DENVER (May 25, 2021) — Demographic shifts, economic challenges, political transitions, environmental threats, and a global pandemic are all societal shifts that have changed how we communicate personally and professionally, which is especially true of service professions like financial planning, where trust is paramount. To ascertain how financial planner/client communication has changed over the past decade, the MQ Research Consortium, with the support of the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) and Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life), is renewing a 15-year-old study that examines communication best practices and how they impact the trust and commitment clients have in their planners.
“For financial planners to forge long-standing relationships with clients and earn an increased level of trust, they need to elevate their communications competencies,” says FPA CEO Patrick D. Mahoney. “I am delighted FPA has the opportunity to work with our partners at Allianz Life to support an important research initiative that will result in an updated, unique dataset that other organizations and we can learn from to better support the planning community.”
The research will be conducted by the Money Quotient Research Consortium (MQRC), an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners, and will be led by Carol Anderson, MS, President of MQ Research & Education and Vice President of Money Quotient, Inc.; Deanna L. Sharpe, Ph.D., CFP®, CRPC®, CRPS®, Associate Professor in the Personal Financial Planning Department at the University of Missouri; and Megan McCoy, Ph.D., LMFT, CFT-I™, Professor of Practice and Director of the Personal Financial Planning Master’s Program at Kansas State University. Anderson and Sharpe were the lead researchers for the original study in 2006, and McCoy will serve as the principal investigator for the 2021 study.
In the original 2006 study, researchers surveyed planners and clients about effective communication and trust-building tasks within financial planning. This research provided the opportunity to observe how well financial planners’ perspective on their client’s position on issues related to communication skills and tasks. The study provided insights into best practices to engage clients’ in a more committed manner and build trust. Results of the study affirmed that communication in financial planning is a multifaceted construct and that it is crucial to incorporate a life planning perspective into the financial planning process.
Key findings from the 2006 study included:
- Planner/client conversations need to focus on communicating recommendations in terms clients understand, explaining pros and cons of recommended investments, and clients want to be involved with their planners in making critical financial decisions.
- It’s essential for planners to understand what a client wants in a relationship; communicating the importance of linking financial recommendations to personal goals, needs, and priorities; and considering all areas of life when creating a financial plan.
- Financial planners tend to undervalue the importance to clients of having a planner who is comfortable and skillful in dealing with a client’s strong emotions.
“In a digital age where financial information abounds and is easily found, relationship is a key value-add of financial planning. Clients turn to financial planners for something technology cannot give—an empathetic understanding of what’s most important,” says Deanna L. Sharpe, Ph.D., CFP®, CRPC®, CRPS®. “Our prior research helped identify best practices in relationship development and this current project will allow us to further develop an empirical basis for practitioners to stay connected and relevant in the midst of a dynamic and rapidly changing culture.”
Now in a time of rapid change and adaptation as our society evolves, this fresh look at the 15-year-old study will develop a robust dataset that focuses on financial planners and their work with clients to see what best practices have stood the test of time. The new study will also:
- Identify the most critical communication practices that yield trust and commitment in a planner/client relationship.
- Add to our understanding of virtual client meetings and interactions.
- Provide insights on the level of clients’ financial anxiety and its potential impact on multiple aspects of the planner/client relationship.
- Provide insights on training and education opportunities around cultural competence and the impact of cultural competence on trust and commitment within financial planning.
“I feel as though the original study was at the start of this shift that occurred within the financial planning profession, emphasizing relational aspects of planner/client dynamics versus simply maximizing return on investment,” says Principal Investigator Megan McCoy, Ph.D., LMFT, CFT-I™. “This renewed study will dig into this relational aspect even further by giving us new insights into communication skills that facilitate trust and commitment, and virtual financial planning and cultural competence as they have moved to the forefront of our lives. This study has the potential to provide incredible insights into new best practices in financial planning for years to come.”
The 2021 study is being fielded May 25 through June 15 via an online survey of financial planners and financial planning clients. The research will result in a dataset that identifies the essential communication practices that earn trust and commitment in a financial planning relationship and identifies the most effective strategies in developing successful financial planning engagements. The wide availability of the dataset will also provide a foundation for additional studies by other researchers and organizations, which can significantly expand the body of knowledge in financial planning.
“Allianz Life is pleased to be able to partner with MQ Research Consortium and FPA on this important research project,” said Heather Kelly, Senior Vice President, Head of Advisory & Strategic Accounts for Allianz Life. “Now more than ever, effective communication between financial planners and their clients is critical in ensuring the best possible planning outcomes.”
Besides research leaders Anderson, Sharpe, and McCoy, the MQRC includes other notable academicians and practitioners, including Thom Allison, CFP®, Founder of Allison Spielman Advisors and MQ University faculty member; Josh Harris, CFP®, AFC®, Department of Finance Clemson University; and Derek R. Lawson, Ph.D., CFP®, Assistant Professor of Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University and Partner at Priority Financial Partners.
About the Financial Planning Association
The Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) is the principal membership organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who are committed to elevating the profession that transforms lives through the power of financial planning. With a focus on the practice, business and profession of financial planning, FPA advances financial planning practitioners through every phase of their careers, from novice to master to leader of the profession. Learn more about FPA at financialplanningassociation.org and follow on Twitter at twitter.com/fpassociation.
About Allianz Life
Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life), one of the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® and one of the Ethisphere World’s Most Ethical Companies®, has been keeping its promises since 1896 by helping Americans achieve their retirement income and protection goals with a variety of annuity and life insurance products. In 2020, Allianz Life provided additional value to its policyholders via distributions of more than $10.1 billion. As a leading provider of fixed index annuities, Allianz Life is part of Allianz SE, a global leader in the financial services industry with approximately 150,000 employees in more than 70 countries. Allianz Life is a proud sponsor of Allianz Field® in St. Paul, Minnesota, home of Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United.
About Money Quotient Research Consortium (MQRC)
The Money Quotient Research Consortium (MQRC) was formed to support the scholarly initiatives adopted by MQ Research & Education™ (MQRE), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded on the belief that a multi-disciplinary, evidenced-based approach to financial planning, education, counseling, and therapeutic processes will clarify best practices and promote successful client relationships. To this end, MQRE facilitates innovative studies; forms collaborations with researchers, scholars, and practitioners; and provides learning opportunities that facilitate a deeper understanding of both the emotional and practical factors that promote financial well-being and life satisfaction. Learn more about MQRE at www.mqre.org.
Chief Communications Officer
Financial Planning Association