Financial Advisor: Someone Who Understands Who You ‘Really Are’

  • Mary Mack, head of Wells Fargo Advisors, explains the value of a relationship that goes beyond dollars and cents.

I speak to people every day inside and outside our company about the value of Financial Advisors in the lives of our clients. I know this not only as the leader of one of the largest investment firms, but also as a client.

Yes, I, too, need a Financial Advisor.

Nearly two years ago, our family faced one of the hardest, most heartbreaking events in our lives — the death of my daughter, Mary Warner, who died suddenly after a brief illness. We are a close-knit family, but a loss like that sends even the most functional family reeling. We didn’t know how we would cope. And in those early days, our friends and family didn’t quite know what to say to us.

The one person who wasn’t afraid to gather us together, sit down with us, and help us get our heads on straight was our Financial Advisor.

As we sat there in our living room, in a total state of shock, she helped us think about the things we had not thought of. It took a lot of courage on her part and took a tremendous burden off me and my husband.

As baby boomers retire and millennials accumulate savings and start to invest, there is a great need for personal advice from someone who understands who these clients really are, not just what they need financially. It’s more than just giving financial advice; it’s being there when decisions need to be made and tough, uncomfortable conversations must be had. I know this firsthand. And, I believe our clients deserve no less.

Client service standards

There’s been a lot of talk recently about new rules from the Department of Labor and how financial professionals serve retirement accounts. The rules are complex, and we are taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach as we assess the impact on our clients and on our business. In reality, though, clients typically don’t have just a retirement account or just a brokerage account with us. Our Financial Advisors have relationships with people, not accounts.

We’ve been working for quite some time to make sure our business is adapting to the fast-evolving landscape and to make sure we keep doing what’s right for our clients. How clients get their advice, what kind of experience they have with us, and their conversations with their Financial Advisors are of the utmost importance.

I believe every client working with a Financial Advisor deserves four things:

Access to clear and understandable financial advice. The financial markets are complex. Markets go up and down, and financial decisions can get emotional. Financial Advisors who sit down with clients, discuss goals, and create a documented plan contribute to a financial experience our clients can have confidence in.

An investment strategy aligned to their goals. Doing what’s right for our clients is ingrained in our culture. Our company continues to invest in technology to help our advisors ensure their clients’ investments are in line with their goals. Financial Advisors who use our planning tools to discuss investment performance and client preference contribute to a transparent experience.

Answers to tough questions (and regular reviews). As I learned firsthand, life is unpredictable. When faced with the unexpected, clients need to feel comfortable seeking sincere professional advice. Likewise, the markets are unpredictable. Clients need assurance they’re on the right track. Financial Advisors who meet regularly with clients for annual, in-depth reviews of their plans and goals create relevant partnerships.

To be served how they want, when they want, and where they want. Some clients want hands-on advice and very frequent communication. Others need basic guidance right now, with more specialized advice required as they grow. Financial Advisors who do what’s right for clients provide these options for clients and help them access the best solutions available for their needs.

Here’s something I know — not as the president of a brokerage firm but as a client and a parent: You should feel like much more than just an account to your Financial Advisor. A relationship involves working with someone to plan for the best of times and who has the courage to take your hand during the worst.

Such a valued relationship can change lives. I know it made a difference in mine.

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