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The best question to ask clients — and yourself

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Jeff Motske has one of the strongest ways to tease out client priorities I’ve heard in quite a while.

“What if?” Motske asks clients.

“What if one if your partner needs critical care? What if you want to move to Arizona? What if one of your kids starts a family on the other side of the country?,” the CEO of Trilogy Financial asks.

It’s deceptively simple, but an excellent method for getting at the heart of clients’ values and fears.

“These are critical questions,” Motske told me during a recent visit to Financial Planning offices in New York. “You want to ask them before things happen.”

Advisors can, and should, turn Motske’s “What if?” approach on themselves. What if clients prefer low-cost digital investing tools over your higher-cost services? What if the younger generation becomes so accustomed to getting advice on their phones they eschew human planners?

To chart the path forward, technology editor Suleman Din embedded himself in the tech epicenter of Silicon Valley. “A generation of young, digitally savvy clients are wealthy right now in the Bay Area,” Din tells me. “How are planners there adapting real-time to serve those clients?”

What Din learned and explains in his feature, “Younger, faster, digital first: Cracking the new advice code,” can be implemented immediately. Diversify your firm in every way imaginable. Offer multiple specialized services. Learn to code.

“The time is now to change practices, open yourself to new clients and learn new skills,” Din says. “The market is evolving in ways that advisors can’t control. The only way to deal with uncertainty is to evolve, too. Everyone agrees that wealth management is driving toward a digital future. What will an advisor’s place be if they don’t seek to make one?”

The same is true for editors. What if we don’t adapt to our own digital future? I’m looking into that coding class.

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