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Lost Client Obsessions

A case study in handling renegade client offspring.

David J. Drucker, 02/16/2006

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Call it client psychology or whatever you want, but when personality and behavioral conflicts disrupt a planning engagement, that's every bit as much a practice management issue as marketing or technology.

And advisors are probably more reluctant to discuss personal problems they're having with clients than they are other types of practice issues, but if you spend time on some of the industry's private discussion forums, you will find a few brave souls asking others for advice. As did Deborah Frazier recently.

Frazier, owner of Frazier Financial Consultants in Chapel Hill, N.C., describes the situation this way:

"I have a widowed client whom I've worked with since 1999. She has a grown son, whom I have met, as she wants him to be informed about her finances. He got married a couple of years ago and his new brother-in-law is an 'insurance advisor' with only a couple of years' experience. The brother-in-law has been bragging about how much money he is making for clients, so the son now wants his mother to work with the brother-in-law.

"The mother does not trust insurance agents and is hesitant to switch, so she wants me to talk her son out of this plan. I am tired of the whole situation as we have discussed, at length, the pros and cons of commissioned planners and the annuities that the brother-in-law is recommending. I've also told her I can't be objective in helping her choose me over another advisor. This is between her and her son. The easy way out is to just let her go as a client. But the caring part of me wants to keep her safe, which I am pretty sure she won't be with the brother-in-law. My husband, a psychiatrist, advised me, 'Stop working with her; this is too upsetting to you and she will probably be pressured to leave anyway.'"

Frazier's post to the discussion forum ends with, "How do you handle grown children that get involved with their parents money as if it was their own? He is looking over my shoulder every minute and I am sick of it. I would really appreciate some advice."

The responses to Frazier's post ultimately helped her make a decision.

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