How do you build trust?

I recently shared the most relevant findings for financial advisers in the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, in which we saw continuing challenges for the financial services industry in relation to trust. However we also saw that trust in the financial services industry is growing faster than any other sector, so the graph is definitely moving in the right direction!

I got a lot of feedback in relation to this article, thanks for all your likes and comments – much appreciated as ever. A few advisers have since asked me what they need to do in order to build trust. So here goes – my thoughts on a few ways that really help to build trust.


Be visible when the going gets tough

This is so relevant today, with the Covid-19 pandemic and investment markets crashing to the floor. Now is not the time to go to ground and hope that clients won’t ring about their falling investments. Instead now is the time to be calm, show your leadership qualities to clients and remind them that their financial plan will deliver the desired outcomes over time. Yes, acknowledge the discomfort caused by markets today, but remind clients that this will pass. Your visibility and reassurance will provide comfort to clients, and will help build their trust in you.

Communicate how you work with clients

One of the most important ways to build trust, particularly with potential clients, is by communicating really clearly how you will actually work with them. Many people only sort of know what a financial adviser does – something to do with pensions and life assurance? Let potential clients know the problems you solve and the outcomes you achieve for them. And then explain how you will work with them. You can give huge levels of comfort by walking the client through your advice process in detail, showing them what to expect and the value that you will add. This will help to remove any doubts in their mind.

Provide client testimonials

Continually seek out client testimonials, they are really important. In my book, you need to seek permission to use the client’s actual name (and logo if a company). Testimonials from “John H, Dublin” don’t really count – in fact someone might suspect they are made up! Genuine client testimonials are really powerful – who can advocate for you better than people who you’ve helped in the past, whose lives you have potentially changed?

Seek recommendations on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a really important platform for financial advisers; it’s where many prospective clients will check you out before picking up the phone to you. After all, when they Google your name, the chances are that your LinkedIn profile will appear high up the search results. Recommendations from clients on your LinkedIn profile are a very powerful endorsement of your services, so look for these at every opportunity. They are great trust builders.

Presence in mainstream press

Some advisers have built up great profiles by regularly appearing in “Opinion” columns in national newspapers and some even building positions as regular commentators on TV and radio. These are great for building trust, as they demonstrate your industry knowledge and authenticity as a voice worth listening too.

Your qualifications

Sounds simple? If I was a CFP, I’d tell everyone at every opportunity! Why not advertise the fact that you are part of a highly qualified cohort? Prospective clients will value the fact that you are investing in yourself and are willing to keep learning in order to stay at the frontier of providing the very best financial advice. It will also help you to achieve high levels of trust among clients.


There are of course many more ways of building trust; advertising any awards that you win, communicating your opinions with your clients via newsletters and being active on social media. Hopefully the ideas above will give you a few pointers as to how you can continue to build trust with your clients and prospective clients.


Will your advice business survive COVID-19?

Everybody is extremely concerned – about our own health, the health of our loved ones, for many people their jobs are gone and also the economy is on the brink of a major downturn. Financial advisers face the double whammy of having clients who are concerned of course about the virus, and who are also extremely nervous about the volatility and downturn in investment markets.

I’ve tried to stand back a little from the noise and look at how a financial advice business might navigate its way through the next few months.


Be grateful for what you have

OK, let’s start with the glass half full. First of all, I hope you and your family are still healthy. This is your number one priority and if you can maintain this, you’ll survive anything…

Many businesses lost all of their customers as a result of COVID-19. Overnight. However, you still have your clients. Yes, they may not demand your services as much as before in the next few months, and indeed may not require financial solutions to be implemented for the foreseeable future. But they will still be your clients when all of this is over and definitely will need significant help in their changed financial circumstances.

Very importantly too is the profile of your income. Many of you in recent years have moved from an over-reliance on upfront commission to a flatter income profile, comprised mainly of trail and renewal commissions. This will stand you in good stead in the coming months. Yes, your trail has taken a hit in the last few weeks, but this will recover in line with markets, whenever that will be.


In truth, financial advice firms are better placed than most SME businesses to withstand the current economic tornado.


Look after your clients

Many of your clients though will be at their wit’s end and will need you now more than ever. Some will be sick and very worried. Some unfortunately may die. Many have lost their jobs or their businesses. All have seen their investments nosedive. Are you ready for this? How will you deal with them and their families compassionately and efficiently, but at a distance? This is where you need to identify phone and web conferencing platforms (such as Zoom, Skype, WebEx) to use. Now is not the time to go to ground and just blame COVID-19.

Instead now is the time to communicate relentlessly with your clients. Ring them, email them, send them regular updates about the financial backdrop. Show them you have your finger on the pulse and that you are in their corner. Get on the front foot and stay there.

Your advice, reassurance and interest in their affairs will be remembered long after all of this is over. Oh, and of course stop them from blowing up their plans by making rash, ill-thought out decisions.


Look after your business

Look after no 1, lots of people need you to stay healthy. Your family, your staff and your clients can ill-afford you to get sick. So, take no chances.

Then of course, you need to look after your staff and help them to stay healthy. Most are now working remotely, so make this as easy as possible for them. Be flexible, understand the pressures they may be under at home and trust them. For someone who is used to seeing their staff before their eyes every day, it’s a big change to suddenly have them working away from you. However, you have a common goal – the survival of your business.

Get advice on technology solutions. Talk to your IT supplier and talk to other advisers. You are a fantastic community for sharing ideas and best practices. If technology is not your forte, talk to someone who is strong in this area. Everyone will try to help everyone in getting through this. Communicate regularly with your staff. Agree a regular call – this might be every day or every second day and use web conferencing for team meetings. Keep the team together, just at a distance – your staff still need your direction. Make sure you can work effectively yourself away from the office. If you have an office at home – great. If not, carve out a space other than the kitchen table as you need to be able to work effectively for the next few months.


The key is to stay in touch with people and to stay visible. Your family, staff and clients need to know that you are at the top of your game now, more so than ever.


We’re in the same boat here at StepChange. We are going to get through this. If I can help you in any way or indeed if you just want to bounce ideas or challenges off someone, I’ll be delighted to help.


Stay healthy


Do people trust you?

“OF COURSE THEY DO!” I hear you shout indignantly! Because trust sits at the heart of a financial adviser’s business. It’s that critical ingredient that you can’t survive without, but unfortunately you can’t just go out and buy it, or even simply ask for it. It can only be earned by what you do, and by what other people say about you.


Trust in business is low…

Every year, I review the very insightful Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual, highly credible review of trust that has been carried out for 20 years now and across 28 different countries. They announce the results each year at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The full results for Ireland in 2020 are available here and are well worth a look. Edelman look at trust in each of the countries (one being Ireland) and examine trust across different sectors and industries.


In the chart below, we can see that trust in business in Ireland is low. While seen as somewhat competent, businesses score poorly in terms of ethical behaviour and we lag our international counterparts in this regard.










What’s the situation in relation to Financial Services?

As can be seen from the graph below, Financial Services is the least trusted industry sector of all. A fact we simply cannot ignore.










This is a critically important finding for all financial advisers to consider. While the poor level of trust applies to the sector as a whole and not specifically financial advisers, it underlines the challenge faced by all industry participants in building trust with potential clients. People you meet for the first time will often be starting out with a sense of distrust and scepticism. This cannot be ignored by you and your first task is to start building trust…

However every cloud has a silver lining. While financial services is the least trusted sector and is coming from an extremely low base after the economic crash, the sector is moving towards the other sectors. A lot done, a lot more to do…










Another chart that is of interest is the level of trust across different business types. This is great news for many financial advice firms out there!











“But my clients do trust me” I hear you say!

And I’ve no doubt that your clients do trust you… or else they wouldn’t stay with you. However the challenge is about appealing to all those people out there who are sceptical of the financial services industry, and potentially of financial advisers. How do you appeal to them?

It all starts with having a clear and compelling client value proposition, which is a clear, concise and compelling articulation of how the factors that are important to the customer are satisfied by you.


The What, How and Why of your business

To start to build a positive picture, leading to confidence in your ability in the eyes of prospective clients and ultimately to building trust, it’s worth considering the lessons of Simon Sinek, the famous author of “Start with Why”. Yes you need to be able to clearly define initially what it is that you do, so that clients can see the outcomes that they can expect. You then need to be able to communicate this effectively to clients. However it is difficult as a financial adviser to stand apart from the crowd in terms of what you do, as many of you deliver similar services.

However when you can set out in an engaging way how you work with clients, now you’re starting to get somewhere! When you are able to demonstrate the processes that you use, how you deliver advice, how you will serve your clients throughout their financial lifetimes; you are now in a strong position to start building durable trusted relationships. Potential clients will take a lot of comfort from understanding what they can expect from you, and this comfort in working with you will enhance their trust.

The real magic though in building trust is when you can clearly (and of course credibly!) communicate why you do what you do.  This will demonstrate your real reasons for being a financial adviser, your passion for what you do and ultimately your desires to deliver a really top quality proposition to your clients. And when you can communicate this effectively, this will build trust like nothing else.


In a future article, we will look in more detail at some of the actions you can take to help you build a trusted position in the eyes of all of your current and potential clients.

What are your goals for this year?

2020 is well underway and everyone is hard at work to make this year your best year yet. Some advisers take a very structured approach to business planning, others prefer a bit more of a “seat of the pants” approach! The latter group give a bit of thought to the upcoming year, but sometimes find it difficult to capture meaningful goals.

So here goes with a few thoughts that will hopefully make the task a bit easier. We’ll take a look at constructing goals and also what areas of the business you might want to set goals for.

SMART Goals are effective goals

The first point to consider is what an effective goal looks like. Effective goals will help to drive effective behaviours, giving a better chance of better results. I don’t think that you can go far wrong if you check that each of the goals you set display SMART characteristics. SMART goals are ones that are:

  • Specific – The goal must be clear and not ambiguous at all – it must be clearly understood what is expected to be achieved.
  • Measurable – The goal must be capable of being measured so that you can clearly see the progress you are making in achieving the goal.
  • Attainable – The goal must be realistic and fair. If it is completely unachievable, no-one will be motivated to achieve the goal.
  • Relevant – The goal must make sense in terms of the “bigger picture”. There needs to be a clear purpose and reason behind the goal.
  • Time-bound – There should be a specific time period (often the calendar year) in which the goal should be achieved. It can’t just be left open-ended.

So now you know how to set good goals, what are the areas within your business to measure? When you think about it, there are lots of them!

Financial Measures

There is a range of measures that can be used to monitor the financial health of your business. Some of the key ones include:

  • Overall income: Yes turnover can be just a vanity figure, if your costs are exceptionally high. However your turnover gives a sense of whether your business is capable of getting customer traction in your chosen markets.
  • Profit after business expenses and remuneration: This figure is far more informative of your business health, as it takes account of your remuneration and all of the costs associated with running your business.
  • % of income coming from trail / fee/  recurring income: The traditional method of valuing a Financial Broker is as a multiple of recurring income. This metric gives a clear sense of the value of your business.

However beyond the financial metrics, there are many other metrics that you can use. Here is a sample of some of them.

Client metrics

There is a range of metrics that can be used to measure the success of your client activities and also the success of individual advisers within the business. These include:

  • Number of clients: this can be measured at an overall level and also within segments of your target client groups.
  • Average revenue per client: This will give you a sense of whether you are building greater value into your propositions and whether you are reaching your ideal clients. Again this may be carried out at a segment level.
  • Average recurring revenue per client: This will give you a good sense of the future health of your business.
  • Average trail percentage: This will give you an indication of whether your ongoing service packages are delivering value to your clients, and whether they are willing to pay for this value.
  • Number of new clients: Always a useful measure of whether you are growing as a business or not.
  • Activity: This may be the number of new clients secured, first meetings secured, financial plans completed or indeed review meetings completed. It is always useful to get a good sense of the activity levels of each of your sales team.
  • Client satisfaction: This will give you a sense of your likelihood to hang onto your clients into the future. Again this can be carried out at a segment level. The Net Promoter Score is a very simple but useful measure of client satisfaction.
  • Risk register: Are there problem cases that need to be monitored? If so, a firm oversight needs to be maintained, both in relation to the number of cases and progress of these cases towards a solution.


Marketing Metrics

Most marketing activities can actually be measured! Here are a few of the key ones that will help inform your marketing activities:

  • Contact data quality: This might be as simple initially as tracking the number of client email addresses you have secured. Email offers you a no cost method of getting marketing messages out to your clients.
  • Numbers and source of leads: Tracking the numbers and source of new lead is one of the best inputs into decision making around future marketing activities. If it worked before, it might be worth repeating!
  • Website analytics: Google Analytics will give you a wealth of data in relation to your online marketing activities and can tell you the likes of;
    • The number of people finding your website
    • Where website visitors came from – Search terms, social media, directly accessing your website.
    • The content that attracts people to your site…. and also drives them away.
  • Social media interactions: Likes, comments, Retweets! These terms are “Double Dutch” to some people, highly valued endorsements of your content to others!

So there are many potential areas to measure. It’s a case of identifying the most relevant ones for your business, setting SMART goals around them and then getting stuck in and achieving those goals…