Are you ready for
a new decade of financial advice?

This past decade, financial advisors and the finance industry was shaken up and forever changed. New competitors, products, shifting business models and regulations made many of us feel the discomfort that change can bring, while some saw the glimmer of opportunity that accompanied it.

I generally write a December post about the things I recommend that I found over the previous year, from my time on the road or through conversations with advisors. But, as we leave one decade behind and prepare to begin another, I feel more compelled to write about the habits that I believe will make an advisor poised for success in 2020.

Moving off autopilot into mindfulness

“Highway hypnosis” is a mental state where a person is able to drive and still respond to external events in a safe and appropriate manner, yet have no recollection of doing so. It’s an explanation for why we sometimes have little memory of our commute home from the office. The challenge is, many of us let that hypnotic state ooze into other moments of our life—in choosing what we eat, responding to emails, during meetings or getting lost scrolling feeds in our smartphones. It’s not inherently bad, our brains are trained to take shortcuts to help us be efficient and not be overwhelmed by decision making. But when most of our life becomes a series of autopilot actions and decisions, it becomes hard to stop.

This is where mindfulness comes in.

The general principle of mindfulness is to be consciously aware, forcing your actions and thoughts off autopilot. Practicing mindfulness became more mainstream this decade, with many top leaders touting meditation and increased awareness as a key to success. Being mindful, and doing meditation, allows you to be 100% engaged in the moment. This allows you to be present, more engaged and enjoy the current moment instead of constantly thinking about the next one. All of which, creates better focus and leaves a better impression with your clients. My recommendation this year is to reflect mindfulness in how you spend your time and what your actions are each day.

Motivation for life

Darren Hardy, a motivational speaker, creates a daily video message called Darren Daily. It’s a short, 3-5 minute motivational, inspirational message delivered to your inbox each day. I find his messages to be impactful and some days it’s what I need to hear, especially when I am in the airport waiting for flight number two of three for the week. Meditation is a difficult practice but you could always start your day out with a fresh boost of perspective and motivation from a guy like Darren.

There’s no shortage of evidence on the benefits of working out—it’s good for your short-term and long-term physical health and improves your mental and emotional states. Yet, it’s still hard for many to start and then continue to exercise—especially during stressful or difficult times. This year, I recommitted to my health and found that using technology like Strava was helpful in keeping me motivated. Strava and other similar apps can sync with health devices, like an exercise bike or GPS. The data is then housed in one place to give you an overview of where you started, how you’ve improved and the miles you racked up on a bike, ski slope or the pavement. To see your hard work and dedication visualized helps keep you going when you simply don’t feel like lacing up your shoes. Let this year be the one where you carve out time to keep your body and mind challenged—you’ll reap the benefits. 

Good storytelling for the advisor of the future

Good stories are often a reflection of a good storyteller. Mike Rowe’s podcast, The Way I Heard It, brought me lots of entertainment while commuting to and from airports all over the country. The podcast is a source of about 10-minute stories on the places and people you thought you knew—sometimes with a twist. Mike is an exemplary storyteller and I find myself listening to the episodes on 1.25x speed to be able to get an extra story in before arriving at my intended destination. The role of the advisor is shifting from investment pickers to true partners with our clients to help them understand their bigger financial picture. Exposing yourself to rich anecdotes and histories can help you improve the stories you tell clients, giving them a way to better understand their own life story and goals as a rich narrative rather than a number.

Red light, green light

If you haven’t had time to schedule business planning with your team, or are really pressed for planning time, consider a simple exercise that can have a big impact. It’s the Start, Stop and Continue method. There are three categories: activities or projects that you want to start, those that you need to stop because they are too time consuming or resource intense and then there are things you are already doing that you think should continue. It’s one of those frameworks that can easily apply to personal goals and professional plans. Consider how much time you spend on activities, where you would rather be spending time or resources and take a frank look at things that might be doing your business a disservice because they just aren’t right.

If you really “play to your strengths” what does that look like in the future? If you aren’t a marketing or web-design wizard, is there a way to outsource some of those things in a cost-effective way? Can you carve out more time to go deeper with clients in the first year of working together? Are you effectively setting goals with clients or should that be tweaked? The Start, Stop and Continue framework can be very helpful for those times when an hour or two becomes available, but you are unable to gather your whole team in the moment. Once you have the categories and items assigned under each, talk about them with your team and get their feedback.

Accept your past without regrets. Handle your present with confidence. Face your future without fear."

Those words were written by the bestselling author, Nicholas Sansbury Smith. Though he may have penned them in the context of a Sci-Fi world, I think they can also apply for the new decade that many financial advisors will find themselves in soon. Let’s be smarter with our resources and ourselves, mindfully walking into a future of better relationships with clients and bright and prosperous business.

Looking forward to 2020, I hope you are each able to take some time to decompress, rest and relax to gear up for what’s to come.

The views expressed in this article are only those of Rob Richardson and are not necessarily the views of Franklin Templeton and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations to invest in any security or adopt any investment strategy.

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