A Leadership Dialogue Worth Reading: Balancing the Need to Drive Revenue with Doing What is Right for Clients

Given the breadth of contacts we have in our work in the financial services industry, we are afforded the opportunity to encounter some of the best bankers, advisors, market leaders and executive leaders in the industry. Recently, we thought it worthwhile to connect some of the best in these roles with each other, believing that doing so might serve to help each one of them further enhance their effectiveness.

Over the last few weeks, I have been a witness to an email conversation between a small group of best-in-class market leaders, each of whom I would consider Purpose-Driven, Servant Leaders who have a high degree of credibility both with those who report to them and those to whom they report.

This conversation started with one of the leaders asking the group:

How do you balance building the business with focusing on doing what is right for your clients and your teams?

This is a question we hear often and represents an issue with which we see many advisors and leaders struggling, particularly given the trends in our industry and the drive to differentiate. While our answer to this question at Greene Consulting is that the two definitely go hand-in-hand and collectively lead to most effectively growing the business, we thought you would appreciate this dialogue and find some value in reading it, whether you are a market leader, an executive leader or a Front-Line advisor.

I am sure there will be more said among this group, but here is the dialogue this group has had thus far on this topic.

Leader AI’ve got a leadership question for you all. How do you balance building the business with focusing on doing what is right for your clients and your teams? I believe those aren’t exclusive and know that much of my success has come because I’ve done what’s right by the client/team versus myself. But I’m curious what others are doing.As a relatively new market leader, I’ve seen that the more distance there is between the client and the leader, the more the conversations turn to revenue and numbers versus remembering that these are human lives that we are impacting.

This is the first role that I’ve had that doesn’t have a direct production component and I’m curious how other leaders deal with the natural progression towards numbers on a spreadsheet and revenue on reports versus human lives that we are impacting.

Leader B Great question. It’s an interesting paradigm and one that’s plagued our industry for decades, unfortunately because they are viewed by so many as mutually exclusive objectives. At the end of the day, however, I fundamentally believe that delivering on our purpose as a financial services industry will deliver the much-desired profit that everyone uses as their measuring stick. My instincts tell me that everyone on this distribution list believes this way, hence the reason we were so graciously connected. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences in our careers that proved this hypothesis to be correct. From my perspective, the real challenge is creating the same (or higher) levels of conviction in those around us to stay committed to the journey because it’s the right thing to do even if it requires a more difficult path.
Leader C Great point of discussion and incredibly well-articulated points by both of you! I remember [Greene Consulting] talking about this in our first Client Experience session several years ago. Since then, where our teams have consistently delivered on their Client Promise, the metrics have been better than what we thought ever possible. We didn’t do it just for metrics, but that was one of the results. That data has been helpful and gives me something to go to when we have folks who need to be convinced. I completely agree with the point about creating the same conviction in those around us to stay committed! We fight the old muscle-memory until we make this completely cultural and part of our DNA. That battle is longer and more complicated than I wish it were. The only thing I know to do right now is to stay as engaged as humanly possible in what each person on my team is doing (joint calls, coaching, helping them deliver on their promise, and laser focus on this process vs. their short-term results, which are just a lagging indicator). They will hear from me, until the last day I’m allowed to serve in this role, that delivering on our promise is the most important thing and one of the only important things we can actually control.

I am certainly looking forward to hearing other ideas around this and other topics from this group and learning more from each of you! 

Leader B Excellent commentary. In cases such as mine, our leadership teams are also working to improve “target client selection” as the optimal client to deliver a wealth/brokerage experience. Coming from a transactional world, immediate revenue generation was often the highest determining factor in the advisor’s client selection process. But this has to change as expectations and time capacities around the experience are raised. In many ways, it’s an unwinding effect while embracing the new way of thinking for associates.
Leader A Great thoughts. I can see why Greene connected us. We share many of the same convictions.

I certainly share the deep conviction that doing things the right way will have great long-term results…but also can say that even if they don’t, I’m still going to do them that way…even if it costs me my job. There are some things I won’t compromise on no matter the cost. I bet we all share that deep conviction at some level which allows us the freedom to do what we do the way we do them.

So, if we agree that doing things the right way is the only way that we operate, how do you prepare budgets and goals with that in mind? How do you lead towards a profit goal in light of our deep convictions? How do you talk with shareholders about the profit they can expect or talk with the CEO about the revenue your division makes?

My previous tendency was to say, it falls where it falls…I keep doing what’s right and the results are what the results are. My goal is to be a great advisor and the result of that will be revenue, but revenue isn’t the goal. As I’ve moved away from production and into leadership over the past six years, I’ve kept true to that mentality and philosophy, but always felt like there was an authentic way to incorporate both doing things the right way and the connection to a revenue goal, but haven’t seen many leaders effectively do that.

From your responses, it’s helped me have deeper conviction that I’m not the only one trying to shape the industry and that we need to continue to have confidence in our convictions.

Thank each of you for the thoughtful responses. If you have additional insight to add, I welcome it.

Leader D I agree that serving clients with authenticity with a goal to make significant impact and get it right for clients is the only way to operate. I believe this and coach to it every day. Yet I also realize that so many key decision-makers (CEOs, Boards of Directors, etc.) in our business don’t truly understand that. They often don’t fully understand our business, nor do they want to get into the weeds. As Wealth Leaders that have embraced this approach, we have to be careful not to lose credibility by getting so deep with this approach that we cannot translate its effectiveness back to these decision-makers in terms of productivity and profitability. Too many of the key leaders in our field, especially in banks or larger holding companies, don’t get it and are more concerned with financials, which could limit the resources devoted to getting this right. Therefore, for this group and any leader that embraces this, we have to remember our audience and adapt to them.

My approach, therefore, has evolved. The result has to be an increase in productivity and profitability for this to be sustainable over the long run. I often describe that what differentiates my approach has to be the quality of the team we hire and retain, the way we are organized around our clients, and the intentional focus on the client experience we deliver. It is not the investment returns or the rates we offer that differentiate us, as they are commodities. This strategy will lead to long-term high levels of production and profitability. The reality is that key decision-makers need to hear and see this compared to only hearing about doing the right thing and making impact.

So glad to be a part of this group as there is definitely a place in a Wealth Leader’s long-term development for peer groups and benchmarking. This is healthy and will make an impact not only on the individuals, but also on the industry. A few years ago, I heard someone say that, “if you’re not learning and growing, you’re dying”. And I want to keep living! I’m sure I will learn and grow by being engaged [with this group].

Leader E This dialogue is awesome. Was thinking about this last night. What I concluded is that my conviction to do what is right with purity of intent also must hold true with my commitment to my employer. While I sometimes differ with those above me as to HOW to meet the goals, nevertheless, I need to do all I can to meet the goals. So that certainly warrants an equally intense focus on the numbers and is therefore important that we track the numbers, know the metrics and focus on improving them. This serves us well in budgeting, forecasting and communications with those to whom we report, also helping to define what we need from the company to best help us meet these goals (and accordingly best help us serve our clients). And it equally conveys to those we report to that we were all in and committed to helping them and the company hit their numbers.

Ultimately, we can best hit those metrics and our numbers if we are true to our Purpose and Promise and do EVERYTHING with the client’s best interests in mind. The metrics will actually be better than they would be if we were simply pitching product or merely focused on meeting our goals. But with this, as the market leader, it is imperative – both for the good of the client AND the company we work for – that we equip our advisors and guide them to the greatest success, which is not just “doing what is right for the client”, but challenging them to develop the knowledge and skills they need to best engage clients according to our Promise and ensuring they are well-prepared and intentional about every single prospect and client engagement.

If you feel compelled to add to this conversation, feel free to send comments to me at rickswygman@greeneconsults.com!

At Greene Consulting, our purpose is to help financial services providers design better experiences, develop better people, and thereby deliver better results. For more detail or insight on how we help advisors and firms in this area of the Client Experience, or any other issues related to the Client Experience being delivered, contact us at 404-324-4600 or email Rick Swygman at rickswygman@greeneconsults.com.

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