If you're an advisor trying to market yourself to the average affluent prospect, you are almost certainly wasting your time. That's because you're aiming for a demographic that doesn't truly exist - there is no typical affluent investor.
There's hope, though. You need to understand that affluent investors fall into varied groups, each with its own characteristics, wants and needs. The advisors who are most successful in finding, attracting and keeping affluent clients are those who get to know all these different types and then build their service around specific subgroups.
Nine kinds of affluent investors
Research by authors Russ Alan Prince and Brett Van Bortel tells us that there are nine unique high-net-worth personalities you'll find among the affluent:
* Family stewards: Their chief financial and investment concern is taking good care of their loved ones. Their goals usually center on issues like paying for children's tuition or passing on wealth to heirs. Family stewards want financial advisors who make them feel that their goal of caring for family is achievable.
* Independents: These affluent investors want the freedom financial security ensures - freedom to do what they want, when they want to do it. They want to work with advisors who can give advice that will allow them to attain - and maintain - financial freedom and flexibility.
* Investment phobics: They don't like investing, don't understand it and don't want to learn. They prefer to delegate investment duties to an advisor they trust and who demonstrates reliability and dedication.
* Anonymous: These extremely private investors don't want to disclose their financial information to anyone - including advisors. Although they can be tough to build relationships with, they tend to be extremely loyal to advisors they trust.
* Moguls: They seek power, influence and control, and tend to view investing as yet another arena where they can show their importance. Working effectively with moguls can be tricky: Advisors need to acknowledge their power, yet also be powerful themselves.
* VIPs: They value prestige, and usually want their investments to help them buy possessions and respect. VIPs prefer to work with firms that are prestigious and well known in the community among their peers. Your status and reputation as an advisor must be of the highest quality if you want to attract VIPs.
* Accumulators: They save more than they spend, live below their means and avoid outward signs of affluence. They may have millions of dollars, but wear clothes from discount stores. Their goal is capital appreciation. The more money they have, the better and more comfortable they feel.
* Gamblers: Investing is all about the excitement and drama - and, of course, performance results. They are more likely to believe that they can consistently beat the market, and will gravitate toward advisors who will aggressively try to do so.
* Innovators: They like new investment products, strategies, services and trading methods. To get their business, you need to show how technically savvy and up to speed you are in your knowledge and approach to investing.
By knowing these nine personality types, you'll also have a better sense of which types of affluent investors you want to focus on - the ones who you would most enjoy working with and to whom you can bring the most value. By building your business around the right investors for you, you'll put yourself in a better position to succeed than you would by trying to be all things to all people. And you'll be happier going to your office every day.
The two most common personalities
Taken together, family stewards and independents probably make up about half of the affluent investor market. It makes sense to dig a bit deeper into each of these personality types, as there's a good chance that the affluent investors you pursue will fall into one of these two categories.
Not surprisingly, members of both groups are very interested in ensuring that their heirs are taken care of. Achieving this goal speaks to family stewards' desire to help their families be successful, and to the independents' desire for the freedom and sense of security they require to pursue their dreams.
That said, family stewards are much more likely to want to play a role in ensuring the financial security of their entire families - from monitoring the needs of aging parents to paying for the college expenses of their grandkids. Family stewards therefore are especially likely to be more interested in ways they can protect their estates and pass along their wealth in tax-advantaged ways than many other types of investors, including independents.
Independents, meanwhile, seem more concerned than other affluent investors about having enough money in retirement and having adequate amounts of health insurance. Without these elements in place, their coveted freedom and flexibility could be compromised. Family stewards have these concerns as well, of course, but not to the extent of independents.
There is no need to focus on these two particular personality types, of course. The choice of whom you want to work with is yours, and it should be informed by what your specific areas of strength are and whom you enjoy working with. If you don't like dealing with brash, power-hungry types, for example, you may want to steer clear of moguls and VIPs.
Know your clients and prospects
How do you identify what type of investor you're dealing with when you meet with a prospect? At our firm, we recommend a methodology that involves asking an affluent prospect four questions:
* What would you like your investments to achieve? This question will reveal two personality types: The family stewards (who will answer this question with full explanations of everything they want to do for their families financially), and the independents (who will tell you all about their desire to pursue specific dreams they have).
* When you think about your money, what concerns, needs or feelings come to mind? This question will help you identify three personality types. The first are the accumulators, who have more financial knowledge than most other types and want additional assets. The second are the moguls, whose responses will be all about having more money in order to have a greater feeling of control. The third are the VIPs, who will answer this question in terms of how money is important for what it can buy and the status it can convey to others.
* How involved do you like to be in the investing process? This question will reveal the phobics (their answers will be all about the fear and burden they feel around investing), the gamblers (who will talk about the excitement and emotional kick of investing), and the innovators (whose answers will reveal technical sophistication and a desire to be on the cutting edge of investing trends).
* How important to you is the confidentiality of your financial affairs? This question will pinpoint just one personality, the anonymous. While confidentiality is important to all groups, the anonymous are fanatical about it. Their answers to this question will indicate their intense focus on being assured that their advisors will protect the integrity of their information.
Recognizing each prospect's high-net-worth personality allows you to accomplish two important business-building goals: You can determine if the person sitting across from you would make an ideal client (or if you would be better off directing the investor to another advisor who is better suited to serve that particular personality). And by knowing the issues of the types of affluent investors you do want to work with, you can provide them with the level of service that will make them loyal and make them want to refer new affluent clients to you.
John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide of San Martin, Calif., a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors.