Emotional Intelligence Needed to Build Trust With Clients


While financial advisers understand the value of clients trusting their judgement, a US-based survey reveals a generational gap that could mean there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building relationships with customers.

Carried out by The Harris Poll for international financial adviser association MDRT, the survey reveals that while baby boomers and Generation Z are up to 51 years apart, both groups agree when it comes to how advisers can earn their trust.

Click here for a full-size version of MDRT’s infographic on Rising Above the Era of Distrust…

The survey report says 61% baby boomers (1947–1965) and 62% of Gen Z (1998-2002) are more likely to trust advisers who listen to and acknowledge their needs. However, only 52% of Gen X (1966–1981) and 54% of millennials (1982–1997) say the same. An 8 to 9 point difference.

Financial advisers must connect with clients on more personal levels…

Of the 2,031 adults surveyed, 83% say emotional intelligence is important to building a quality client-adviser relationship. The report’s writers says the size of this majority indicates that emotional know-how is seen as a foundational skill rather than a mark of exceptional work.

The report says clients are more likely to trust advice from advisers who:

  • Listen to and acknowledge their clients’ needs (57%)
  • Communicate in easily understood ways (57%)
  • Follow through on their word (55%)
  • Show they care about their clients as people (52%)

Interestingly, just 30% of those who took part in the survey would be more likely to trust advisers who have an up-to-date website; even fewer (25%) say the same for advisers who regularly recommend relevant content.

Regina Bedoya, President MDRT.
Regina Bedoya, President MDRT.

“While digital literacy makes business operations more efficient and helps bring clients in the door, it does not by itself communicate trustworthiness,” says Regina Bedoya, MDRT’s President.

“In this period of societal and institutional instability, financial advisers must connect with clients on more personal levels than ever before.

“Advisers can successfully adjust and help clients navigate this new reality by embracing the sentimental side of financial advising.”

Consumers have clearly communicated their needs to advisers and paved a path for us to meet them…

The report says almost half of baby boomers (47%) and Gen Z (49%) are more likely to trust advisers who check in with them frequently, versus 39% of Gen X and 36% of millennials.

In short, the report indicates that Gen X and millennials want more from advisers than other generations. The report’s author recommends advisers work harder to connect with clients and prospects in these generations and build up the emotional foundations of trust over time.

“Consumers have clearly communicated their needs to advisers and paved a path for us to meet them,” Bedoya said.

Download the survey report here.

Survey methodology
The survey was conducted online in the US by The Harris Poll on behalf of MDRT from February 11–13, 2020, among 2,031 adults ages 18 and older, 526 of whom reported working with a human financial adviser. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.