How Advisors Handle Their Most Difficult Clients

Clients come in all types. Some come to you looking for portfolio management, others emphasize retirement planning, and many seek both. Still others simply want someone to hold their hand while they wend their way through life’s tribulations.

Advisors must learn to adapt to varying client needs and personalities. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, though the struggles are not always in vain.

A few veteran advisors spoke to Financial Advisor about these past struggles, weighing in on how their most difficult clients taught them important lessons and ultimately made them better at their work.

Lessons Learned

Eric Ludwig, the CEO of Stockbridge Private Wealth Management in Sun Prairie, Wis., and co-director of the American College of Financial Services’ Center for Retirement Income, recalled one client from the early days of his career who took him for a wild ride.

Ludwig had just set out to co-found his own RIA practice after seven years at a large bank. “I tried to protect myself by discreetly gauging whether my largest client might consider moving with me,” he explained.

Unfortunately, the client decided to stay with the bank, ostensibly to take advantage of its fee discount for loyal customers.

“I remember feeling totally heartbroken,” said Ludwig.

Despite the disappointment, though, he kept “the communication channels open” with this ex-client. Two months later, his new firm proved profitable. So, with renewed confidence, Ludwig managed to arrange a meeting with the former client.

That changed everything.

“It was a combination of my newfound self-assurance and my conviction in the better service we provided that ultimately swayed the client [to change their mind] and come over to us,” he said. “He recognized the value we brought.”