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Evan Thompson is president of Evan Thompson and Associates in Toronto.
Evan Thompson is president of Evan Thompson and Associates in Toronto.


How 'trusted advisers' can live up to their title in the digital age Add to ...

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

It’s no secret that trust has long been the glue that bonds relationships between practising professionals and their clients. The onslaught of digital technology has helped trusted financial advisers, lawyers, accountants, architects and other professionals communicate faster with more clients than during the days when fax machines were considered leading edge.

With its speed, volume and growing frequency of communication, digital media is transforming the way trusted advisers interact with their clients. Clients now enjoy instant access to much of the information and knowledge the adviser once held and selectively shared with them. Now that they have the knowledge and are better able to make their own decisions (whether it’s where to shop or invest), the adviser must become an adviser in the truest sense of the word.

Wealth managers are relying more on the trust of satisfied clients to grow, let alone stay in business. And the power of the client referral in the success of any professional can’t be overestimated. Surprisingly, a survey conducted among 2002 Canadians found that only 58 per cent of investors considered their financial adviser trustworthy and 55 per cent felt their adviser was honest (Dec 2015, Investment Executive).

Technology may contribute to this lack of trust on several levels. First, many trusted advisers rely more on communicating technical information electronically than in person, which can increase the potential for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the materials. The role of the adviser goes well beyond merely providing information. Another result of too much reliance on technology is witnessed by advisers who are simply not skilled in interpersonal communication because they are so used to interacting digitally. In this case, conversations with clients may raise more questions than answers.

Digital technology offers as many benefits to trusted advisers and their clients as it does issues. Here are six tips on how advisers can stay current, run efficient businesses, and utilize technology while earning and maintaining client trust.

Transparent information sharing Resolve to enhance your clients’ store of knowledge by sharing information in ways they can understand, versus withholding industry or other information they will eventually see anyway.

Adopt a collaborative approach As their trusted adviser, they look to you to guide them, no longer to tell them what to do. Taking a collaborative approach to meeting their needs may be more time consuming, but will be worth it as they feel closer to the decision making process.

Make a commitment to information protection To get them more comfortable walking new or threatening digital terrain, offer practical strategies on how they can protect themselves. For example, many seniors and baby boomers are rightfully terrified by the prospect of identity theft. Provide them with some key preventative tips and take time for them should they become a victim. Let them know that as gatekeeper to their confidential business, health or financial information, confidentiality and information protection is part of your commitment to them.

Become social savvy Create a social media strategy that will build your professional reputation while expanding your business strategy. Earning the trust of clients and potential clients takes more than one or two blogs or e-newsletters distributed on an ad hoc basis. If you are new to social media, go slowly by creating a LinkedIn and Twitter account. Consider working with technically savvy communications experts who will pay for themselves in guiding you to the people you want to reach.

Personalize your communication strategy Regardless of your industry or business size, stay in touch with your customers and clients by sharing information that will benefit them versus solely promoting your interests. Do your best to segment your communications so that even larger distributions have a personalized feel to them. It takes time, but clients receiving too much or too detailed information will be quickly overwhelmed – or worse, annoyed.

Empower tech-savvy team members If you are a professional services provider, be firm on keeping appointments and get back to clients promptly with comprehensible answers to their questions. And keep your promises to them. Realize you can’t run your customer relationship management program on your own so harness technology where appropriate. Gradually delegate parts of this vital activity to junior members of your team. Your business will benefit if you first empower them and reward them for their trust building efforts.

Evan Thompson is president of Evan Thompson and Associates in Toronto.


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