George Kinder: UK & USA
I first met George Kinder a few years after arriving in the UK. His Life Planning movement has provided a new and exciting guiding framework for advisers who are committed to delivering transformative advice to their clients, all around the world.
As I wrote about in a recent blog The Experience Revolution, it’s the firms that are able to institutionalise a transformative advice process that will retain their relevance and margins in the face of disruptive threats. If you’re looking for a methodology and philosophy to help you achieve this goal, then George and his Kinder Institute should certainly be on your radar.
When Deb and I were looking for an adviser to work with on a personal basis, we were drawn to someone with a grounded approach to, and pedigree in, life planning (James Harvey). It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
I attended some of George’s courses about seven or eight years ago, and in my own work with advisers on selling skills I’ve recommended them to my clients as a fantastic development opportunity.
Read on for an insight into George Kinder’s Life Planning philosophy.
Life Planning and the EVOKE® Process
by George Kinder
Traditional financial planning has always tended to treat money – not people – as the client. The past decade’s turbulent financial events have prompted people to seek more from life, and more from their advisers than just account balances and spreadsheet projections. In their lives, they seek the marriage of money and meaning. As awareness has grown, financial planning practitioners have begun to build relationships that put the client in the centre of the equation. They’re aligning their deepest values and goals with their portfolios to achieve both financial and personal freedom. Whether they realise it or not, many people are creating – and really want – a Life Plan.
The brand of Life Planning that I teach is called EVOKE®, an acronym for a five-phase client-centred interview process. It is designed to deliver each person to their life’s purpose, the path of passion that brings them alive. In this process, there is a complete integration of a client’s vision with their finances. The five phases are Exploration, Vision, Obstacles, Knowledge, and Execution.
Exploration involves open-ended questioning that demonstrates the adviser’s genuine interest in knowing who the client is and their purpose in seeking an adviser. The goal is to create a bond with the client, moving them from an anxious state to a more relaxed one. Done well, the client experiences a truly interested professional who wants to fully understand their lives, values and purpose, and how best to serve them.
In the Vision phase, the adviser probes more directly into underlying issues, challenging the client with provocative questions and forcing them to look at how close they are to living a meaningful and passionate life. Three compelling questions cut to the core. The first asks the client to dream, to describe how they would live their life if they were completely financially secure; the second asks what changes they would make in their lives, how would they narrow the focus, if they learned they had just 5-10 years to live; finally, the most difficult and poignant, the third, asks, if they were to die today, what would they wish they had done or miss, which dreams would be unfulfilled? These, along with various goal exercises, lead to the moment in Life Planning when the person being planned comes alive – the moment I call ‘Lighting the Torch’. It is thrilling for most people because it’s the instant they realise the dream they’ve held onto all of their lives is achievable – and in relatively short order.
The third phase, Obstacles, is where things really begin to happen. It’s where all of those excuses for being stuck are addressed, and potential roadblocks defused. The doubts and regrets are transformed into action. In fact, the brighter the ‘Torch’ from the Vision phase, the clearer the challenges and the greater the energy to act. Obstacles are listed one at a time and several possible solutions are proposed until the client is clear about the process and excited to execute because the ‘Torch’ is burning brightly.
In Knowledge, the adviser’s money skills deliver a Life Plan to the client in the most efficient and secure of possible ways. A financial plan and analysis, including asset allocation, risk management and product selection, are presented along with a plan for action on life and financial goals. In the prior three phases, part of each meeting was dedicated to gathering the financial information that helped facilitate Life Planning. In Knowledge it all comes together.
Execution is the accomplishment of the Life Plan. During the early days of Execution, the adviser will serve primarily as a coach, following up and encouraging, even applauding, as steps in the plan are implemented. Over time, the adviser will primarily interact with the client in terms of getting together periodically to monitor and update the plan, even help relight the ‘Torch’.
The Life Planning process, through the structured phases of EVOKE®, is hands down the most efficient way to do financial planning.
It focuses on the client’s true goals from the outset and sweeps aside money excuses that cause so many well-intentioned traditional financial plans to fail. Life planning also builds an extraordinary bond of trust between the client and the Life Planner, resulting in a far richer, more productive, relationship for both parties. Hence our motto, ‘clients for life’.