This week, clients asked my advice on a complex and thorny estate-planning decision in their family. They presented me with a few options – each with unique consequences - from which they had to make known their preferred choice.
I scanned through the options, weighed up the pros and cons. Within minutes, I had come up with my choice for them. I picked up the phone and asked them for their thoughts. I clarified what I thought they would want. And then said, ‘from what you’ve just said to me, the information presented to us, and knowing you, I concur with what your preferred choice of action should be’.
Afterwards, I thought about that conversation. I pondered on the ease and speed of that decision. And I wondered what made that happen.
Of course, my technical knowledge and deep experience contributed to it – it’s the kind of knowledge and expertise that turns into intuition. The brain of an expert can run through iterations of information, values and principles, and find the most optimal solution, sometimes within seconds. And this is the part that will probably be replaced by robots in the future. Perhaps we can teach robots to think even more clearly than we can, without the prejudices and biases that we hold? Even experts have them, prejudice and bias, especially when they’re not conscious and don’t acknowledge them.
What cannot be replaced, and what is magical, however, is the interaction of two human beings who trust each other and who listen to each other. In those few moments of conversation with my client, we experienced partnership – there was no expert advisor on the one side of the table telling their ignorant client what to do – instead, just two people searching for the best option, together.
Today, our clients sometimes know more than we do. They hold the world’s knowledge in their palm. By the time they call us, they probably know the facts as well as we do. We kid ourselves if we think, as the experts, this is the most important value we add. It isn’t. It is our role to ensure that we have examined everything, including the hidden, often the emotional drivers, and then it is our role to help our clients choose their own solutions. But it is also more than that.
It is the knowing you. It is the foundation of that relationship. I know them. It’s not just about knowing their financial information. It’s more. I know their objectives. I know what they value. I’ve spent enough time with them to understand who they are. It’s not about knowing the intimate details of people’s lives (although that too happens), it’s about knowing what is important to them. They don’t have to tell me again, because we’ve covered that stuff, over all the years of partnership.
It is the combination of all these elements, the time we’ve invested in the trusted relationship, the years of experience and technical expertise, all the correct facts at hand, the listening, and then, the knowing you.
I love that. It is why I am in this business. I get to know people and partner with them, to make the best decisions for their lives. It allows them to live their best, most meaningful lives.
For me, it’s about the knowing you.
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I'm taking a break from blogging next week, but will return the week after.
//18 February 2022.