Updated Thursday, July 31, 2014 as of 11:42 PM ET
Practice - Client
Does Your Office Send the Right Message?
Thursday, July 3, 2014
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Partner Insights

Clients get the best and worst news in advisors’ conference rooms. So, it makes sense to choose the surroundings wisely. There is much a financial planner can do to make sure the right signals are sent to clients as they look around the conference room.

Karen Keatley of Keatley Wealth Management in Charlotte, N.C., designed the interiors of her firm’s conference room and picked each item for those quarters with a solid notion of what impression, mood and attitude it would convey to clients.

On her conference room walls, Keatley, whose firm has $55 million in assets under management, prominently hangs two graphs. One is a historic record of how stock markets indexes have performed over the years, and the other is a pie-chart illustration of the relative size of capital markets worldwide. “We use both a lot for discussion purposes with clients,” Keatley says.

The historic chart of indexes helps clients stay focused on the long term. With stock markets having registered a compound average annual rate of return of almost 10% since 1926, the chart puts short-term economic problems in perspective, Keatley says.

The world markets chart also calms clients at key moments. It helps clients keep perspective when there is news of a government default on debt in a country like Greece.

Also on Keatley’s conference room walls are her framed degrees, including a CFP certificate and a master’s degree from Duke University. Both represent information about Keatley that she wants clients to remember, whether she is delivering good or bad news.

For conference room furniture, Keatley has taken a nonthreatening approach—specifically, she picked a round table like King Arthur’s. Since no designated spot exists for a leader at the cherry-wood table, everyone who sits in its six surrounding beige upholstered chairs shares an equal sense of significance.

For her conference room outer walls, Keatley chose frosted glass. Why? “It creates a sense of privacy but still maintains openness,” she says.
She keeps the requisite plants in the room too.

But when it comes to electronics and telecommunications equipment, Keatley stays exclusively purposeful. She has hung a big screen television, which she uses for interactive presentations for clients. But she has never put a telephone phone in the conference room. Clients know when they sit there that they have her full attention, she says.

Miriam Rozen, a Financial Planning contributing writer, is a staff reporter at Texas Lawyer in Dallas.

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(1) Comment
Good article, would have liked to see some pictures of the office.
Posted by curtis c | Friday, July 11 2014 at 10:59AM ET
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