PHILADELPHIA - Clients turned the tables on advisors Wednesday afternoon -- giving advice to the attendees at NAPFA’s fall conference in Philadelphia, rather than receiving it.

“Be completely 100% upfront and honest at all times,” Jo Johnson, a digital media producer from New Jersey told attendees at a packed panel discussion on criteria women clients use to select -- or reject -- financial advisors.

“And have patience," she added. "This is really big stuff for people.”
Advisors should “hone ... their listening skills,” added the second panelist, a doctor from Tampa who asked not to be identified by name.

GRAD SCHOOL OPPORTUNITY?

Recalling her own years as a medical student, the doctor said advisors looking for new -- and younger -- clients should go to graduate schools and attract an underserved audience, offering to provide financial education to students who may not have much money while in school, but will later.

Both women admitted their own financial acumen was not terribly high before they met their financial advisors.

Johnson said she simply wasn’t that interested in financial details. She was looking for “someone to prompt me to think about things that are really important ... not someone trying to fund their Ferrari.”

The Tampa doctor said neither the advisors’ compensation nor investment performance were high on her list of priorities.

Getting the services she wanted and portfolio predictability were more important, she said. Indeed, once she saw what she was getting for her money, the advisors’ fees were “not a problem,” she said.

The doctor said she did understand what an advisors’ fiduciary duty was, but Johnson said she did not.

'FIT' MATTERS

Johnson said critical criteria for her were the kind of person the advisor was and whether or not the advisor would be “a good fit” with her and her husband. “I see the advisor as sort of like a marriage counselor, in that they’re the third person in the room,” she said.

Both women said they would be happy to refer their advisor to a friend for doing good work, but hesitated at sending a friend to a seminar or “happy hour” hosted by the advisor.

Neither woman said they would be interested an online-based financial advisory service, even if it cost less.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the doctor invoked a medical analogy. “I could go on the Internet and look up what was wrong with me,” she said, “but I would rather go to a doctor in person.”

Interestingly, however, both women said they had no hesitation about connecting with their advisors on social media.

Advisors were clearly paying close attention.

“It’s always good to hear what potential clients are looking for,” said Brian Carlton, a financial planner with HSC Wealth Advisors in Forest, Va. “And it was good to be reminded how important listening is, as opposed to talking about our agenda. We have to remember to focus on what is important for the client and what their needs really are.”

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