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Business Strategy

Business case study: Why Anne Graham sees her role as that of a life coach

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6 months ago

Taking the time to really get to know your clients can be a prudent way for advisers to get ahead

Offering a rare look at the way other advice businesses operate, we spoke to Story Wealth Management’s Anne Graham to learn how a personal touch with clients has helped her grow her business.

Anne Graham - an award-winning financial adviser and Advisely Foundation Member - has spent the past 30 years helping clients achieve their financial goals.

She says her secret to success is forming deep relationships with her clients. She gets to the heart of her clients, learns their goals and objectives, and works with them as they advance through different stages in their lives. 

Build off the basics

Like any good relationship, the foundations are important, which is why Graham likes to take a step back and start with the basics.

While this is no different to other advisers in the industry, it’s a conscious starting point for building trust with her clients. 

This means taking the time to ensure clients understand how they’re spending their money and what impact it will have on their long-term goals. 

“Start with a budget, so the client knows where their money is going and can make informed decisions about spending,” Graham says.

From here she helps coach them towards their objectives by deep-diving into their current situation and making plans for where they want to be.

Treating her clients as individuals

Once the basics have been established, Graham will go a step further. 

While some advisers will put their clients into buckets based on their age or lifestyle ambitions, Graham says no two clients are the same – and treats them accordingly.

Two clients may be the same age, but their financial position, personal circumstances and even their relationship with money couldn’t be more different.

This is why for Graham the success of her clients comes down to the relationship she builds with them and the trust and buy-in she garners by humanising the advice she gives them.

After all, even the best advice on paper is useless if the client doesn't follow through.

Acting as a financial coach, Graham will help a client identify their big-picture goals, breaking them down into smaller, more achievable pieces. In some instances, she will preempt her client’s needs based on their long-term objectives. 

By hitting smaller, regular milestones, the client feels as though the advice is working for them. Not only do they feel empowered to continue down the path it also builds further trust in Graham’s advice.

But her coaching isn’t one dimensional. Once again it all comes down to matching her approach to every individual client’s unique needs. Some will need a more hands-on approach, while others will be fairly sophisticated and want to invest in their own way.

For those who are newer to investing Graham says it's important to focus on education. 

She reiterates that even the best strategy won’t work if the client doesn’t follow through with the advice they’ve received.

So for newer clients, Graham focuses on building good habits and coaching them through differing stages of investing.

“If you can give people information, they can make an informed decision and they’re more likely to stick to it over telling them what to do.”

For her more sophisticated clients, Graham doesn’t need to spend as much time coaching them through market upsets or periods of volatility. Instead, she knows they understand the market ups and downs, so her advice differs.

It's all about trust as the adviser and client transition together 

Graham takes a trust-first approach with her clients. 

She points out that in order to keep them over the long-term it’s important to have an actual working relationship where the client feels comfortable enough to share important moments with the adviser. 

This can only be achieved through open and honest communication. 

She builds trust with her clients to the point where she becomes part of their lives.

In fact, Graham explains she knows more about her clients’ lives than some of their closer friends, to the point where she is one of their first phone calls. 

“If you work with a client for a long time, you might work with them on achieving a certain goal. But over time you form a relationship, so any time one of these transitions happens in their lives, they will ring [the adviser] asking about what they should do next,” she continues.

Graham has reached this level by being a life coach. Now she is the person her clients trust with their most important details.

Getting clients to a set-and-forget stage 

After working with her clients for a number of years, Graham’s personal approach and coaching will leave her two types of clients.

  1. Those who are ready to take a more hands-on approach and need advice only when their lifestyle changes.
  2. Clients who have gained a greater understanding of financial matters but still want professional advice.

Either way, it's a personal decision for the client based on their relationship with Graham.

“Sometimes clients just want to be set up and control it themselves, others just want to delegate everything to the adviser," she explains.

“It ebbs and flows…. If the client gets into a bit of a rhythm, it might be a mutual decision that they don’t need ongoing advice anymore and if something comes up, they’ll give you a call.” 

However, she reiterates this isn’t for everyone.

For Graham, at every stage of the client relationship, it comes down to taking a personalised approach.

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