Working with grieving clients

As more and more baby boomers surpass age 65, financial advisors are going to be increasingly facing occurrences of death and grief among their clients. The ability to support clients through the loss of a partner or spouse will become an important part of building and maintaining strong advisor/client relationships.

Rhonda Latreille, founder and CEO of Age-Friendly Business in White Rock, B.C., says advisors with aging clients should come to terms with their own feelings regarding death and loss before they can truly support clients facing these circumstances.

Clients want advisors who can support them through major transitions in their lives, both financial and personal, says Amy Florian, thanatologist and CEO of Illinois-based Corgenius. In the event of a client’s partner or spouse passing away, Florian says, “Always, if it’s possible, go to the funeral services. There is no substitute for personal presence.”

While some advisor/client relationships are close-knit, others may feel more clinical, Latreille says. If you have any doubts about the appropriateness of attending the wake or funeral of a client’s partner or other family member, ask your client: “How can I best serve you?”

Ask if you can offer support by attending the funeral, Latreille says, or if the services are intended for family only.

Share fond memories
If you do attend a funeral to support a client, it’s always a good idea to think of a memory of the deceased ahead of time. Sharing positive anecdotes with your client or their family will provide some comfort.

“Every grieving client wants to know that somebody will remember their loved one besides them,” Florian says, “and that their loved one made a difference.”

For example, Florian says, you might approach your client to say: “What I’ll miss the most about Jim was that big infectious smile. He really knew how to make people happy.”

“That’s so much more comforting,” she adds, “than coming up to your client and just saying, ‘I’m so sorry’.”

Say something meaningful
If you are attending a service for a client’s loved one whom you haven’t met, there are still opportunities to say something meaningful based on the photographs and mementos on display.

If there is a funny photo on display, for example, ask your client what was happening when that photo was snapped, Florian says. This type of question will help encourage the sharing of memories even if you don’t have one to contribute yourself.

“This is doing the right thing for your client,” Florian says, “but also doing the right thing as a person.”

This is the second part in a two-part series on working with grieving clients.

Click here for part one.

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