Tag Archives: adviser

5 Critical Traits for an Adviser

After decades of experience working with and getting to know thousands of people whose job it is to give advice around insurance, investments and real estate, I’ve observed a few traits that I personally believe are critical to long-term relevance. Frankly, I also believe they will make certain advisers immune to the threat of their job being eaten by technology.

There is quite a bit of concern over robo advice threatening these livelihoods. We must consider that the underlying reason is a trust problem with those who make their living giving advice while at the same time selling products for a commission. But the underlying cause of mistrust may actually be the absence of one or more of the following five characteristics of advisers that matter more in the trust equation:

1. They seek to help their community first, then benefit from it later.

There’s a not-so-subtle distinction between people who join a community group because they want to network for business purposes and people who join because they are interested in helping advance the mission of that group. While oftentimes both motivations can exist at the same time, the real test would be to ask those people if they would have either joined or stayed with that group even if their prospecting need were not there.

While those inside the business may not see the distinction, others can see it a mile away. Trust erodes when intentions are not clear.

See also: 3 Major Areas of Opportunity  

2. They see work and life as inextricably intertwined and are in love with both.

Advisers who will stay relevant, who are “nondisruptable,” are people who always seems to be there for what’s most important, whether the market is crashing, an individual lost his/her job or someone’s kid or grandkid is in a little league game. From the outside, it may look like those advisers are either always working or never working. And the answer would be: yes, they are.

3. They keep score based on outcome versus income.

While earnings and sales numbers are important for a successful practice, putting numbers on the board is not what makes nondisruptable advisers sleep well at night. Rather, they create metrics of their own, consciously or unconsciously, counting things like how many people they have advised, how many thank you letters they receive, how many people they’ve helped employ or even how many hugs they have ever received from their clients. Counting these means they never need to count sheep.

4. They are described similarly by families, friends, clients and communities.

Nondisruptable advisers show one face to everyone. While they may have many interests, they bring their best to every situation and see the role of adviser as a calling and not just a career. Anyone can give advice from his/her own point of view. However, it takes care, skill and emotional intelligence to deliver advice that’s in someone else’s best interests.

The question remains as to whether these traits can be taught. Sure, someone could write a book or perhaps create a coaching program around them, but I’m not sure either would help. I suspect that people are either raised in such a way that these traits develop or they experience something dramatic that shifts their perspective quickly and forever changes their attitude.

5. They leave a mark that lives past them.

While this trait certainly isn’t realized until the adviser passes away or can no longer do his/her job, that individual’s ability to make an impact is unmistakable and therefore nondisruptable. You just know it when you see it.

See also: Insurance Coverage Porn  

This article was inspired by and is dedicated to my long-time friend Jane Lopp from Kalispell, Montana. Jane and I met at Prudential, where she built an impressive practice with an outstanding team, a supportive family and a community that felt her presence in countless ways. Nothing stopped Jane, including being confined to a wheelchair due to a muscle disease. Jane’s life was taken after a car accident on April 21 of this year, and, as her husband, Bob, noted, she was full of life and at the peak of her career.

If you know someone like Jane who embodies these five traits, please give them a hug. They deserve it.

The Dangers of Public Segmentations

Recently, it seems that developing public segmentations of your customers or citizens and then sharing it for all to see is becoming fashionable.

In part, this is to be applauded and welcomed.,/p>

The trend highlights a key tool within the customer insight toolkit, encourages greater focus on understanding people and embraces the need for greater transparency. However, there is also an inherent risk, that readers fail to understand the purpose, design and limitations of such segmentations and thus unwittingly apply them where they will not help.

This reminds me of a time many years ago when psychometric segmentations were very popular in business circles. Myers Briggs (MBTI) and many other profiles were enthusiastically applied and team members categorized into their “type.” Sadly, all too often, this perception about some important differences between team members was filed away following the team-building exercise and never used again. Screening interview candidates via psychometric segments was also “flavor of the month” at one stage, although I hear it being much more rarely used now (or only as part of a mix of “facts” to be considered).

Perhaps part of the problem can be a misunderstanding of the role of segmentation. As posted previously, segmentation is just one of a number of statistical tools available, and each segmentation will be designed to achieve a particular purpose. For this reason, more than one segmentation of customers may be entirely appropriate and insightful for a business that is able to handle such complexity (though most business leaders dislike this idea).

But let’s return to reviewing some of those recently published public segmentations. The first one I want to consider is the Consumer Spotlight segmentation published by the FCA.

While this appears a useful segmentation to help the FCA understand and focus on more vulnerable segmentation with regard to financial understanding or access, it is also important to recognize its limitations. A 10-segment model will only ever be appropriate for understand macro attitudes and behaviors. My own experience of segmenting consumers within different product markets tells me that both attitudes and behaviors can vary widely once you drill down to specific needs or products. So, it’s important to realize that this segmentation has been designed to focus on dimensions like vulnerability, detriment and financial risk. Thus it is most relevant for the FCA itself, to help target communications.

A second example is a commercial business taking such a public approach to sharing a segmentation. It is the Centre for the Modern Family segmentation funded by Scottish Widows.

This is another interesting segmentation, as it seeks to highlight and track changing social attitudes, family structures and pressures on modern families of many different types. However, once again it is important to realize the limitations of this survey. It is an attitudinal segmentation, constructed from a combination of “qual and quant” survey results, interpreted by an expert panel drawn from academia, social care and commerce. As such, this is a subjective perspective evidenced by self-reported attitudes and behaviors. Although such an understanding can be very rich, the inability to overlay this segmentation onto customer databases means that actual behavior cannot be verified or targeted actions or communications executed (often a drawback of attitudinal segments).

My final example is from the UK government. There are two I could have chosen here, as they have also recently published a segmentation on “climate change and transport choices,” but I’ve chosen to highlight the segmentation exercise published in regard to the problem of digital exclusion.

Once again, it’s encouraging to see this segmentation exercise being undertaken and the transparency regarding approach and progress. However, it does also appear to run the risk of a number of other “hybrid segmentations.” That is the risk that certain differences highlighted in various research studies or other sources are “cherry picked” to construct a patchwork quilt of apparently rich understanding that is not evidenced on a consistent basis. This can be seen in the infographic embedded in the above article. Even constructing a behavioral/demographic framework for a segmentation on that basis and then consistently surveying each segment runs the risk of masking important differences because of the averaging effect of artificially constructed segments. It will be interesting to see how government advisers and agencies avoid those risks.

I hope you found that interesting and are also engaged with the level of focus on segmentation in today’s government and media. If these are approached carefully and interpreted appropriately, they should be another driver of greater influence and seniority for customer insight leaders. That is our cause celebre.