The Client or Customer is NOT Always Right

Virtus Wealth financial advisors > The Client or Customer is NOT Always Right

by | Sep 15, 2020

Sales people (even most all people in business) are trained to accept the idea that the client is always right. However, they are not. In my personal experience, the client is eventually wrong (at least once!). It is not always their fault as there is a lot of “noise” they hear from various media outlets, well-intended friends, and their own emotions.

I will give you two examples:

  1. A client has a six-figure holding in a stock her father had purchased over time. She has inherited this position and the cost basis has been stepped up, so there is no capital gains tax. Observing that it is one company, in one industry, in one country, and therefore has some risk. The recommendation is to diversify, if not all of the shares, at least some of the shares. The decision is not to sell any as “my father bought these.” Fast forward a few years and the six-figure value of the stock was now worth less than four figures.
  2. Another client sells a company in the fall of the year with taxes due the following April in the six-figure amount. His comment is to invest the tax money that is due. The observation is that it would be best to leave that money in a money market account as the tax is due in April and to earn more than a money market return would carry risk of principal loss. He demanded a higher return. The money was placed in an income producing investment with a higher return. Come January, the value slowly fell until the April payment was due.

Decisions like these are not necessarily easy for clients to make, especially when emotions and biases are involved. In my experience, the client or customer is not always right and it is a disservice to the client for a financial advisor to let them believe this myth. This is not retail and the matters a financial advisor helps a client with bear more significance and have more impact than those that a teenage salesclerk would help you with at a local department store.

It is important for you, as a client, to have a solid partnership built on trust and understanding with the financial advisor you work with. It is important that both the client and the financial advisor be honest and transparent about what decisions are made and why/how they came to those decisions. In such an environment, your financial advisor can help ensure that the information you’ve received (whether it be from the media, the internet, or word-of-mouth) is in fact accurate, and help educate you on common biases and emotions that often affect a client’s decision. Helping a client avoid a major financial mistake is of significant value.

In the advisory business, the Vanguard companies offered a research paper that suggested that “behavioral coaching” had a value of 1.50% per year for a client. More value than any other aspect of financial advice. I always keep in mind that it is always the client’s money. I am responsible to them, not for them.

The information provided here is for general information and educational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. Each person’s situation will be different, please speak to a financial advisor about your individual situation before taking any actions.

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