Exploiting the power of storytelling to explain the value of advice

Time and again research tells us that the same things keep cropping up to stop more people from getting financial advice.


Market research group CoreData says advice is plagued by perceptions of high cost and low value; that individuals don’t believe their current situation warrants the time and effort to seek advice; and there’s an over-arching lack of trust in advisers and their services.

People who get advice report feeling much more in control of their finances and enjoy greater peace of mind, as well as achieving better actual financial outcomes. But more people might get advice in the first place if they understood more clearly what it can do for them.

Not all advisers are great at articulating the value of their advice and explaining in clear and relevant terms just exactly what’s in it for the consumer. Some advisers are just really good advisers, and less good at self-promotion and marketing. It doesn’t mean their advice isn’t great, and nor does it mean clients will not enjoy real and lasting benefits from getting it.

For any service to find its market, its potential consumers have to be able to imagine themselves using it and getting benefit from it. And storytelling is a proven way of helping people to imagine themselves in a particular setting or situation. The greater the empathy with the story’s main protagonist, the more effective the connection.

Five distinctive individuals experience interactions with financial planners from five distinct perspectives in a book being published at the beginning of next month, The Breakfast Club for 40-Somethings.

Its author, No More Practice Education founder Vanessa Stoykov (yes, this is a review of the boss’s work) establishes a financial planner as a central character in the book. The story is told through the eyes of six former schoolmates including Ben, who has gone on to become a financial planner.

The others have gone off along different paths, and now find themselves in different situations, but through their interactions at a school reunion they all realise they can benefit from getting financial advice. Ben is one of those planners – we all know them – who is very good at selling himself, even when he’s not selling himself. The reader accompanies each of them through the financial planning process, learning along the way how advice works, and its benefits.

The characters are drawn clearly but broadly, so as to be easily distinguishable from each other, and to illustrate multiple aspects of advice. As a tool for explaining the value of advice the book will work to the extent that a potential client faces the same dilemmas faced by the characters in the book. Even if a potential client does not exactly match a single character in all respects, it’s likely that the client’s issues will be covered by one or more of the characters in combination.

But the main point of the book is to demonstrate the value of advice to people who may not realise it has value for them; or worse, have a mindset about money that prevents them from seeking advice at all. Indeed, a key message is that “unlearning” what we think we know and our attitude towards money can often be the best first step towards taking control.

For an adviser who has found it difficult to effectively explain the value of advice and the utility of their service, or just as a way to introduce clients to the concept and the process of financial planning so they know what to expect, a series of case studies – albeit idealised, fictionalised and woven into a piece of storytelling – is a new and possibly effective way to go about it.

Ben might not be every financial planner’s idea of an ideal role model, or the perfect construction of a financial planner to put forward to the public. But he’s significantly better than others. One example that springs to mind is the main character in the Netflix TV series Ozark, who finds himself laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel.

Marty Byrde, played by Jason Bateman, is not exactly the kind of role model the financial planning industry needs, and not the kind of character to instill public trust and. He does for financial planners what Walter White from Breaking Bad does for high-school chemistry teachers. It has to be said, though, that Marty gets very good at money laundering.

Advisers can pre-order copies of The Breakfast Club for 40-Somethings from Booktopia now, to assess how it might work in helping to explain to potential clients the benefits and process of financial planning. It goes on sale generally on May 1.

The opinions expressed in this content are those of the author shown, and do not necessarily represent those of No More Practice or its related entities. All content is intended for a professional financial adviser audience only and does not constitute financial advice. To view our full terms and conditions, click here.

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