We’re often required to be involved with making group decisions. This might be as a trustee of a charity, a school governor, on a sport club committee, or perhaps as a director of a business.
Sometimes these groups are effective and lead to productive discussions; everyone having their views heard; accountability of the members; and action.
Others are less productive. A few people dominating the conversation; opinions overriding facts; members not reading their paperwork before meetings; and inactivity.
There tends to be one major difference between these two outcomes: the Chair.
An effective Chair will allow debates to continue for as long as necessary, and no more. They will ensure that one or two people do not dominate the discussions. They will seek evidence to validate opinions. And they should make sure the meeting lasts only as long as it needs to.
This is only possible if the role of the Chair actually exists in the group and is given a clear mandate to act in the way that an effective Chair needs to. A sport club where the first team captain dominates the decisions may well have a strong first team, but they may not have a harmonious club.
Be your clients’ Chair
According to a recent study by Aegon, 81% of the clients surveyed said that they wanted their adviser to discuss their life objectives with them.
At the same time, only 31% of advisers surveyed said that they thought clients would want this.
The role of the financial adviser has developed over the last few decades. It has moved from financial advice (V1), to financial planning (V1 + cash flow = V2) and now to financial wellbeing (V2 + happiness theory = V3).
Rather than just being a member of the clients ‘committee’, providing information about their money, the adviser is now much more akin to being the Chair. Directing the conversation, challenging decisions, and helping to set the strategy for the client lives.
How well this role is executed depends on two things. Firstly, the skills and training of the adviser. There is still no formal requirement for a financial adviser to study the research into what makes people happy or learn the skills to how to help them find it. This means that advisers must undertake their own research and training.
Secondly, you need a mandate. A Chair can only be effective if everybody recognises the Chair and respects its role. This needs to be established at the outset.
Establishing your role
The most common question I get asked about financial wellbeing is how an adviser can first raise the subject with a client when they have previously only ever talked about their money. How do you go from provider of advice to Chair of the process?
The answer lies in preparing the client. This could be through marketing, such as adding articles on wellbeing to your newsletter.
It could even be something as simple as adding a line to your confirmation email. Rather than just saying “We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday at 10”, why not add: “During the meeting I’d like to spend some time understanding your plans for the future, and where you find wellbeing in your life.”
In this way you can establish a new dialogue with clients, and more easily step into the Chair role that they may well be looking to you for.