When I was growing up, my mother worked in social care with special needs children. When my brothers and I were around 15, mum encouraged us to work with a special needs after-school club, and it proved to be an amazing journey and learning experience. I continued to work in the sector after I finished university in a full-time capacity before I entered the financial sector.
What it taught me is that the ability to communicate on different levels is paramount. Children with special needs are all very different. Some are high-functioning and capable of having a long, detailed conversation, while others are low-functioning and can only communicate through sight or gestures. That’s why the ability to pick up on key signs is a critical skill that you develop working in that space, and one that I’ve carried with me as I’ve moved into other roles.
In my current role, the ability to read other people’s emotions has really helped. Often you can tell from someone’s emotional display that you might need to ask a question in order to progress a situation. This is really key when dealing with clients and colleagues, as often someone won’t tell you verbally they’re distressed but their body language will give it away.
The art of active listening is another key skill. One of my colleagues at Viridian is a big proponent of active listening and has always encouraged me to be engaged as others are talking and to be prepared with a follow-up question. This is particularly relevant with clients, as we want to really get below the line and understand what’s going on behind the scenes, in my opinions all relationships are built on trust and that can be challenging to build without these key components.
This last point is critical to our ethos of really understanding our clients in order to help them live the life that they choose, we have a number of specialist advisors in areas such as aged care and disability support at Viridian, without asking questions you may never uncover an area or concern a client has which may need some specialist advice. If somebody has shared something about their life with me, I make sure I remember it and ask about it in our following meeting. The focus should always be proving our ongoing investment in the advisor/client relationship across the whole business.
It’s easy to walk into a meeting, provide a client some numbers and walk out. But I think the best client relationships – the longstanding ones – are built on open, honest and real communication.
Andrew Gratton is a Portfolio Manager at Viridian Advisory
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