What Love Actually could teach you about forming lasting client relationships

Believe it or not, Christmas is almost here – and one tradition many families hold dear is watching classic festive movies during the holiday season.

One such film is Love Actually, a 2003 romantic comedy that has become a Christmas staple for many households over the years. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, several Londoners prepare to spend the festivities with someone special. Each story is intertwined with the next, making it a great watch full of twists and turns.

Yet this film isn’t just an entertaining blockbuster – it actually holds pearls of wisdom about relationships of all kinds, too. If one of your goals for 2024 is to form stronger, longer-lasting relationships with your clients, this movie could help you lay those all-important foundations.

Here’s what the rom-com classic Love Actually could teach you about forming lasting client relationships.

Personalise your communication

One thing most people can agree on, whether in a professional, romantic, or familial relationship, is that being treated like “one of many” can damage your bond – or even break it altogether.

As such, if you are approaching a new client or continuing an existing partnership, personalising your communication is essential. Knowing who you’re speaking to, and how they would like to be treated, can help take your relationship to new heights.

There are several examples of this in Love Actually.

Sam, the 11-year-old stepson of Liam Neeson’s character, Daniel, falls in love with a girl at school named Joanna. Joanna is a singer, the “coolest girl in school”, so to win her heart Sam decides to “speak her language” and learn to play a musical instrument. He plays the drums in the school nativity play, catching Joanna’s attention just in time.

Likewise, Colin Frissell heads off to America alone in search of love. On realising that his English accent is somewhat of an aphrodisiac for the women he meets in Wisconsin, Colin plays up his Britishness (to great success).

Learning to speak your clients’ language – whether by personalising your marketing, sending thoughtful gifts, or simply remembering important details about them – could help solidify the bond you share.

Honesty is the best policy

According to a study published by FTAdviser, nearly 3 in 5 people between the ages of 50 and 79 have a “lack of trust in financial services providers”.

As a financial planner, you might feel concerned about this statistic. After all, the backbone of your relationships with your clients is trust – and if it falls away, you may find it difficult to maintain the partnership.

One strategy for establishing trust with clients is to be honest. Rather than sugarcoating your conversations or keeping important details in the dark, having a human-to-human conversation with your clients could help them trust your word. And, in the age of Consumer Duty, honesty is not just helpful but an on-paper requirement of our profession.

In Love Actually, dishonesty fractures the marriage between Harry and Karen. Harry, played by Alan Rickman, buys a gold necklace for a woman at his office, Mia, at Christmas. Upon finding the necklace, Karen believes it is for her – but on Christmas Eve, Karen discovers that Harry has bought her a CD instead.

While their marriage survives this breaking of vows, it never fully heals. Likewise, if you over-promise to a client and fail to deliver on your word, you may find it difficult to win their trust again.

Act in your clients’ best interests

You may find it disheartening to learn that, as the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) latest Financial Lives survey reveals, 55% of people don’t believe that financial professionals work in their best interests.

Citywire reports that the research also found that 59% of people who have not taken financial advice say they do not have confidence in financial services as a whole.

One example of a professional relationship that stands the test of time in Love Actually is between Billy Mack, an aged rock ‘n’ roller who is trying to make a musical comeback at Christmas, and his manager, Joe.

Over the years, Joe has managed to maintain Billy’s reputation as a salacious-yet-loveable rocker, working behind the scenes to manage his affairs and help him towards the success he wants.

Crucially, Joe always acts in Billy’s best interests, even though Billy can occasionally “go rogue” and stray from the plan they’ve both set out. From swearing on live television to insulting other musicians on the radio, Billy does it all – yet despite this, Joe is always there for him, lending a steady hand to the musician’s somewhat chaotic way of living.

Together, Joe and Billy strike a balance that keeps their relationship working for decades. This bond is kept close by Joe’s trustworthiness: he acts in Billy’s best interests at every turn, becoming a trusted friend and confidant as well as a professional partner.

As an IFA, you could take heed of Joe’s actions and remember to put your clients’ interests, not your own, at the heart of the conversation. Even if your clients stray from the financial plan you’ve created together, your professionalism and expertise can help steer the ship back on course.

Remind them that you’re there through thick and thin

Each of the relationships that stand the test of time in Love Actually have one thing in common: the characters stick together through thick and thin.

Through work trouble, family disputes, language barriers, and even deaths, each loving partnership is made stronger by the obstacles they face. As an IFA, this might be the most important aspect of your relationship with your clients: they need to know you’ll be there for them, no matter what happens in their lives.

This message can be reinforced through:

  • Establishing a human connection in your annual reviews
  • Maintaining regular communication between meetings, for example by sending a monthly newsletter and posting insights on social media
  • Going above and beyond in times of need, such as when a client’s spouse or parent passes away
  • Learning about your clients as individuals, not just about their financial situation.

Going above and beyond the call of duty to maintain client relationships can be challenging, especially for small firms.

If you would like more support as a company, being part of our network could be hugely constructive. We can offer insights and infrastructure around marketing, compliance, Consumer Duty, and any other challenge your company may be facing.

For year-round support, not just at Christmas, email hello@corbelpartners.co.uk or call 01925 637891.

Please note

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice.

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