Brocker.Org: Taking wider view, financial advisors are helping clients with their non-financial skills

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One financial advisor offered to arrange, and join, a client’s bucket list trip to the Grand Canyon.

In some professions, such an offer to a client might seem bizarre. But as the investment advisory industry is becoming more client-centric than sales-oriented, financial advisors increasingly are working with clients in nontraditional ways and tapping nonfinancial skills to do it.

While reasons for the trend are varied — ranging from competition brought about by automated investment services to more holistic approaches to clients’ financial lives — it’s one that’s expected to continue unabated.

A recent study released by the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute, “Future State of the Investment Profession,” shows that so-called soft skills — typically things such as relationship-building and interpersonal communication — will be more important than technical skills in the coming years.

“The report shows it’s the human element that will differentiate professionals in the future,” said Robert Stammers, director of investor engagement for the CFA Institute’s Future of Finance team and one of the study’s authors.

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“Advisors will still have to be technically astute, but they’ll need the ability to really understand clients and be a real partner in fulfilling their objectives,” Stammers said.

As part of the study, more than 1,100 investment management pros were asked to rank the most important skills needed in five to 10 years. Relationship-building skills ranked higher (38 percent) than financial analysis skills (20 percent) for CEOs of asset managers. That ability to connect with people was bested only by “ability to articulate a compelling vision” for the business, at 49 percent.

For advisors who are ahead of the curve, the norm already has evolved into interacting with clients in ways that go far beyond explaining investment benchmarks and portfolio returns.

Anderson, for instance, has visited a client in the hospital and taken groceries to another who had fallen on hard times.

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