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Are Numbers and Data Overwhelming Your Clients?

As an advisor, you have superior quantitative skills. You love numbers, spreadsheets, math. On the other hand, financial data can be overwhelming to most clients, especially if it is presented too quickly. During a planning presentation, clients may nod that they understand what all the numbers mean, but in most cases, they start to tune you out.

On this episode of the Elementality podcast, Reese Harper and Chad Jardine explain how a little creativity and a few simple design skills can help you improve client comprehension.

You know how difficult it is to get all the data needed to formulate good advice. So it’s crucial after all your planning efforts that you communicate the data clearly. Find out why “a picture is still worth a thousand words.”

Show Notes
https://www.garrreynolds.com

 


Podcast Transcript

Reese Harper:
Half of your clients will nod with you and pretend like they know what you’re talking about. Even if you put a nice, robust financial statement in front of them with dozens of asset classes and groupings. They’ll nod and pretend like they know what you’re talking about, but they don’t. They do not know what you’re talking about. And you’re advanced way beyond where they’re at. And you’ve done things so many times that they have never seen. That what you think is obvious to them is like Greek.

Jordan Haynes:
Welcome to Elementality. I’m Jordan Haynes, Financial Planning specialist at Elements. In this episode of Elementality, Reese and Chad talk about design and how it’s more than just carefully crafted reports with pleasing colors and simple charts. Reese explains that we as advisors are often like the finance guy or gal drawing pictures. As you listen, consider how utilizing the expertise of professionals focused on client experience and design can free up time for you to focus on what’s most important, helping clients feel comfortable and confident with their money. Enjoy the episode.

Reese Harper:
Welcome to Elementality everybody. Happy Thursday morning, or where am I at today? Not that you’ll know, but I kind of needed to announce that. I’m here with Chad, the dad in the studio and Tad.

Chad Jardine:
Okay. I feel like I need to start slow clapping every time you say Chad, the debt.

Reese Harper:
It’s just really fun for me. I finally have a two studio buddies to do the podcast with. I always wanted a second rhymer. So Chad will… Tad will introduce himself next time. And he’s a quiet behind the mic kind of guy. Always putting the show together. Just wanted to thank him, but we are here today, live and excited for another advisor question that I’ve been waiting for all week. Chad, what do we have this week? Or that you’ve dialed up in the kitchen?

Chad Jardine:
All right, well. Boy, have I got a thing for you?

Reese Harper:
Okay.

Chad Jardine:
So this comes from a little bit of a different angle and that is that we, as we’ve talked to a number of advisors and they see the things that they like about how the element system is put together. It brought to mind and I had an idea that it would probably be worth it for us to talk about the evolution and the deployment of design in what we’re doing. So I’m calling this, the devoir of design. Devoir means like the obligation and responsibility of design in delivering that customer experience. That’s kind of the brass ring in our space.

Reese Harper:
Okay. So what is the… what’s the main… I guess what’s the topic or the question that you… Describe a little bit more for me, so I know what to answer. Because I’m about to, I was just about to start rambling about how important that was, but I want to make sure I’m going in the right direction.

Chad Jardine:
The reason that I thought this would be an interesting topic is that we’ve seen people where they’re impressed with well-designed products, well-designed technology, well-designed communication templates and reports and things like that. Where they feel the impact of design. Design is like a proxy for professionalism. And especially for independence for guys that are, that have a small team or a small crew design can be a real challenge. And I think not just not a challenge, just because there’s so many jobs to do. And how do you put the extra effort into do design yourself, assuming that you have the talent and capability and training to do it.

Chad Jardine:
But also they… The communication of design as professional, like I might be a small shop, but how do I, what does it really, what’s the real impact? Where do you see it? And I know in your track record, Reese, you’ve always had that kind of right-brained element in, no pun intended, to your practice. And so I thought it might be interesting for our audience to hear from you about what do you think the impact has been about prioritizing design, about giving design the oxygen that it needs to become a significant part of your business.

Reese Harper:
It’s a misunderstood concept. Last night, I had a new client. I mean, this client in happens to be a very famous artist and he has a YouTube channel called Art For Kids Hub. And he teaches kids how to draw pictures. Right. And we talked about some concepts of design concepts and everything. And anyway, I showed him our latest version of the app and it was amazing to just like, watch him light up as an artist. He was just like, oh my gosh, finally, something that makes sense to me, he said. Finally something I can understand. I showed him the new Element Scorecard on the iOS app. And as kind of like the… I kind of told him, it’s like a baseball card that I can look at and see how you’re doing. And he’s like, oh my gosh, that’s brilliant. He’s like exactly what I was looking for.

Reese Harper:
And he showed me his own spreadsheet where he had tried to design a way for him to look at his finances and make sense of them. It was kind of like in pictures and some boxes and some percentages. And he was just like enamored with this because not because it looked pretty because it made sense. And in design, a lot of times the misconception that I started out talking about is that if things look good and they just started good colors and a good color palette, like you’ve solved the problem. And that is really important, like color and your thought, the thought good design is an aesthetic, but it’s also instructional. Design is what we’re really trying to get at here at Elements. Is it we’re trying to like create something that not only looks and feels great, which is super important, but it actually communicates meaning in a simpler way, right?

Chad Jardine:
Yeah. Like design is not just aesthetic. There’s actually a like a functional component.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. There’s a functional component to design. They call it Instructional design. You know, there’s Industrial design, which is Rob’s background. The guy was talking to this new client, designing cars and he went to drawing cartoons for kids is a lot more profitable. Instructional designs and other vertical in design where your intention is, how can you teach people something through the way you arrange objects, through the shapes that you use, through images that you select, through colors that you choose, through fonts that you choose. Design is actually so important to how people learn the order in which you display something, the rate or the time in which you put it in front of them, the color that you choose to put it in front of them. You’ll notice in the app right now, we don’t use red very often. And for a numbers, as it relates to numbers, we don’t use a color red for a negative.

Reese Harper:
We might use purple or we might use another closer, a color that’s just a little less threatening. And you don’t want people to associate negativity with their money. And so we very consciously have done some testing and found that a lot of people know that when there’s a red number, they’re bad, not good. And people don’t want to feel bad about their money. They already feel bad as it is. And so we’re consciously thinking about concepts like this to make the client experience really shine.

Reese Harper:
It’s not so much we’re designing for the advisor. We are, I mean, the advisor, you all listening, you guys can use an Excel spreadsheet and any number of tabs and figure out how to navigate your way to anything. You could have the worst design put in front of you and you can get it done, but the client experience, they are not that way. Like if you put a spreadsheet in front of them, you put a quick, if you put a P&L out of QuickBooks in front of somebody or a personal financial statement that is oriented the wrong way, or that has too much information, I mean, they’re just going to tune out. And so it’s really important.

Jordan Haynes:
Do you ever wonder if you do enough for your clients to be worth what they’re paying you for? Do you feel like you’re delivering enough value? The advisors wrestle with questions like these. I’ve used the Elements Financial Planning System for a couple of years now. With it, I can deliver periodic insight about a client’s financial health and progress by utilizing standardized measurements. They know I’m watching their progress and can actually see how my advice is improving their life. With the Elements Financial Planning System you can also give your clients consistent planning guidance and the valuable advice they expect. Check it out at, getelements.com/meet

Chad Jardine:
Well, if let’s say that I, our listeners, right? If I’m somebody who’s young, I’m just getting started and I’m building my practice, or maybe I’ve been at it for a while. And, but I’m, I’m ready to kind of dig deep and push things to the next level. What kind of advice would you give them about incorporating design and the value of design as they start to make those kind of key decisions to ramp up their practices?

Reese Harper:
The first principle would be make sure that the thing you put in front of someone has way less information than you think it should. Right? If you feel like it doesn’t have enough information on it, it’s probably just about right. For your client. Like, if you’re feeling like, oh, this is so dumb, like, I’m literally putting like a picture in front of someone here it’s like that…

Chad Jardine:
Like the information density, if that’s too high, that can be a barrier for the client to actually get what it is. You’re trying to communicate.

Reese Harper:
Yeah because they’re going to pick up on like everything before you start talking. So if you put numbers in front of people, half of the human population when they look at a number, they will just turn off their brain. Like immediately, they’re just done. Doesn’t matter at that point, what else you say. Like, they’re just not listening and it’s over. And so you have to be very, very careful like your use of numbers versus your use of pictures and concepts, metaphors, and stories. Stories, metaphors, concepts, pictures, diagrams, they go a lot further than numbers do. A lot of times when I’ll put… Instead of putting a personal financial statement in front of someone, I’ll have it there, but I’ll stand up on the whiteboard or a blank sheet of paper. And instead of just like putting a personal financial statement front of somebody, I’ll put only the number net worth there, and then explain what that means.

Reese Harper:
And then I’ll just draw a rectangle and fill in different colors in the vertical rectangle of net worth. And just kind of approximate what the numbers will be for different asset types. So, real estate is taken up. This much business has taken up. This much liquidity is taken up this much and qualified plans is taken up this much, but I don’t put another number out there than the net worth number, because it starts to complicate the concept of net worth. I like only wanted to communicate one concept, which was net worth is the difference between all of your assets and your debts. It’s what’s left over after you pay off all your debts. And that is what I want them to like walk away from. And so making sure… these are, that might sound really, really dumb to a lot of our listeners are like, of course, it’s a stupid concept ever.

Reese Harper:
And I’m telling you, half of your clients will nod with you and pretend like they know what you’re talking about. Even if you put a nice, robust financial statement in front of them with dozens of asset classes and groupings. They’ll nod and pretend like they know what you’re talking about, but they don’t. They do not know what you’re talking about. And you’re advanced way beyond where they’re at. And you’ve done things so many times that they have never seen. That what you think is obvious to them is like Greek. And so in order to really be a trusted advisor with your clients, the best thing you can do is be the person that never makes them feel stupid about money, but always feel trusted. And I’ll never feel intimidated by money. Always feel like you’re translating to their level and not making them feel dumb, you know? And that’s where design really comes in.

Chad Jardine:
Yeah. It’s a kind of last question to kind of wrap up this topic. I know, like there’s a, it’s not fair to stereotype financial planners, financial advisors as one way or another, but it does seem like that we have, this is an industry that attracts people that have quantitative skills. And so that tends to be a little left-brained to use, you know, the jargon. So if you’re left-brained and you’re not super comfortable with design and maybe you’re a lot more comfortable with creative things when it has to do with developing a financial plan than you are about arranging colors and pictures on a page, what advice would you give or are there, is there an example that the audience would understand of a really great place to start in terms of improving the use of design in your practice?

Reese Harper:
What I would do is I would find someone in your community or neighborhood or local community or nationally now that you know, there’s Zoom is kind of ubiquitous with the neighborhood. I find someone who’s a UX designer, okay. This as someone who draws pictures that make sense, they draw concepts that make sense. Find someone who isn’t just a artist. Okay. Like a Graphic designer is not the same as a UX designer or a you user experience designers. What UX means. There’s User Interface and there’s User Experience designers. And they’re kind of synonymous terms. So if you found someone that usually this is like a Digital designer, like a Computer artist, if you haven’t listened to our episode in Season one with Todd Reynolds, who’s the UX designer for elements, make sure and listen to that episode, you can get a lot help out of that episode.

Reese Harper:
Todd went through some awesome design principles in that episode that had really helped you, but you can find someone like Todd to take what you’re describing, and then turn it into a compelling visual. It’s not going to cost a lot of money and it will be remarkable like how differentiating that will be, how powerful that will be in each one of your niches out there. Each one of your practices has such a unique customer demographic that you’ll find that your unique ideas and your concept of what you want to communicate. Man, if you can just spend 500 bucks and have somebody put together a visual, it goes a long ways, and you might have to do that, you know, two or three times a year, over a period of years. And you’ll eventually have a really nice set of diagrams that help communicate concepts that really move the needle.

Reese Harper:
Don’t go into Excel and build this thing yourself. I mean, do that as a draft, but your client will know that you went into Excel and built this, and it won’t feel the same when they look at it, they’re going to go, this is kind of like finance guy drawing pictures. And you don’t want them to feel that way. You want them to feel like this has been, these are your concepts that are then presented in a way that looks really professional. And that like lands as a professional designer would. And a professional designer will be able to alter your draft design and turn it into something that’s much more approachable.

Chad Jardine:
That’s really good. I think I’ll, I don’t normally do this, but I’ll finish this episode with a plug of my own. So even though I can…

Reese Harper:
Ask you more experienced than this than probably I do. And I’d like to hear your thoughts on what you think.

Chad Jardine:
I actually went to Art School.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. Exactly.

Chad Jardine:
So one of the best resources that I have found that takes a ton of the exact same stuff that I did my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts and makes it accessible to you is the series of books by Garr Reynolds, who can put a link in the show notes. But so Garr Reynolds, he’s an ex-Apple guy. He’s a professor in, I think he’s in Kyoto in Japan. And he has his first big kind of breakout book was called Presentation Zen. And it was around Slide Design for PowerPoint, but he followed that up with a book called Presentation Zen Design. And it’s, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to wrap your head around all of the basic composition, basic concepts of color composition, line, light, all of the things that people who spend day in day out thinking about that are creatives, Presentations Zen Design is a great entree into that.

Reese Harper:
That’s a great tip. I think that’s been a great summary of a really important concept. So thanks for extracting for the audience.

Chad Jardine:
Thank you. Thank you.

Jordan Haynes:
Next time on Elementality.

Paul Thompson:
Well, to be honest with you, the people who are kind of grabbing the bull by the horns in the industry are very clear about who they serve and the ones who are kind of having them flowing with the tide. A bit of feast and famine. Can’t really get my lead generation working, trying six different channels, figuring out how to put a chat bot on their website or something like that. Those guys that they need a little bit more clarity.

Jordan Haynes:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Planning System at getelements.com/meet and schedule a time to meet with me, or one of our friendly financial planning experts. Executive creators are Reese Harper and Chad Jardine. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton and directed by Jordan Haynes.

 

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