Identifying and adapting to clients’ preferred service style could be the key to retaining clients – and attracting new ones – research has found.

Speaking on a panel at the Financial Services Council Leaders Summit in Sydney this week, academic Carolin Plewa, from the University of Adelaide, said there’s a strong correlation between perceived value from clients and the adviser’s ability to tailor an offering to their specific needs.

Her research identified five client styles:

  • Delegates, who want limited input themselves
  • Mentors, who give their advisers guidance, but essentially let them take the reins
  • Coaches, who work like fitness coaches in motivating their advisers to achieve their goals
  • Partners, who take on a dual relationship in managing their finances with their adviser
  • Validators, who are self-reliant, but seek out advisers for specific concerns.

Figuring out which style clients are – and communicating to them in those terms – has been linked to better outcomes, she said.

Deborah Kent, founder of Integra Financial Services, who joined Plewa on the panel, said she can tell what a client wants as soon as they walk in the door, based on non-verbal cues.

“A good adviser has really good skills around reading people,” she said. “I can read somebody when they walk in the door. I know if they walk in with a clipboard they’re going to be a really detailed person and they’re going to ask me everything.”

Barriers for non-clients

For those who have never sought financial advice, one of the key barriers panelists identified was not knowing what a financial planner does.

A poll conducted on the day showed more than 50 per cent of the audience said that was the key barrier, which matched Plewa’s findings.

“We found that non-clients had higher perceptions in terms of monetary cost and potentially some challenges in terms of trust,” Plewa said. “But what we found much more instrumental was the challenge of them not seeing the benefits that they would derive from [visiting] a financial planner.”

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