Cutting Through Financial Jargon

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

One of our portfolio managers is embarrassing in meetings with clients. He insists on using complicated terms, doesn’t listen to what the client is saying and barges through with frightening concepts even though the client isn’t interested. I’m at my wits end trying to get him to be more interactive and focused on the client. Any tips for me?

Elle, Ohio

Dear Elle,

You don’t say what your role is, but I assume you are the relationship manager or salesperson assigned to work with this PM. Unfortunately, too many very smart people in this industry think that in order to impress the client, or give the investor confidence in the portfolio manager’s abilities, it’s necessary to overwhelm them with jargon, sophisticated concepts and complicated ideas!

As you have found out, this backfires more often than not. Investors want clear, understandable language and they want it to be about them – their needs, their interests, and their lives.

What to do with someone who won’t yield to other’s needs? A few ideas:

  • Engage in pre-call planning with this PM. Talk about the type of client you will see, what their background is and their interests. Confirm with the PM the expected outcome of the meeting. What defines success for both of you and for the client, most importantly?
  • Put the PM on notice that you may interrupt him during a meeting in order to clarify things for the client. Tell him you can sense when someone doesn’t understand, so you will take charge and make sure the client knows what he or she is being told.
  • Then, do it. If the PM starts to go down a path you know is not good for the client, or if the client seems confused, stop right there. Say, “This can be a difficult concept to understand; let’s back up and make sure you have the information you need.” Or, make the connection for the client – why is this information important to them?
  • Do a post mortem after every meeting. Be sure to give the PM clear feedback about what’s working and what’s not. Don’t focus only on what he needs to improve; give him some positive feedback, too.

With consistency you will see a shift in his behavior.