If you don’t listen to my advice, that’s not my problem

“Is it possible for the advisor community to be able to recognize some biases that we exhibit on a regular basis and work on improving them? Could the problem possibly be with us?”


I fired my ‘Nutritionist and Obesity Consultant’ – not as ceremoniously as I am announcing here, actually quite the opposite. I made some excuses, skipped a couple of appointments and then, simply stopped going. Rather uncharacteristic of me, but that’s that.


There was a strong willingness to reach my goal initially. There was also an exhibition of initiative by seeking out a consultant. An action plan had also been prescribed. In spite of doing all of that, and spending money, I simply dropped the whole thing. I was the classic case of the ‘non-adherent’ client.


Now imagine the wealth management industry – Frankly, if our clients exhibited initiative and got in touch with us, that would be a joyous event to begin with. After we make an action plan if it is not executed, we try and explain the same thing in a different way, try again and even after that, if there is no action, well, we know what we say.


Medical Practitioners and Investment Advisors have a lot in common. Many experts have referred to this correlation before and there are various levels of intersection among the two – ‘non-adherence’ being the most common one.


It may be worthwhile to delve a little deeper into my story. Here is how our interaction went:


Day 1: She smiled as I entered the room, and got down to business. She weighed me, noted down some stuff which I would love to know more about. She didn’t share them with me however– kept them for another day I suppose. She noted down in great detail what I eat during the day, whether I drink or not, how regularly, how many pegs, what alcohol etc. Then she gave me a pre-printed list of blood tests to do, asked me to come every Friday, no matter what and sent me off.


Day 2: She looked at my blood tests. She wrote down her prescription and explained what I was to do from the time I woke up, what to do and what to eat. To my horror, she wanted me to wake up earlier than my usual time and go for a walk before having my morning cup of tea or coffee! I suppose I could do it, by leaving my home keys behind on one day or maybe sleep- off under a tree on another or worse.


Second, the stuff she wanted me to eat, looked nothing like what I ate on a regular basis– it was drastically different in many ways.  She had clearly, completely ignored what she had jotted down.


After the hurried meeting, she said I must listen to her ‘instructions’ and these were not to be understood as ‘broad guidelines’ and that she was ‘very strict’. Also, she didn’t want me to skip any appointments.


I gave her my most charming smile ever, thanked her, emptied my wallet and left, never to return again.


First of all, it was not easy to blurt out how much alcohol, what size of chapatti, potatoes or no potatoes! The pre- printed list of prescribed blood tests completely squeezed out any feeling of importance I may have expected for paying the exorbitant fee she charged. I also felt that she belittled all the effort I had put to reach out to her, do my blood tests etc. She made no personal connect, didn’t let me talk. The effort I put by travelling a distance to see her and take the initiative to do all this, went entirely unacknowledged. She didn’t share her observations with me. She didn’t explain what was drastically wrong with my current diet or if anything was drastically wrong in the first place. She didn’t break down the problem at all. Her solution was disconnected, inconclusive, a big blur to me.


Finally, the nail in the coffin was the lifestyle changes she demanded of me. All the noting down of what I eat seemed clearly as posturing.


Get the drift?


If you are in the Investment Advisory business, you have probably started spotting similarities in my story with some your client meetings. I surely have and hence I am writing on this subject. How many times have we given advice that we thought was perfect, the right thing to do, only to find that the client never acted on it. Frequently, I am sure. And how many times have we delved deep within ourselves and identified that we may be wrong – almost never. If the client doesn’t listen to us, she/he simply doesn’t understand her/his own wellbeing!


We actually have a bigger problem to start with. Very few people seek advice on their own and are articulate about their money in the first place. Even if they were, maybe we took up all the time in the first meeting telling them how qualified and experienced we are in the first place. I have had multiple situations where the client seems to completely understand what I said, acknowledged that he wants to act but didn’t act after all.


Has this ever happened with you as well? Could it be that the client didn’t REALLY agree? Is it possible that he doesn’t know EXACTLY what are the next steps to be followed? Was he expecting a completely DIFFERENT outcome from the meeting?


All of this made me reflect hard.


I currently have the privilege of toggling between the ‘production mode’(where one does diffused thinking) and the ‘knowledge mode’(where one does focused thinking). I did some extensive reading on behavioural biases – both of clients and advisors. With that, I combined my two decades of dealing with clients and designed a workshop that delves into the following:


Is it possible for the advisor community to be able to recognize some biases that we exhibit on a regular basis and work on improving them? Could the problem possibly be with us?


I try not to be fired by my clients, I am sure you would aim for the same. Want to join me and attempt some focused thinking on this subject? Reach out at abaneeta@abanwill.com

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