February 28, 2022

Building lasting client relationships in Financial Advice with Emily Blanch – Transcript

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Gwen Lazarito
Hey, guys, welcome to another episode of the financial planners Southeast Asia podcast. And I’m Glen, and here today I am when I say this all the time, but I just feel like they’re all special guests. So I have here another special guest. Only because she is a force to be reckoned with. This is Emily Blanch, and she is the Head of Community and XY advisor. So hi, I am Welcome to the show.

Emily Blanch
Gwen. Thank you. So great to be here. I’ve been watching from the sidelines, listening to your episodes, and now that I actually get to come on and be a guest and have a chat is all the better. So yeah, super pumped to be chatting with you.

Gwen Lazarito
All right, wonderful. So yeah, I’m very happy that you’re here. Because I would like to talk about something that you’re you’re doing really, really well. But before that, I’ll just prolong the suspense. And like have a chance for the listeners to get to know you more. So I’d like to ask you like, how did you get into financial advice?

Emily Blanch
Oh, always a good question. And very unconventional. So most people who fall into financial advice typically, like it’s not generally calculated, like it’s normally an accident, or there’s some incident that happens when they’re younger. Or they cross paths with someone like there’s always this unnatural, sorry, unconventional entrance into financial planning, and I am one of those people as well. So I did a business degree in uni straight out of high school. I majored in finance and economics. And even towards the end of my degree, I still wasn’t really sure where I was going to take it. It’s such a broad, broad landscape, you could take it any which way. And I really didn’t know exactly where I wanted to take take my career path at the time. And at the same time, I landed a job by accident with a financial planning firm in my hometown. So that was really my introduction to financial advice. So I started, you know, grassroots at the bottom, doing client service officer. So I was, you know, assisting the advisor and the power planners and all the back office activities, I would occasionally take phone calls and deal with the clients every now and again, and really just learn the ropes in the financial planning process. I then moved up to become a power planner. And I was probably on a trajectory towards becoming an advisor, at least I’m sure my boss was was hoping for that at the time. But I just had this huge pull and desire to go traveling and experience the world. Because I had gone straight into uni from high school. So I never had a gap year, which is something that a lot of Australians at least typically do in between union high school just to see what’s out there and experience the world a little bit. And I never had that opportunity. And for ages, it was just swirling around in my head that I didn’t want to wake up in five or 10 years time, wishing I had have done it. So I handed my resignation in and gave my work plenty of notice. And mind you I loved what I did. I loved the work. I loved the people that I worked with. It was really great environment. But I just knew that if I didn’t take that leap, and go and travel and experience the world, I would regret it later on. So I saved up a bunch of money. I booked a one way ticket and I ventured off to South America. And that’s where my troubles started. So I was overseas for a little over two or sorry, not quite two years. And in that time, I went to 15 different countries. I traveled all through South and Central America. I spent almost a year in Canada, traveled around the West Coast of the United States. It was honestly it’s all the cliches right? It’s it’s life changing. It opens your eyes. It’s it literally was all of those things. So When I got back to Australia, I had a bit of a quarterlife crisis at the age of 25, or 26. And wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to create something, start my own business help make some kind of an impact. I just really didn’t know what that looked like. And so I stepped back into hospitality and tourism, because I was obviously obsessed with travel and tourism at the time. And that was a great experience. But I knew that that wasn’t going to be forever. And I just wasn’t sure where I needed to land. And as fate would have it, or as the universe works in mysterious ways, I connected with somebody through a blog, funnily enough, and that led to a conversation with lead, which led to another conversation. And before I knew it, I was diving into or exploring all the things that xy advisor was. So that person I connected with is the now CEO, Clayton Daniel. And when that happened, I was opened up to this world of financial advice that I didn’t even know existed. And when I say that it was what I mean by that is, there was a group, a community of finance professionals, sharing their ideas, collaborating, asking questions, sharing the templates and their resources. And having only had a small window of opportunity to experience what it was like to provide financial advice, the practice that I came from, as like most practices, I’m sure back then didn’t have that kind of connection or collaboration with anyone else, it was just them in their business. So being exposed to what xy was doing, just totally opened, opened up my eyes. And so by the time I connected with Clayton, I had worked in a bunch of different industries, I had run a restaurant by that point, I’d worked in financial advice, other offices, tourism, so I had spent a lot of time in different industries. And during that period, I realized that community building and relationships and human connection is hands down my purpose in life, like that is what I was put on this planet to do. And so coming back into financial advice and financial planning, but in a way that really aligns with my values. And my purpose was a beautiful fit. And so, five years down the track, almost five years down the track. I’m still with XY, doing what I love, and it’s grown and evolved in a way that I don’t think I could have ever anticipated. And it’s truly, truly amazing to be a part of so very unconventional, but I think it all needed to happen in that way. For a reason.

Gwen Lazarito
Yeah. So you came full circle. But within that journey, you’re able to get a lot of an understand yourself, right, and the thing that you wanted to do in corporate in financial advice. So because you were able to get into like tourism and hospitality and all that. And you’re able to translate how you do it, and how you do a good job in making people feel at home and connecting with them to financial advice, like, and I see this in a lot of financial advisors, especially who are starting out that they’re not really sure how to do it, they want to promote or build this really strong connection with their their clients, but they they’re not quite sure how to. So how do you think financial advisors can do that? Because obviously, not everyone has the experience that you’ve got. And because you do this very well, like, what are the things that financial advisors need to understand in order to start building that type of connection?

Emily Blanch
Yeah, really good question. So I Yes, granted, not everyone’s had the opportunity to be exposed to lots of different industries. And for me, personally, I know that I have a really high natural quality of having empathy, and being able to put myself in the shoes of other people and really think about how they’re experiencing something. So that would be a really good avenue to start exploring is emotional intelligence. There’s a bunch of people doing some really, really cool stuff in this area around the science of it. Daniel Goleman is a guy who is really like a pioneer in sharing Information and science around emotional intelligence. So for anyone listening, who is wanting to work on their skills and build their skills to create greater connections with their clients, and to really build long lasting relationships, I would highly recommend exploring emotional intelligence. So there’s four pillars, in particular around emotional intelligence that I know Daniel Goleman shares, and those are around having self awareness for yourself, and self management, and then social awareness, and then relationship management. So what those really refer to is, knowing yourself and your emotions and the way you connect and process things. But then also having an awareness of other people and how they might be feeling. And then understanding how you can be aware of that, and then tailor the way that you communicate with them to meet them where they’re at, if that makes sense. So being able to be mindful of and show empathy is, will go so far in in being able to build really strong relationships. Now, that’s all well and good to share that. But what does that actually look like in practice, right? So the best way to explain it, I find is through experiences, and stories. So it’s funny that you’re like, this is such a great topic to be talking about today. And it’s really good timing, because I just this morning posted something on my LinkedIn, which is something I’ve been reflecting on lately, around building relationships, and what does it take to build strong professional relationships rather than just a network.

And so a brief story that I shared in that post, which I can elaborate on here is one of the best experiences I had was running a restaurant that gave me such an amazing insight into understanding people dealing with customers emotions, and how to work with that and build relationships and connections with them. So there was a couple that used to come into this restaurant regularly, almost once a week. And I would always look after them. And they would come in. And they would always order the same thing in terms of drinks. And I overtime, as I got to know them and learn a bit more about them, they would come in and I straightaway knew what they needed. Like I intuitively just knew just from them coming in regularly. And I spent the time to get to know them and learn more about them. And so by doing that, anytime they came in, they were really excited to see me and it built a really good connection. So much. So within about six months, or 10 months of them actually coming in regularly. I knew about them, I knew about their kids, they knew about me and my situation as well. And they actually turned up one day with a gift. And they brought me a pair of expensive shoes, their son was a shoe designer. And that really showed me that by listening to people by taking an interest in them by you know, like showing that you’re actively actively taking an interest and remembering things, shows them that you care and that you value them. So if I translate that to financial advice, it’s taking an interest in people. It’s being curious and asking them questions or learning new things about them things that you can make a note of, and bring up in conversations next time. An advisor actually in the XY network, shed a really great example on this. So he is an advisor who records all of his meetings, video records, every single one of his meetings. And he goes back and watches the recordings to pick up on any of the things that he may have missed while he was taking notes during the meeting. And he keeps an eye out for any little passing comments or things that they mentioned in there that he can then add to the summary sheet for when he meets with them next time. So an example was he met with a with a with two clients, a couple who are nearing retirement and they’re wanting to travel around Australia. And they would actually like to work as they do that along the way. And they talked about putting a sign making a little a frame chalkboard sign that says electrician for hire on one side and like I think a nurse or misuse on the other And so as they travel around that, put that out next to their camper van on their caravan, and that would help them to get work. Now, that’s just a tiny little comment, right? Like that’s in the grand scheme of putting a client’s goals and objectives together. A chalkboard with a sign on it is not something that would typically go into those notes. But he wrote that down and put that into his summary so that when he had the next meeting with them, he was going to go through that and say, okay, client, Mr. And Mrs. You know, I want to summarize everything we spoke about last time, you would like to do this with your, you know, house, you’d like to do this. And I remember you saying you’d like to, you know, make sure that you have a chalkboard to, to be able to pick up work on the way, which I think is fantastic. So when you give that feedback loop to people, and show them that you were really, really paying attention to what they were saying, that makes them sit up, that makes their ears perk up and go, Wow, oh, my god, he really was listening, he really valued our conversation. So if you can pick up on little things that your clients say in meetings, or tease out those things, learn something about them, are they? Are they really interested in pursuing yoga as a career? Or maybe they’re just interested in it? Is there a hobby that they really love is do they have a birthday coming up any of those little things that you can make a note of, and then slip them into conversation down the track, that will show them that you really value them, you really listen to them. And it’s a way to build trust with them. So there’s a couple of things there. Does that land? Do you think something like that would be of use?

Gwen Lazarito
Oh, yes, definitely. So I actually remember a story, or not a story, but it’s something that happened to me. And I think customer service and I guess client service is very important, because I also remember a similar event where when I was a freelancer, I would go to a coffee shop, to, to to work whenever I feel like the home office is boring. And when I came to this particular coffee shop, the manager started to notice me that I would come for the same tea that they that they offer. And so I think it was like after a month, he would start putting notes in in my tea when he served it. So just like Have a nice day, and he would remember my name. And I noticed that the tea wasn’t cheap. The tea wasn’t cheap. But I noticed that I came back to that coffee shop time and time again, until I actually became a regular like, like the couple that you mentioned, when you were still working at the restaurant. And he would bring me like complimentary food. And he would also say How was your day and do all those really nice things. And even if on days that I feel like work stresses me out, I tend to want to go to that coffee shop because I know that like someone will take care of me. And yeah, and even now like I live very, very far from that coffee shop. But whenever I’m in town, I make sure to visit that place. He’s the manager of the coffee shop is still there, and we still get to talk and it’s like a really good relationship. And I really wish that the coffee shop was just near the house. So I think that’s, I think it’s that’s why these things are very important, right? Like because you make an impression to someone. And it helps not only you as a person, but your business as well. So automatically, whenever someone asked me, like, hey, what’s a good coffee shop around this place? I would always automatically refer that coffee shop to a friend of mine.

Emily Blanch
Yep, I am wiki there. It’s because they’ve created a memorable experience and made you feel special. And when someone has a memorable or exciting experience that evokes an emotion and makes you feel valued and special. What do you want to do with it? You want to tell other people about that amazing experience you had. And so by focusing on building the relationship, making those connections, you are creating your own army of raving fans and word of mouth marketing is the absolute best marketing you can possibly get All right. So that that that right there is a great experience. Another example I can share or a story, I’m just trying to think of really like practical examples that advisors could, you know, adopt into their process and with their clients sending out a postcard random postcard it doesn’t. Like there’s the typical, you know, making contact with clients when they have a birthday. You know, those kind of expected touch points throughout the year. But what about sending them something just randomly, like a random act of kindness? So, particularly with COVID, I think the pandemic is a really good example. Yes, everyone was going through a tough time, in some way, shape, or form. So if you have a client who you know, is doing it a bit tough, why not send them a postcard, and I did exactly this. So to give you a real life example, a while back and advisor in the XY platform in the community, posted into the group, and was really open and honest, actually really vulnerable. And he posted in said Is anyone else feeling like that confidence has taken a hit after the Royal Commission, and the Royal Commission was happened here in Australia, I won’t go into all the details, but it basically put the banking and finance sector, front and center. And it caused a lot of brought out a lot of things and, you know, untoward things happening within the sector. Not necessarily from it financial advisors. But it caused a lot of a lot of noise and a lot of negativity towards towards the advice profession. And this advisor really felt like his confidence had taken a hit, and wondered if he was genuinely providing value to his clients, and he was 100%. But when you’re constantly bombarded with negative noise from media and press, it’s really hard to drown out that noise. And they posted this in the group and a bunch of other advisors jumped in and commented, some put their hand up to say, Yes, I am also struggling. It’s, you know, I’m feeling really tough at the moment, others jumped in to give their support. And when I saw that post, immediately, I thought to myself, what can I do about this? How can how can I? How can I make them feel better? How can I improve their situation, or make their day a little better than it was yesterday. So I jumped onto Canva. It’s a free design website, highly recommend. I know we use it every single day. And I designed a few postcards with our xy colors and our branding, got them printed. And then I hand wrote about maybe 12, or 14 postcards. And on the back of that postcard, I wrote to each person that had said that they were going through a tough time. And I wrote them a hand note and said, Hey, just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing, you know, remember that the value that you provide your clients is amazing. And they’re so lucky to have someone like you in their corner. Tough times don’t last tough people do. And I posted those out to this handful of advisors. I didn’t tell them it was coming, I just put it in the mail. And that was that. Couple of days later, I received a message from the advisor who posted originally, who reached out and he said, Oh, my goodness, thank you so much for this surprise, it turned up out of the blue to my office. And it honestly made my week. And then another advisor who also received one reached out and said, You know what, it was a Friday, I was driving from an appointment on one side of town to the other. And I picked up the mail in between and I found this postcard and it honestly made me smile from ear to ear to ear and made my day. Yeah, yeah, for me to go and do that exercise. The whole thing took about an hour, maybe max to design them, print them, write them post them. And yet the effect it had on those advisors was huge. The adviser who originally posted actually followed up in the community and posted a picture of this postcard and said, Well, how lucky was he to be a part of such a supportive community and how amazing it was to be a part of x y. Now, if you think about that for an advice, practice, imagine an advisor designing a few postcards or having someone in their team design a few postcards with their colors, their branding on it, and it could be for anything and handwriting a few postcards to pose to clients out of the blue to help them with something like imagine being that client imagine being your client, receiving that in the mail out of the blue, like completely unexpected. How would that make you feel and make you feel pretty special? Right? Like in this story that I shared the advisor, who posted that on the group, like he wanted to go and tell other people about this experience that he had just had. So imagine a client having this great experience, the next time that they’re talking to a family member or a friend, and something comes up about Super that the their retirement savings or their insurance, what do you think they’re going to say? That’s going to trigger them to go up? I had this amazing experience, or my advisor sent me this. And what a conversation starter? Like, yeah, that’s it. That’s an amazing way to create word of mouth and,

you know, forge greater connections and relationships by doing something so small yet the the power and the impact is huge.

Gwen Lazarito
Oh, yes. And I think, I think that’s the like the main thing here, right, like doing small acts of kindness like listening, providing embassy and like, learning more about your, about another person, they are small things, they don’t cost a lot. But they provide a really big impact, and can really benefit not only your business, but the relationship that you are, you’re fostering, which leads me to my next question. So you posted, like a really nice, LinkedIn post early this morning. And it’s about this topic around building relationships and financial advice. And you mentioned something about CLV, or customer lifetime value. Can you tell us more about that?

Emily Blanch
Yeah, definitely. So customer lifetime value, it’s really a primary metric to better understand your clients or your customers. So it’s a way to determine the value of the relationship that you have with your clients, how long they’re likely to remain a client, and the value that they deliver back to your business by way of revenue. So I’m sure most or all of the listeners tuning in, have probably heard a similar kind of statistic, which says that it’s a lot easier to deliver more value or upsell or continue continue to add value. Whatever terminology you want to use to customers you already have, then the resources and time and money and effort that’s required to go out and find new customers. And advisors are in such a great position to generate a big customer or client lifetime value. Because the service says they provide really long term, like the there’s, of course, the initial, the initial engagement and the initial advice piece. But a person’s financial world doesn’t stop after, after you help them with just that initial thing. It’s an ongoing, it’s an ongoing process, there will be, you know, things down the track when a client, you know, might be starting a family, or looking to purchase a house or switching jobs. There are so many instances along the journey in a client’s lifetime, where an advisor can add value. So there’s such a great opportunity to build on that relationship to continually add value to them and ultimately create a wonderful experience that lifts and heightens the the client lifetime value that you provide to them and in return that they provide to your business. So if you spend your time and energy predominantly focusing on how you can deliver the best experience to the clients that you have, to give them a memorable experience that they want to go and talk to others about. It means that you don’t have to spend as much time and energy coming up with marketing campaigns and, you know, going out there to the market, trying to spread your message and to promote and highlight what you do to attract new clients.

Gwen Lazarito
Right. And I wanted to mention this, particularly because I remembered you, you mentioned to me a few meetings ago that or was it last week that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. So and I think that’s something that financial advisors can do right to improve their relationships with their clients is to actually try to what’s the best term like to use the formula, the CLV formula and it would be like the The podcast will be very long if we, if we discuss this in detail. But I think it’s worth noting that this is something that financial advisors can really use.

Emily Blanch
Hmm. So what I think you might be getting at there is how to track it, and then be able to prove Yes,

Gwen Lazarito
I guess. Yes, I guess that’s it. Because, like, how do you how would a financial advisor, especially the financial advisor, who’s just like a one man team, like, how can they be able to determine if they’re actually doing a good job and be in building that type of relationship and in building that value to their clients? Is it just the the number of retentions that they’ve got? Is it just the, like, the number of referrals that they receive? So yeah, something like that,

Emily Blanch
I would suggest sourcing feedback from clients. And in particular, you could look at something like an NPS. So net promoter score. So that’s basically asking a client on a scale of one to 10, how confident would they be to refer you, you and your business to a friend or a family member, so if you’re a solo advisor, who you might be short on time, you’ve got lots of client work to do. But you would like to get a sense check on how your how you are going in, in building those relationships with your clients. The first thing that I would suggest is ask. And you can you don’t even have to have like a robust system or survey or anything in place, you can just ask them in in conversations that you have. So one of the best things that I worked on last year, and I’m still doing it now is hosting one on one conversations and interviews with advisors in our community. And the purpose of those calls is to get feedback, open, honest feedback. And it is amazing. The stuff that comes back, and the ideas and the suggestions and the frustrations from advisors, I honestly learned something new every single time I talked to somebody. So just having those conversations, or adding in some questions to the meanings that you’re already having with clients. And taking a note and noting that down. So asking them, how do you feel about us working together, you could send them the Net Promoter Score, which which is a quantitative measurement. So that’s a really good way to, to track it and Ben and benchmark it. So aren’t you could you could send them like an NPS question or survey, maybe once a quarter or once every twice a year. And that way you can track and look and see, how can you improve? So depending on which number they give you typically, if it’s around seven or more, that’s a good result. Anything under seven generally speaks to how can you improve this? So you could follow up with them and ask and say, hey, you know, in the time that we we’ve been working together, is there anything that I that I’ve done particularly well, that that you’ve really enjoyed, and in the reverse to asking them is, hey, is there anything that I’ve that I’ve said or I’ve done or or particular area, or something that I could improve on to to to better serve you and to add more value. And if you just really open that up in a non judgmental way in by a way of really reminding them that, hey, the best way that I can improve is if I know where the gaps are. So if you really explain it in that sense, and say, I would really appreciate your your open and honest feedback, because it means it’s the quickest way that I can, you know, plug any gaps and deliver an even better experience, because you don’t know what you don’t know. And, and sometimes as a business owner, it can be really difficult to take your business owner hat off and put yourself in the shoes of a client. So the next best thing to do is to ask. So that would be my my suggestion if you are a solo advisor, or even if you have a bigger practice and have a have to have staff or have team members starting to generate some kind of ongoing feedback loop by way of questions or survey with your clients to assess how you’re doing and any areas that you could improve in. All right.

Gwen Lazarito
So yeah, and again, something very simple right to create a survey. And I find that I guess I asked the right question because it actually didn’t cross my mind to mention a survey. Like I know there was a financial advisor who actually asked me, like, how do you know if you’re doing a good job? And I know I answered something but it wasn’t a survey. I think that’s really Good idea, a very simple thing to do, very easy to create. But it will provide you a really good insight into, like, what your clients are actually thinking about. And it helps the financial advisor who, as you mentioned, like a businessman is to step out of that or to take off that hat and to be able to have like a different or try to formulate a different type of approach based on the survey that he’s received. So yeah, that’s one of the best ways that you can really build that relationship with your, with your clients. So thanks so much. Um, those are really, really valuable tips. They’re simple. And I’m sure like, one time or other a financial advisor, or anyone who’s listening to the podcast has already heard of this advice. But it’s something that’s very important and needs to be, I guess, re iterated in order to really, continuously grow in, in your practice. But before we, I guess we end the podcast, what would be your advice to financial advisors, especially to the ones who are just starting out? Or anyone who’s really looking to create a lifelong partnership with their clients? What would you give them,

Emily Blanch
I would say, start small, you don’t have to do anything huge and dramatic. And in fact, smaller is better. And what I mean by that is, do the small little acts of kindness, that build trust over time. So building trust with somebody isn’t doing one big giant act of kindness, and saying, cool, yep, I did that one thing, I’ve earned that trust. It doesn’t work that way. It’s and I use this example all the time, there’s a reason that people don’t get married on the first date. And that’s because it takes time to get to know them, you go on multiple dates, you sometimes spend years, getting to know a person before you make that commitment to spend the rest of your life with them. Now, granted, advisors aren’t spending the rest of their lives with their clients, but it’s the same sort of principle, building trust with somebody takes time. And the best way to do that is by doing small little acts of kindness, consistently, it might be sending them a postcard out of the blue, it might be reminding them or sending them information on an event or something that you saw come up that you know, that they’re interested in, it might be remembering their kids birthdays, these small little things, they will remember it and over time doing that consistently. It’s like using the analogy that I know Brene Brown has shared before about adding marbles to a jar, every time you do a little something a nice little something to someone, you put a marble in the jar, and over time that jar is is the trust that you have built with them. So I would say start small. Think of little ways that you can, you know, surprise them, make them feel valued, make them feel heard, and start putting marbles in the jar to build trust with your clients and improve that ongoing relationship that you have with

Gwen Lazarito
them. Right. So thank you so much, as usual, great conversation. But before we formally end the podcast, if anyone wants to reach out to you, a financial advisor, especially here in the South East, Asia would like to, like have a conversation with you, where can they reach you?

Emily Blanch
Yeah, the best place to reach me is on the XY Advisor Platform. So I’m sure people are aware, listeners or most listeners are aware of what x y advisor is. But for those who may be brand new to the podcast, it is a professional network and platform specifically for financial advisors. Now we have a cohort of advisors from Southeast Asia who are on there. We have advisors from 20 different countries, it’s a place to find new ideas to collaborate and to learn from from peers within the industry. And I spend a lot of my time on there, helping advisors looking for ways to support them and find solutions to their problems. So if you aren’t already a member, you can create your free account, jump on there and send me a message. I’m always happy to help and assist externally you can also find me on LinkedIn as well. So happy to assist wherever I can. And if I Even listening does test out one of these examples or you know does does a little act of kindness please let me know i I’m always keen to hear when people implement these things and if they’ve got any other you know, suggestions or ideas, the more ideas we can share the more collaboration the faster we can all improve. And you know, the better at front of the whole financial planning industry will be so don’t be shy, feel free to reach out, always happy to say hello and help wherever I can.

Gwen Lazarito
Alright, thanks so much am and yeah, I hope that a lot of financial advisors listening right now especially in the Southeast Asian region, would get to interact with you have a short conversation and find what it is that makes a person become a lifelong client out there. So thank you so much for being in the show, and have a good one.

Emily Blanch
Thanks, Gwen. No worries. It was fun. Great to chat.

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