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Should your firm hire a life coach?

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What are your goals? Jesse Giordano, an advisor and one of the founders of
Opal Wealth Advisors, hates that question. He feels like it puts him on the spot — as if he must come up with the perfect answer.

Consequently, he doesn’t like asking clients either. When he does ask, they often respond with “just make me money.” But that paints just half the picture.

As client relationships grow deeper, he said that “what people are looking for is some kind of experience in life … But articulating those goals is often difficult.”

One of the first things Opal Wealth Advisors did after breaking away from Morgan Stanley and going independent in January was to hire a life coach. Bringing on Charles Clement was designed to boost the firm’s connections with clients and ultimately improve its holistic financial planning offerings.

Giordano had mulled putting a life coach or a therapist on staff for a few years, but he was unable to do so while employed by a wirehouse. Indeed, many advisors who make the jump from large firms to a regional or independent shop have cited an unwieldy bureaucracy as one reason for the move.

Giordano’s own experience with personal development showed him that having an expert in that field is a vital need to improve the client experience, grow the practice and improve the advisor-client relationship. Giordano has personally used coaches in the past. In fact, Clement was a mentor of his for a few years prior to their working together professionally.

“The difference that it’s made in my life, relationships that I’ve had, my overall effectiveness and just over all experience, I wanted to give the same things to clients,” Giordano says.

When Clement first meets with clients it usually starts out as a needs analysis. He says he looks to determine what clients want out of life beyond financial management. He wants to know what experiences that money can be put toward in order to give the client the most fulfilment.

“Financial planning is one of our major services, however we’re broadening that and having that be associated with what would fulfill them in life,” Clement says.

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Amassing wealth doesn’t always correspond with fulfillment in life, he notes. His goal is to leverage his 29 years of experience in training, development and transformational work to bridge that gap for clients and help advisors learn to do the same.

“For many years I was thinking about someday it would be great to have a psychologist or a therapist on staff because often when clients come to us there is usually some sort of event that they’re dealing with,” Giordano says. “Whether it’s that their spouse passed away or they’re going through a divorce or maybe they’ve been confronted with a disability or illness.”

Life can change very suddenly and that comes with the need to make important financial decisions, which can be clouded by emotion. Leveraging a professional that can handle the emotional side of the client relationship can then become a competitively differentiating factor in what a firm can offer.

This can help advisors learn more about their clients and thus have a greater impact on their lives — personally and financially. Indeed, in the short time that the firm has been utilizing Clement’s skills, they say clients have already responded positively to his input.

One of the firm’s clients who owns a business decided after meeting with Clement at Opal that he wants to adopt his techniques at his own company. Clement will begin working with this small business in February, putting in place a plan to help it break through into a larger business. Other clients have said they are open to similar partnerships.

“It seems like we’re on to something that is coming from what the client is requesting,” Clement says, “even though they may not have pinpointed [that need] yet.”

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