Impact of Emotional Intelligence: New Harris Poll Study

One of the questions people are asking themselves these days is, “Who do I believe?” With everyone learning at essentially the same time, a lot of advice is conflicting. Who you believe eventually comes down to who you trust.

It’s the same way with financial relationships. The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) recently announced the results of a Harris Poll study that was conducted on their behalf, in which we learn that among more than 2,000 adults in the United States, 85% of them would be more likely to trust recommendations from financial advisors if those advisors demonstrate emotional intelligence. A press release announcing the study reads, “In a time of historic turmoil, advisors seeking to reassure, reposition, or even retain clients must exhibit genuine empathy and compassion.”

The study does a great job of illustrating the important differences between talking about empathy and actually exhibiting it. The results, the release states, show that “emotional know-how is seen as a foundational skill rather than a mark of exceptional work,” and I would have predicted that even before seeing the results. To gain the trust of your clients and prospects over the long term, you have to show them that you know what they’re feeling. I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when that’s been more important than over the past few months.

Some of the results of this study really drive home the practical side of emotional intelligence. For example, the study shows that Americans would be more likely to trust advice from advisors who practice in the following ways:

  • Listen to and acknowledge their clients’ needs (57%).
  • Communicate in easily understood ways (57%).
  • Follow through on their word (55%).
  • Show they care about their clients as people (52%).

These numbers contrast sharply with the relatively small percentage of Americans (30%) who say they would be more likely to trust the advice of advisors with up-to-date websites. In addition, even fewer (25%) say the same for advisors who regularly recommend relevant content. Here’s the takeaway, according to the release: “While digital literacy makes business operations more efficient and helps bring clients in the door, it does not by itself communicate trustworthiness.”

According to MDRT president Regina Bedoya, CLU, ChFC, “In this period of societal and institutional instability, financial advisors must connect with clients on more personal levels than ever before. Advisors can successfully adjust and help clients navigate this new reality by embracing the sentimental side of financial advising.”

As an advisor looking at the results highlighted in this study, you might be gratified to know that most Americans with financial advisors give those advisors high marks, with a full 89% saying that their personal advisor displays strong emotional intelligence. Areas for improvement are in conflict resolution and emotional management, where only 32% of Americans who work with an advisor say their advisor can resolve conflicts and only 40% say their advisor is disciplined in managing their own emotional reactions during their discussions.

Contrary to the popular perception that baby boomers and members of Generation Z have vastly different takes on life, this particular study shows that the two generations agree on what advisors can do to earn their trust. The results show that 61% of baby boomers (defined as those born between 1947 and 1965) and 62% of Gen Z (defined as those born between 1998 and 2002) say they are more likely to trust advisors who listen to and acknowledge their clients’ needs. With those in the generational middle, Generation X (born 1966–1981) and millennials (born 1982–1997), only 52% of Gen Xers and 54% of millennials say the same.

That gap extends to other skills as well. According to the release, “almost one half of baby boomers (47%) and Gen Z (49%) say they would be more likely to trust advisors who check in with their clients frequently, versus 39% of Gen X and 36% of millennials. Tailoring financial plans to economic cycles and policy trends elicits similarly divergent responses, with more baby boomers (39%) and Gen Z adults (40%) saying such work would make them more likely to find an advisor trustworthy than Gen Xers (28%) and millennials (24%).”

“Consumers have clearly communicated their needs to advisors and paved a path for us to meet them,” Ms. Bedoya said. “As we work to build emotionally centered client relationships, MDRT stands ready to exceed the expectations of the American people.”

Whether an MDRT member or not, the advisor would do well to value those relationships they have built and are building. Clients are using the strength of your emotional bond as a key factor in deciding where they place their trust . . . and their business.



Chuck Hirsch is the former editor and publisher of Life Insurance Selling magazine. He continues to contribute to insurance industry publications, in addition to providing consulting and marketing services through his firm, Hirsch Communications Consulting, LLC. He can be reached at [email protected].