Published 2/10/2017 in The Maryland Daily Record
In a recent conversation with a top-notch family law attorney in town, I had the benefit of hearing really honest and direct feedback about his experience with financial advisers. I was connected to this attorney by the business development professional at his law firm who is tasked with making thoughtful connections and introductions of like-minded people to attorneys within their firm. This is a brilliant role for law firms to employ, given the challenging balance it takes to cultivate relationships that lead to productive clients, and coupled with the time that is devoted to ongoing client matters.
I feel especially fortunate to have had a conversation like this one because this attorney was so honest in sharing his experience. He explained that he had met with five or six financial advisers through the years. Each one talked a good game but when pressed for more specifics about the work they do to create value and provide support during the divorce process none could clearly provide any differentiation. Other than wanting to invest and manage the liquid assets on the other side of the divorce and to do some light financial planning, these advisers and the services they offered were not well-matched to the intricate financial needs of these potential clients, this attorney realized.
Years ago, I worked with a business development coach who taught me many things. Most of all, he taught me one key lesson. It’s a lesson in life and in business, which is that our job is to get to the truth. Getting to the heart of the matter, the truth, is what the pursuit is all about. It’s about approaching life, relationships both personal and business, with a genuine curiosity while remaining open to hearing the truth. This attorney, in our conversation, was willing to share the truth, and I was open to hearing it.
I was actually grateful to hear what this attorney had to say because I agreed with every point he made — the confusion of figuring out what each adviser actually does, how they get paid, actual versus pure marketing, who to trust, how to know the difference and beyond.
Consumers and professional advisers are confused by the financial services industry, and it is no surprise. The one-stop shop, we-do-it-all revolution in brokerage, banking and insurance that has emerged has created a state of sameness with financial advisers. Slick brochures and buzzwords about financial planning and life aspirations has led to a state of uncertainty about who is actually a qualified specialist.
The answer is, there really aren’t very many financial advisers who aren’t generalists seeking to gather more assets under management. This is, in fact, of no real value to an attorney trying to advise a client during the difficult process that is divorce. After the process, it certainly could help to know some solid advisers to recommend if needed, but during the process it is a very different need.
So back to the truth. I was sitting next to a colleague on a return trip from New York City when I had this phone conversation; she could only hear what I had to say. Her reaction was really telling. When I hung up she remarked that it sounded like I had just had a great conversation. And that is exactly how it felt.
Others may have felt differently after hearing from another professional that they are likely not to work with you based on their experience with your profession. I felt invigorated. What an opportunity to get to the heart of things and have the benefit of hearing directly from the type of attorney that I seek to share clients with, when there is a good fit. His candor will teach me a lot about the biases other attorneys may share, the obstacles to gaining their trust, and the barriers to be broken down by simply being willing to hear their experience and perspective.
I often tell people that our services are not a fit for all people or cases. The reality is that the majority of family law cases can be handled between attorneys. Experts are not needed. For the select cases where experts are needed, there is tremendous value to be gained by having a team of specialists to support a client in achieving the best possible results. This particular attorney has agreed to continue our conversation, and I am most excited by the possibility of being a resource who can differentiate who does what in financial services. Only this attorney will know if his practice can benefit from any of this. I am thrilled to have the benefit of being in the conversation pursuing the truth.
—Dorie Fain, founder and CEO of &Wealth