Ways to Better Understand Clients’ Values, Emotions and Biases

For financial professionals helping clients make smart financial choices, it can be tempting to focus solely on what’s rational, like dollars and cents, time horizons and risk versus growth potential of various investments. It can be easy to forget that for many clients, financial decisions can elicit strong emotional responses—and vice versa.

Just as finances can stir up feelings of fear and anxiety, stressful situations like job loss or market volatility can prompt clients to make irrational moves that might derail their investment plans. But if an advisor can interrupt the emotional feedback loop and help clients reflect, recognize their own biases and remember their reasons for investing in the first place, those clients are more likely to make decisions that better serve their core values and long-term financial goals.

That’s what our Behavioral Financial Advice program is all about. And it’s not only advisors’ clients who stand to benefit. Advisors often learn more about themselves, too. While completing their BFATM certifications, leaders at CUNA Mutual Group also recognized how their own biases and emotions can get in the way of deeper engagement and stronger client relationships, and how to reframe interactions for better outcomes.

I recently sat down to talk with six CUNA Mutual Group leaders about the Behavioral Financial Advice program. In their own words, they described how the approach helps them refine the client experience and differentiate their client service from other advisors’ approaches.

Here’s what each shared with me about six key concepts of the Behavioral Financial Advice program:

Behavioral Financial Advice Program Overview

CUNA Mutual Group worked with think2perform®  to create this award-winning1 Behavioral Financial Advice program with the specific goal of helping advisors better understand and empower their clients, using structured resources and tools to make it easier to engage and connect.

What we’ve also discovered is that, as advisors begin to employ the tools with greater awareness of issues such as bias, they not only gain insight into clients’ potential biases, but also their own. This enables advisors to identify and overcome biases that can get in the way of growing their book of business.

Head of Annuity Distribution Martin Powell, BFA™ tells the story of an advisor who learned he’d been standing in his own way:

Value Cards Alignment

When financial clients are clear about their core values, advisors can do more to help align financial advice with what’s most important to clients. That may help lead to better investment outcomes … and it also helps advisors differentiate themselves and the way they work with clients. Deeper client relationships engender greater confidence, and that may remove obstacles to progress, so the advisor can more effectively help the client grow into the investor they want to be.

But first, the advisor needs to understand client values, and values can be tricky to prioritize and articulate. Our Behavioral Financial Advice program’s Values Card Exercise is an effective tool to help advisors better understand clients’ values and financial goals.

Head of Annuity Sales Chad Mueller, BFA™ explains how the Values Card Exercise works:

The Smart Money Philosophy

The Smart Money Philosophy is all about addressing emotions that can eat away client confidence, to help prevent fear-driven financial mistakes. A common cause of financial anxiety is uncertainty—and that’s one thing life serves up consistently.

So, how can you help clients face the facts of life’s uncertainty and help them choose strategies to address the many risks associated with … well, life?

Annunity Sales Director Anthony Kosobud, BFA™ explains:

The Behavior Gap

What’s the investor behavior gap? When clients make irrational decisions about their investments, those choices may cause them to lose out on investment growth. That creates a gap between the real return of the investment, and the realized return experienced by the investor. Those irrational mistakes can be costly.

What can an advisor do to help clients avoid making fear-based mistakes? How can you help clients achieve greater stability and security to become more confident investors? 

Divisional Sales Director Matt Khan, BFA™ discusses the details:

The Certainty of Uncertainty

“The Certainty of Uncertainty” means different things to different people, but uncertainty of all kinds can create stress for clients. As an advisor, you may find it helpful to reflect on the uncertainties that create stress in your own life, as a first step toward empathizing more fully with anxious financial clients.

Once you consider your own feelings about those uncertainties and how you intend to cope with them, you might discover insights that also help you connect clients with the certainty of solutions to offset uncertain risk and make their lives easier.

VP of Strategic Partnerships Gina M. Riepel, BFA™ shares her own story, and the insights she gleaned from her experience with uncertainty:

Moving from Money Manager to Financial Advisor

Top-performing financial professionals don’t just manage clients’ money—they work hard to engage and connect with clients, to make sure clients feel understood, and understand their investments and how they work. But what about working with couples? It’s typically easier to focus on the partner who seems more interested and engaged in financial discussions.

What do you stand to gain by engaging more deeply with both partners? What resources can you use to better understand who each one of your clients are, what they want from their advisor relationship, and how to achieve their goals?

Head of Internal Annuity Sales Julie Winslow, BFA™ describes the difference deeper engagement can make, and how to get there:

Learn More About Our Award-Winning Behavioral Financial Advice Program

Check out all the videos of my conversations with BFATM-certified CUNA Mutual Group leaders here, and explore how you can incorporate and apply the concepts of Behavioral Financial Advice in your practice. 

Learn more about our award-winning Behavioral Financial approach on our website, or call your CUNA Mutual Group wholesaler today at 1.877.345.4769 (GROW), option 1.



Marshall Heitzman
Written by: Marshall Heitzman, CFP®, ChFC, FLMI, CPCU, BFA™

Marshall is CUNA Mutual Group's Advanced Planning Expert and has more than 25 years experience in the insurance and financial services industry. He consults Financial Advisors on advanced retirement planning concepts for retirement and wealth management clients.

Blog Sub Logo

Get updates & insights

Enter your email below to subscribe!