be the advisor – or organization that employs many advisors – that takes on any client and advises them without any insight into their financial personality? Or will you leverage data to maximize advisor-client fit, tailor advice and client communication, and ensure retention, satisfaction and success on both sides of the advisory relationship?