After working with private clients for 27 years, I’ve done many non-traditional things beyond offering them investment advice. I’ve gone for runs; attended funerals, bar mitzvahs, and concerts; and even referred one client to a top-flight pro-sports surgeon when he dislocated his shoulder.
This year, I mailed holiday cards to every client. It featured a photo of my husband and me with our gigantic Bernese Mountain dog, Grace, all wearing our Santa hats — well, Grace refused to wear hers. A few days later I received this note from one of my long-time clients:
Thank you for the wonderful card.
I feel I need to meet the one “member of the family” that I have never had the privilege of looking in the eye.
May 2023 be a super year for you & Duncan.
This was the first time I’ve had a client request a meeting with my dog! And of course, I set it up immediately. Grace and I had a great visit with this lovely couple, and we talked about topics that had absolutely nothing to do with their investment portfolio. Grace was thrilled that they offered her some rippled potato chips and lots of belly rubs. What a fun way to start the New Year!
Here are seven more surprising ways to bond with clients:
Maria Pia Leon, Director Client Services, Forbes Family Trust, Miami
“A couple of years ago, a long-time client asked me to help him with a very different task: putting up and restoring a 1960 Rolls Royce. It was the car he had used in his wedding, and over time, it had deteriorated. I have always loved classic cars, and I always had the crazy idea of working on a 1978 Porsche 911, so this request was not so much out of my realm.
“The project took us three years; then while he was visiting last summer, we finally went for a ride in the car. Just the look on his face showed me that those three years of reviewing catalogs, auctions, and color palettes were so worthwhile. This entrepreneur embraced his passion and helped a family tradition continue. As a trusted adviser, I see my role as helping to sustain the wealth for generations, and for me, this includes a car with meaning if it is part of a family story. I am pleased this car will be used for weddings and special occasions of future generations.”
Blair duQuesnay, CFA, Lead Advisor, Preserve, Ritholtz Wealth Management, New Orleans
“Last fall I was planning on travelling to Southern California for an event, so I decided to reach out to several clients in the area to arrange meetings. I had never met one of my newer clients in person: We started working together at the beginning of the pandemic, so we had only met virtually. She is a single retired woman who lives alone in Northern San Diego County, which is quite a long drive — 30 minutes or so — from where I was staying. I told her I would look for a local hotel and we could have dinner together. She said, ‘Why don’t you just stay with me?’
“Now maybe this might seem a bit weird, but I said ‘Sure,’ and we ended up having a very relaxed time getting to know each other. She gave me a tour of her beautiful property and garden, we went to a not-fancy local place for dinner, and later we watched Netflix on her couch together . . . just like friends. The next morning, I drove back to LA with pomegranates and passion fruit from her garden. My daughter really loved the passion fruit!”
Kathrine Madsen, Senior Investment Advisor HNWI/UHNWI, Private Banking Elite, Danske Bank, Copenhagen
“When I started out in this business 15 years ago at age 28, fresh out of Copenhagen Business School, I was very self-conscious and always wondering if I was good enough to do this job. Over the years, I have realized that you can memorize P/E ratios but that won’t make you trustworthy. Either you have a trusting relationship with your clients or you don’t. Trust has to come naturally. I like to give my clients a sense of who I am in real life, not just the corporate Kathrine.
“During the pandemic, one of my wealthiest clients and I deepened our bond: We both had a lot of time on our hands. On occasion she would send me LinkedIn profiles of men she deemed to be good potential for me to date. Then I shared with her that I had taken on a hugely challenging project of renovating my kitchen all by myself. She said ‘Oh how cool are you? Send me some pictures!’
“I have an integrated dishwasher, and it was a tough job getting it to fit properly. The plate had to perfectly match to the top drawer of my kitchen table. I was so excited that I aced it on the first attempt! I filmed a video of this successful situation and texted it to my client. At age 28, I would never ever have expected that I would do something this odd, texting a video of my dishwasher to a major client. It is interesting how these types of relationships start and how they evolve.”
Guillaume Drouin Garneau, CIM, Portfolio Manager, RBC Dominion Securities, Montreal
“In addition to being an investment adviser, I’m a passionate cyclist, in pursuit of adventure, pushing my physical and mental boundaries to new levels. I’m also the co-owner of Le Club Espresso Bar, an online retailer of premium cycling brands and a unique space offering an espresso bar and a boutique under the same roof. Our mission is simple: To gather and grow the cycling community, provide a selection of high-quality cycling brands, and to expand the third wave of coffee, a movement to produce high-quality coffee.
“A few of my clients are very interested in coffee, and one asked me to go to his home and give him an introductory crash course in how to make barista-level coffee. I showed him how to properly set up his new machine and all the tools and techniques for pouring. It was a great bonding experience, and I now offer my help to a few of my other clients who are passionate about coffee: This has become a parallel journey to my investment advisory practice.”
Coreen Sol, CFA, Senior Portfolio Manager, CIBC Wood Gundy, Vancouver
“As many advisers will attest, our clients’ values and hopes over the years naturally create an enriched relationship beyond the expected transactional duties of a fiduciary. As an example, I’m building a community project to celebrate a family architecture firm that has impacted the city and is part of the history and fabric of the region. Knowing them as clients all these years, I saw the incredible effect of their work and their role in building the Okanagan region. They have designed vital buildings in many of the region’s civic and social centres, significant commercial developments, residential projects, schools, and historic building restoration.
“I was inspired to recognize their work in a coffee table book filled with glossy pages of iconic photos, early renderings, and stories of the community for the benefit of the people who live there. Everyone on the project will be local experts — from the photographers to the publisher — and all the proceeds support local charities.”
Tricia Leadbeater, CFA, Portfolio Manager, Richardson Wealth, Calgary
“I’ve provided my clients with travel tips from local friends in unusual locations ranging from remote New Zealand to Barcelona; given referrals to art valuators and art restoration experts; and I’ve hosted guest speakers who are true explorers and adventurers to learn about the parts of the world that only a handful ever experience. I focus on building community: During our lockdown in the pandemic, I sent an insider’s city travel guide for Calgary to clients so we could uplift our perspectives and appreciate the opportunity to discover unusual and unexpected locations close to home, while we couldn’t travel abroad.
“This community building has benefited me personally. My home city, Calgary, suffered a big flood in 2013, and I was very fortunate to have had dozens of strangers and friends help me quickly triage my house situation. I was then able to help a client a few blocks away dig out her basement: an unusual opportunity to get to know her and her family better. We continue to be great friends to this day.”
Marguerita Cheng, CFP, Chief Executive Officer, Blue Ocean Global Wealth, Washington, DC
“My client is a professor, and he’s on his feet a lot: He was complaining to me about foot pain. I’m not a medical professional, but he asked me how I cope with foot pain because he knows I’m also on my feet a lot. I told him that shoes are really personal. I listed a few brands for him and mentioned that my daughter experienced his exact type of pain. From there I recommended a specific type of shoe and arch support for him, and I also told him that socks are really important. I sent him three different pairs of socks with a gift receipt and a note: He was welcome to exchange them. He sent me a message to say that not only does he thank his financial adviser for taking care of his family, but now he has happy feet. He told me that there’s no going back.
“The socks and other suggestions were a total game changer. I took the time to focus on the details, and this allowed me to connect on a deeper level. Socks may seem small, but clients know I’m listening and paying attention.”
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image courtesy of Barbara Stewart, CFA
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Barbara Stewart is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) with 30 years of investment industry experience; five years as a foreign currency trader, more than two decades as a portfolio manager for high net worth entrepreneurs, and during the past six years, as an interview-driven researcher for multiple global financial institutions. She is a keynote speaker for CFA societies, banks, stock exchanges, and industry conferences globally, and she is a columnist for CFA Institute and Canadian Money Saver. She is on the Advisory Board for Kensington Capital Partners and also is the Ambassador for the Kensington Women’s Forum. Thirteen years ago Stewart saw a need to challenge outdated financial industry stereotypes and share positive messages about women and money. Today, she is recognized worldwide as one of the leading researchers in women and finance. Rich Thinking® global research papers quote smart women and men of all ages, professions, and countries, and are released annually on International Women’s Day, 8 March. To find out more about her research, visit Barbara Stewart.