Adding ethnic diversity to your client base can help you build your business, says Alan Middleton, executive director with the Schulich Executive Education Centre at York University in Toronto.

With Canada experiencing continual demographic change, it is becoming apparent, Middleton says, that financial advisors will have to make stronger connections with various ethnic communities in order to become successful. Accordingly, you will have to tailor your pitching and sales approaches to meet different cultural norms.

It’s not enough to attract clients of various cultures. You will also have to deal with these clients in a way that harmonizes with their customs.

Says Middleton: “Unless the advisor understands the full scope of different family values and views and pulls them together in some kind of package, it will most likely mean leaving money on the table and setting up the possibility of client dissatisfaction.”

To help you make better inroads with multicultural Canada, Middleton offers up the following suggestions:

> Do a little research
Remember that there are many different cultural sensitivities to keep in mind when dealing clients of various ethnicities.

Committing a major cultural faux pas could be detrimental to building trust with clients in that community, so you should take the time to become familiar with each client family’s cultural practices.

For example, in many eastern cultures, the male spouse is the decision-maker.

“You don’t want to insult [a client from] a male-dominated culture,” Middleton says, “by insinuating that [he] isn’t able to make all the decisions.”

> Understand the level of assimilation
Once you have a firm grasp of the norms and sensitivities of your client’s culture, Middleton says, your next challenge will be to understand that family unit’s level of Canadian acculturation.

It is often easy to assume, when dealing with a family from a particular ethnic community, that the community’s practices are universal. While that may be partially true, Middleton says, your ability to determine your client’s integration with Canadian values will influence the depth of your relationship.

“A lot of ‘ethnic marketing’ goes wrong by assuming that clients are bringing with them all the values from where they have come from, rather than adapting over time,” Middleton says. “It’s the adaptive process — what they keep from the old culture and what goes into the new culture — that causes confusion among marketers and advisors.”

> Use available resources
Most large financial services firms now have experts on various ethnic markets. Start by finding out which resources are available to you, Middleton says, including experts who can offer advice and any materials provided by your firm.

> Make connections
Once you have developed a good understanding of a group’s cultural values, keep your ear to the ground and find an opportunity to meet casually with prospects within that group.

This could be at a community gathering, such as a fundraiser or a holiday celebration, within your local community. When you have become “plugged in” to the concerns of that group, the process is very similar to trying to recruit a new client from your established network.

For more information see: Three tips to connect in a culturally diverse world