Jan 02 2024 / Round the Table Magazine
Serving clients and constituents
Arlene Genove, RFC, is on call, doubly so. Not only does she make herself available for financial services clients, the seven-year MDRT member from Makati, Philippines, also responds to constituents as an elected official on the town council of Sariaya in the province of Quezon. As a municipal councilor, she meets people from all social classes, responding to such needs as infrastructure development, typhoon relief and permit requests. Being an elected official has helped her develop a holistic perspective when addressing the needs of financial services clients.
Working with the people
“Elected officials are trained to understand the perspectives and experiences of the people surrounding them,” Genove said. “They must put themselves in their constituents’ shoes, acknowledge their concerns and appropriately respond to their needs, which is similar to the financial advisor’s work. Advisors also must understand their clients’ unique circumstances and perspectives. Empathy allows us to connect on a deeper level and recognize our clients’ concerns about their finances, whether they are struggling to adjust to a new life situation or facing financial hurdles such as debts and limited income. We provide tailored solutions that align with their goals.”
Genove’s public service background helped her find those solutions, especially during the pandemic, when many of her clients lost their jobs. While their difficulties paying for their policies and continuing as clients were a concern, she recognized that a more pressing issue to address for some clients was their inability to earn an income. So, she went beyond what she usually does by exploring home-based jobs or sharing websites where they could seek employment.
“My work as a councilor parallels my being a financial advisor in that I must help improve my constituents’ and clients’ overall well-being,” she said. “I advised them, similar to what I do as a councilor, on the best course to continue protecting themselves, such as by lowering the premiums, modifying payment terms from annual to monthly, or helping them find another income source.”
As an advisor, Genove prioritizes mission over collecting a commission and starts with helping clients define their goals and priorities. She credits her ability as a public servant to listen and empathize with people from diverse backgrounds. Genove also leans on her desire to help them overcome personal and financial obstacles through helping them define their goals and priorities. During the pandemic, several clients came to terms with their mortality and became more willing to reevaluate their financial goals, making them more interested in estate planning.
Initially, Genove needed to become more confident about her knowledge and skills to take on estate planning. But she stepped out of her comfort zone and studied by attending webinars, taking free courses and reading articles on the MDRT website. It is all part of Genove’s belief that learning continues after graduation for financial advisors. “It is a never-ending process that requires a deep understanding of our clients’ financial situations and their challenges and goals,” she said. “When our clients go through life changes, they’re not alone. We, as financial advisors, go through the fire with them.”
Genove shares her processes for helping clients.
Understand the implications of life changes. Marriage, annulment, childbirth and retirement are among the life changes that impact a client’s financial situation. Identifying these implications helps financial advisors understand the new circumstances and adapt their strategies accordingly. Advisors should also check their clients’ social media accounts to see these updates.
Have open communication with clients. Once they’re ready, clients will converse honestly with their financial advisor to express their concerns, goals and aspirations.
Set up regular meetings for financial reviews. These sessions ensure that the client’s financial plan remains relevant and aligned with their evolving needs. Setting up a monthly or bimonthly meeting helps financial advisors learn about their clients’ life changes, assess the implications, diagnose areas for financial improvement, and increase the chances of achieving financial success and well-being.
Besides empathy, a zeal for lifelong learning and the courage to face change, Genove maintains that advisors and public servants must have the highest ethics and integrity. Maintaining trust is essential. She adamantly observes the boundaries between her two worlds by ensuring that her advisor practice is free from politics, so that clients know she can work with them no matter their affiliations and loyalties.
“Clients come to me as a financial advisor because I’m good at what I do, not because of the office I hold, and I will help them achieve their financial goals despite the different life changes,” she said.
Antonette Reyes writes for Team Lewis, a communications agency assisting MDRT with content development for Asia-Pacific markets. Contact email@example.com