In building a professional client-advisor relationship, I believe there are six core characteristics – the “Six Cs” – a trusted financial advisor should possess: character, chemistry, caring, competence, cost-effective and consultative.
A financial advisor with character acts with complete integrity, loyalty, and transparency and avoids all conflicts of interest to put you first in all situations. An advisor with character provides objective guidance and sits on the same side of the table as you, 100 percent committed to putting your interests first. Character is the most essential relationship building block. It serves as the foundation on which we build a trusting bond necessary for a productive and collaborative relationship.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “In the long run, character is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” And, as the debate over regulating a universal financial fiduciary standard continues, the observation of Alan Greenspan, past chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, holds particular weight, “But rules cannot substitute for character.”
It can’t be said too many times that you need a financial advisor you can trust, someone who acts with complete integrity, loyalty, and transparency and avoids all conflicts of interest to put you first in all situations. That’s the definition of a fiduciary. And there’s nothing too complicated about having your finances managed with your best interests always at the forefront, right?
“Character is the indelible mark that determines the only true value of all people and all their work.” – Orison Swett Marden
Personal qualities such as integrity, honesty or dependability rank highest in any trust relationship, but you can’t just tell people that you are honest and trustworthy. Good character must be demonstrated through actions and conversation about values – theirs and yours.
During my conversations with individuals featured in this and prior books, I’ve discovered a person’s true character will emerge when they share their personal stories. Some bravely reveal a time of vulnerability, which was transformative, impacting the direction of their life. Others focus on whom or what drives them to achieve their goals. In each case, a theme would arise and a light would shine that person’s priorities and principles.
Here are two of my favorite questions I highly recommend you ask when trying to ascertain a person’s character:
1. Describe a defining moment in your life when you were either motivated to act or made the decision to do something differently.
2. Tell me about an object that is personally significant and what it represents in your life.
Many great leaders have understood the power of telling their story. Their stories, my story and yours are all a lesson for others, as well as a revelation of our authentic make-up. In sharing those stories and listening to each other we are able to demonstrate our truth and ideals. The power of our story comes from the knowledge we’ve gained along the journey and the wisdom we can share.
After reading the personal narratives collected here, take time to consider your own story. Discover its power and what it says about your character. Then share it.
Gordon J. Bernhardt,
CPA, PFS, CFP®, AIF®
President and Founder
Bernhardt Wealth Management, Inc.
Since establishing his firm in 1994, Gordon Bernhardt has been focused on providing high-quality service and independent financial advice in order to help his clients make smart decisions about their money. He specializes in addressing the unique needs of successful professionals, entrepreneurs and retirees, as well as women in transition throughout the Washington, DC area. Over the years, Gordon has been sought out by numerous media outlets including MSN Money, CNN Money, Kiplinger and The New York Times for his insight into subjects related to personal finance.