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The bonding continuum in financial planner-client relationships

Journal of Financial Planning. October 31, 2010

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All planner-client relationships reflect degrees of bonding and are potentially enduring and endearing. However, only a small subset achieves that status. Based on a survey of financial planners, only 13 percent meet the dual criteria of an especially strong bonding relationship: planners selected by a client to be contacted in cases of an emergency, and planners selected to be the sole or co-executor of a client’s will. The authors conducted cross-tab analyses resulting in four sets of correlates affecting ties that bind: demographic, attitudinal and behavioral, critical incidents, and job performance and satisfaction. This paper discusses implications of ties that bind, highlighting the risks and rewards of bonding relationships along the bonding continuum. Compared to weak bonders, unusually strong bonders are older and have more experience as planners. Strong bonders are more likely to discuss their role as coach/counselor and try to help their clients understand the relationship between psychological needs and financial planning. Strong bonders are also more likely to have fired a client because of ethical issues or because the commitment they make is based on a cost-benefit analysis of the potential demand that a client might impose on the relationship. Compared to weak bonders, strong bonders are more likely to have mediated conflicts or been involved in an intervention to get a client into therapy or drug treatment, among other behaviors that create special ethical issues for bonders. Strong bonders are more likely to agree that coaching helps them do a better job as a financial planner and that coaching has improved the communication between clients and their family members.