Industry News

Certain words make clients suspicious

By Fiona Collie |

Advisors planning to discuss fees with clients as part of the second phase of the client relationship model (CRM2) reforms may want to choose their words carefully, according to research from Toronto-based Invesco Canada Ltd.

"Words matter. It's not what you say, it's what people hear," said Rob Kochel, vice president, Invesco Consulting, speaking at the 2014 Invesco Institute on Wednesday in Markham, Ont. "It's not what [clients] think, it's what they feel."

Using certain words during when talking with clients about compensation can build feelings of trust, whereas others could have the opposite effect, according to research conducted for Invesco by New York-based Maslansky and Partners. Kochel presented the findings at Wednesday's event.

For example, the very word "fees" could create problems for advisors even when the conversation is about disclosing them. That's because when people hear the word fees they think of things like baggage fees, roaming fees and hidden fees, said Kochel.

Clients are also suspicious of other words similar to fees, such as charges, because of its association with credit cards, and commissions. Instead, Kochel suggested advisors use the word costs during client conversations.

Another word with negative associations for the average consumer is "bundled", because of its association with monthly phone or cable packages.

"If you think our industry has an issue with [the word] fees," said Kochel, "I can tell you right now the Internet industry, the cable industry and the telephone industry have a huge issue with [the word] bundled." Rather than bundled, advisors can say the fees are inclusive.

Advisors should also avoid words that sound like orders, or seem to place demands on clients. For example, describing something as a standard account fee was received more positively in the study than terms such as mandatory account fee. "Mandatory," said Kochel, "sounds a little draconian."

When speaking with clients, advisors have to be careful not get too fancy with their word choice. For example, plain language words such as "manages costs" were viewed more positively in the study than "mitigates costs."

Regardless as to what advisors say to clients it's important that they have the conversation now. "If you say, I'm just going to wait until [clients] phone me — you're done," said Kochel. "If you wait until July 2016 — you're done. [Clients] want to know now."