Sunél’s Blog | “I don’t know”.

Sunél Veldtman, | 19 March 2021

If you haven’t heard these words from your financial advisor, then you should seriously question their expertise, integrity, judgement, or knowledge.

Being an expert is what a financial advisor used to be – the kind of person who knew everything and could share their opinions confidently. But in truth, it has never been about that; even though we made it about that.  It is a positioning that has, despite its shine, come with a price.

I believe it is why people don’t trust financial advisors. Confidently pretending to be all-knowing does not engender trust, especially if the subjects you so confidently express your opinion on, are impossible to predict – like the precise direction of currencies or the prospects for gold. When you promise to deliver something, which is impossible to deliver on, you will destroy trust.

What can foster trust? Saying, “I don’t know,” when the question is about a variable in a client’s financial plan which is not in your control or not honestly predictable. And then collaborating with the client to get answers for “what if’s” instead. “What if’s” can lead us to better outcomes for financial plans based on the assumptions we don’t know.

It requires courage to say, “I don’t know,” especially if you have come through the ranks in the investment industry. I know. I still struggle with “I don’t know,” but the more I say these words, the better my conversations have become with my clients and the stronger the partnerships we have forged. I now feel that it is a prerequisite for great outcomes – for me to lay down my expert role and to assume the role of a partner. Of course, I understand stuff about our industry, which remains mysterious to most outside it, but my clients are the experts about their own lives. Together, we can tackle all the uncertainties and unknowns of their lives and their futures.

Also, the more a true expert knows, the more likely they are to become less confident about the outcome. Experts who have a genuine, deep understanding of their field are frequently less sure, and appear less confident. It is the burden of understanding the exceptions, the nuances, and the challenges of theories. This is the kind of expert you want on your side.

I hope that you will hear “I don’t know” more frequently from your financial advisor. You should. It’s the start to a great conversation and better financial outcomes from your financial plan.

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