Blog - Should You be "Friends" With Your Clients?


In the past, the stereotype of the financial advisor-client relationship was often portrayed as an investor having an in-depth conversation with a man in a golf shirt on a golf course.  Other commercials included fancy dinners between an advisor and clearly wealthy customers. By 2020, marketing has moved forward (Ha!) to include couples discussing building a lake house while standing with their advisor and looking at a lake or discussing building a future for their beneficiaries as they stand on the deck of a house overlooking the beach. But in all of these commercials it is implied that the investors have a close relationship with the advisor. While not necessarily implying they are “friends”, the advisor is certainly at their home and has some type of social relationship with the investors.


Are you currently “friends” with your clients? Or do you just have a strong but not especially close relationship? Are there some clients that you consider “friends” and others are just clients? If you had a family event, such as a wedding, would you invite your any of your clients? Do they invite you?

When investors were recently asked what type of personality they prefer for their financial advisor, 40 percent of investors indicated “someone I would want to be friends with”. This was especially true for wealthier investors. In the same report, Preferred Sales Approach: Capturing the Wealthy Investor, an additional 41 percent of investors would like their advisor to be “someone who mirrors my own personality.” This is especially true for investors who are still working (48 percent). Only 19 percent of investors are seeking an advisor who is “different from myself”. Other key personality traits included: 

As you can see, while most investors seek an advisor who is “easy to get along with”, only Millennials prefer their advisor to be “laid back”.

For the most part, Spectrem’s research (both quantitative and qualitative) has historically indicated that the advisor-client relationship needs to remain “professional”. For older investors, the concept of gifts, dinners, or other types of benefits, such as tickets to events, has been relegated to the past and even perhaps seen as unethical. In our report, Millennial and Generation X Investors: Attracting the Next Generations of Wealth, research found that the expectations vary by generation. Younger investors are much more likely to expect gifts or favors. More than half (54 percent) of Millennials and two-thirds of Gen-Xers expect their advisors to take them out for a meal. More than half of Gen-X investors and 41 percent of Millennials expect to be taken to a sporting event. Overall, younger investors have much higher expectations that their advisors are going to reach out and create a more “friendly” relationship. 

Some advisors may be comfortable providing gifts and favors to their clients. Others may consider it to be unethical. There are probably investors that experience similar feelings. It’s up to advisors to determine what the expectations of individual investors are regarding expanding the relationship to include various types of gifts or favors and balancing them against one’s own set of values.

So while some investors are seeking a friendship, and others are hoping for gifts, most investors are still seeking the same things. When asked to identify the top 5 personality traits they require in a financial advisor, the answers were: Expertise (87 percent), Accountability (74 percent), Well-Organized (72 percent), Ethical (69 percent) and Good Follow-through (63 percent). These traits are easier to demonstrate to both prospective and existing clients, and are clearly more “professional” as opposed to “friendly”.