Inspiring Confidence in Others With Ameriprise Financial’s Bill Williams

by Ryan Goulart

In the face of uncertainty and economic instability, advisors need to inspire confidence in their teams and clients to continue to move forward. How can they stay focused regardless of how much change is happening around them?

In this episode of Making the Ideal Real, our guest is Bill Williams, Ameriprise Financial executive vice president and president of Ameriprise Independent Advisors. We discuss the importance of focusing on client wants and needs amid uncertainty, how to inspire confidence in advisors and how to maintain the human element as technology evolves.

Focusing on What the Client Needs 

For 34 years, Bill’s role “has been trying to help advisors to help clients to build a better future by making good decisions with their money today.” What advisors must remember is to control what they can control. Don’t get fixated on the economy, the markets or anything else you can’t change. This is easier said than done.

“As you turn on your television, as you pick up your phone, as you go out into the world, you’re bombarded by all these things that you can’t control,” Bill says. “You imagine, ‘How does this impact me and my family?’ You can’t help but feel a bit of fear and concern when you turn on the television and you watch the news.”

With all the ways the world has changed, what remains constant is the core needs and wants of your clients. They need advisors who will help them grow their money and improve their lives. Bill urges financial advisors to keep this core question in mind: “How could I improve the life of somebody who’s paying me to be their financial advisor?”

“If I can get my people to anchor back on that, in the midst of all of the chaos, it begins to fade away,” he adds. “And when you anchor back in these longstanding principles of goals, that’s where the magic happens.”

Envisioning Confidence

Confidence isn’t inherent, and it’s easy to embrace a negativity bias. Bill tries to help people take a breath and examine the situation through the lens of their core belief. You can either make things better or worse — nothing stays the same.

“And so the question is, ‘What are you holding as your predominant thought?” And I like to surround myself and like to try to keep myself in the belief system of, ‘Tomorrow’s going to be better because I’m going to make it better,’” Bill says.

When it comes to money, however, even advisors are prone to doom and gloom.

“If you believe the stock market is going to crash and it’s going to stay down forever, that’s a really emotionally devastating spot to be in if you’re in financial services,” he says. 

Instead, he tells advisors to look at financial principles: “How long did it take to recover? And what were the circumstances back then? What was regulation back then? And what was the PE ratio of the companies at the time?

“You help people anchor in those basic principles,” Bill continues. “And once they sort of anchor in that, fear sort of dissipates. So you have more of a logic-based discussion in the face of fear.”

Humans make good decisions most of the time, Bill says, as long as they slow down and keep “the hijacked amygdala” from making decisions for them. Advisors and clients alike make better decisions when they’re encouraged to think through a situation rather than being told what to do.

“I got a leader that says, ‘You embrace what you discover. You resist what you’re told.’ It’s really easy as leaders to tell a lot, and I’m probably guilty of that more than most, but I got good at asking questions and looking at extremes and getting people to examine it,” Bill says.

Combining Technology and the Human Element

Financial services is increasingly integrated with technology, and artificial intelligence is just the latest innovation. Bill views people and tech in tandem — identifying what tech does best and what tasks and processes remain uniquely human. When it comes to finances, people are always concerned, even when they have a lot of money. And that’s where financial advisors prove their value. 

“It’s not about getting the most money. It’s about making the best choice with the money against your values and your vision and your ideal world,” Bill says. “If you position yourself that way as a financial advisor, I think you’re always going to have value in this world, and you’re actually going to be more valued by your clients.”

Clients want to use technology, but they really need someone to help them solve their problems and to listen to them. 

“I think the future is very bright for the advisor that positions themselves as a problem-solver, as somebody who really cares about clients and who can really help clients manage their emotions around money,” Bill says. “If you stay in that lane, you’re super-valuable, and people will pay you a huge premium to be part of their lives.”

People in This Episode

Bill Williams: LinkedIn

Ryan Goulart: LinkedIn

Transcript

Bill Williams:

The core needs of people have not changed. If I can get my leaders or I can get my advisors to focus back on what is at the core of what clients need from us as a financial firm — now you could say financial firms are cold and indifferent and it’s just about money. That could be perceived as true. But the best financial services companies focus on making a difference for people. And the best financial advisors focus on, at their core, coming in every day and saying, “How could I improve the life of somebody who’s paying me to be their financial advisor?”

Ryan Goulart:

That’s Bill Williams, executive vice president, president, Ameriprise Independent Advisors. We’re talking about inspiring confidence in others. I’m Ryan Goulart, and you are Making the Ideal Real. I have with me today Bill Williams of Ameriprise Financial. 

Bill, welcome to Making the Ideal Real.

Bill Williams:

Thanks, Ryan. Glad to be here.

Ryan Goulart:

I’m happy you’re here. Of course, with every first guest that we have, we always ask the first question, which is, what does making the ideal real mean to you? So Bill, what does making the ideal real mean to you?

Bill Williams:

Well, I think that’s a complex question, actually. In sort of leadership language, it can mean that somebody’s imagining a better state of being or a better state of being a human being or a better business in the future. And then you figure out what your game plan is, your strategy, and then you work the plan and you follow Doug [Lennick]’s rules for success, right? Work the plan, throw off discouragement, keep going and reevaluate. I actually sort of take it a little bit deeper than that because I think this concept of ideal is really what separates us in many ways from animals that act on instinct. I think it’s what makes us uniquely human is that for many, many years, hundreds of thousands of years, humans have evolved because they imagined a better tomorrow. They imagined that their shelter could be better, that they could build better tools, that they could build a better future. And so this idea that we could imagine ourselves in a future that’s better than today makes us uniquely human.

And what’s interesting, too, about this idea of real is — I always find this — in reality, when you get there, what you thought was ideal is never the ending place. So imagine, Ryan, that you’re imagining the perfect vacation, and you imagine you bring your family. I think you’ve got a 2-year-old, right?

Ryan Goulart:

Mm-hmm.

Bill Williams:

And you’re saying, “Boy, the perfect vacation would be in Hawaii on a beach, on a perfect sunny day, with the waves lapping and all that kind of stuff.” And then you plan it. You spend hours figuring out what that’s going to be. You’re imagining it, you’re dreaming about it. You fly all the way out there, you get to that beach, and then your 2-year-old grabs a little sand and puts it in her mouth. And then you’re like, “OK, I got to put sunscreen on.” And it gets in your eyes, and then the breeze is just a little bit too much, and it blows all your food all around.

Now, it was still an ideal place to be. It was really a cool place to be. But pretty soon, you imagined, how do I make this even better? Well, I put up a tent, and then I put the sunscreen on, and then I make sure that my child isn’t eating the sand. So I think that this concept of this ongoing pursuit of something better and being in that state of wonder and this state of saying, “I’m never going to be at the point of arrival, and I’m OK with that. I’m on this constant journey to get something better in relationships, better at work, better for myself.” It’s not that you’re not satisfied or appreciative of what you have today; it’s just that you are willing to keep imagining a better tomorrow.

Because there’s only three choices, right? You either imagine the future’s going to be worse, you imagine your future is going to be better, or you imagine it’s going to be exactly the same. And two of those are absolutely true, and you will make it true. So you’re either going to make it worse because you’re constantly thinking it’s going to be worse, and you build that actuality by your thought process, or you make it better. There’s no such thing as the same. It will definitely, absolutely, not be the same.

And so the question is, “What are you holding as your predominant thought?” And I like to surround myself and like to try to keep myself in the belief system of, “Tomorrow’s going to be better because I’m going to make it better.” And if I stay there, I tend to be more satisfied with who I am and the life that I’ve created. And not that satisfaction is the goal. The goal is actually to use my life for a worthy purpose. And so that worthy purpose is imagining something better.

Ryan Goulart:

Love that answer. And I’m laughing to myself, Bill, because as we were discussing this and not recording, you were like, “We can take this as many ways as we can,” and I can totally see where we can go with this. One of the things that I would love to unpack a little bit for you — because what I think what you’re describing is how to be adaptable to change and how to really just live your life with a growth mindset of you’re constantly learning. 

What are some things recently, that you’re learning right now, that helps you navigate the uncertainty, the change that comes with your job, that comes with yourself, that comes with life? What are some things right now that you’re learning about, maybe some things that you’ve always known, but you keep refining?

Bill Williams:

Yeah. Well, I’ve been provided a lot of opportunities recently to reflect on this constant change. If you just think about some of the things happening in today’s world, you’ve got an inverted yield curve, where short-term interest rates are longer or higher than long-term interest rates. You’ve got a very volatile stock market, where in the last year, it’s gone down on average, I don’t know, 15, 20%, depending on what your mix was. 

You’ve got a lot of political unrest — degree to which I have not seen in my recent lifetime. And you’ve got instability across the world. For anyone listening, I’m in financial services. I think most of the people you work with are in financial services. So my world for 34 years has been trying to help advisors to help clients to build a better future by making good decisions with their money today.

And in the midst of that, there’s constant change. So there’s all the change that you have no influence over, the economy, the markets, the interest rates, the unemployment rate, what’s happening in the political environment and so forth. But yet, humans tend to get obsessed with all of those things because in the moment, as you turn on your television, as you pick up your phone, as you go out in the world, you’re bombarded by all these things that you can’t control. 

And so then you imagine, “How does this impact me and my family?” You can’t help but feel a bit of fear and concern when you turn on the television and you watch the news. And that’s by design. These television programs sell advertising. The more you watch, the more they make. And they know that fear is a really good motivator to keep your eyes on the TV to wonder what’s coming to my doorstep.

And so you ask the question, “In the midst of constant change, how do you lead, and how do you stay focused?” Because this is all about, how does this come back to what choices we make as human beings every day? And the thing that I think I’ve learned is, at least in this business — and I think it’s probably true in the medical field, I think it’s true probably in almost every viable long-term business — in 34 years, and probably in 150 years, the core needs of people have not changed. If I can get my leaders or I can get my advisors to focus back on, “What is at the core of what clients need from us as a financial firm?” 

Now, you could say financial firms are cold and indifferent, and it’s just about money. That could be perceived as true. But the best financial services companies focus on making a difference for people. And the best financial advisors focus on, at their core, coming in every day and saying, “How could I improve the life of somebody who’s paying me to be their financial advisor?” If you can anchor back in that, in the midst of chaos, and just assume you’re always going to be surrounded by a lot of change and chaos, and then you say, “Well, how do I make somebody’s life better?” you then come back to, “What do they care about?” And this hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

The average client cares about saving enough money to have security against the things that matter to them, buying homes, send the kids to college, retirement, financial freedom, protection, all of those things. A question you got to ask yourself, “Have I helped them to anchor in those? And then have I built a plan that they’re confident in? And have I helped them feel better about at least one small aspect of their life?” And I shouldn’t call it small because the big aspect, “Have I helped them feel more confident about their financial future?” 

If I’ve done that, then I’ve been a good financial advisor regardless of whether or not I made them money in the stock market. That doesn’t really matter in the long run. The question is how do they feel about that? Do they really feel more confident about their financial future? If I can get my people to anchor back on that, in the midst of all of the chaos, it begins to fade away. And when you anchor back in these longstanding principles of goals, that’s where the magic happens. 

But it is very hard because as humans, we’re bombarded by all these things, as I said, and then you get pulled off with your emotions. How do I bring them back to something they can control? Which is that conversation, which are basic financial planning, which is asking some questions — “How do you feel, Mr. and Mrs. Client?” — and listening and then offering support and advice.

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah. And one of the things that it makes me think of, just to kind of connect those two questions where developing a growth mindset, constantly learning, really trying to achieve that ideal state of feeling confident in that future, you yourself have to feel confident in the future where you’re leading people, which will have a trickle-down effect to the advisors that you support and, ultimately, the client, to communicate that confidence that you just articulated. 

What are some things that you do to help envision that confidence, that confident future? Because, again, the negativity bias is there. It’s always there. It’s always going. What are some things that you do to help put that aside, you’d acknowledge it and help those that you lead feel confident about the future that you’re taking them to?

Bill Williams:

I think it comes down to helping people to understand they actually have choice over how they think about the future. And I get them to anchor in, “What is it at their core belief?” If you believe the stock market is going to crash and it’s going to stay down forever, that’s a really emotionally devastating spot to be if you’re in financial services. Yet I find some advisors — you think back to 2008 and 2009, when the stock market was falling, at least in recent history, a substantial amount. I mean, we’re talking 50% on some of the indexes, as we entered the Great Recession after an all-time-high peak in 2007. 

I had advisors who were well-trained in financial service begin to say, “Oh, but this time is different.” That’s always the biggest fear is, what if this is the cataclysmic event that actually brings all the indexes down for the next hundred years? And you point to times like the Great [Depression], where it actually fell more than it fell in the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009. And you say, “Well, how long did it take to recover? And what were the circumstances back then? What was regulation back then? And what was the PE ratio of the companies at the time?” 

So I think anchoring back in elements of factual reality from history, how people reacted at the time and who ended up winning in the long run. And you help people sort of anchor in those basic principles. And once they sort of anchor in that, fear sort of dissipates. So you have more of a logic-based discussion in the face of fear.

You also get people to sort of articulate, “Well, what would you do if you’re right? So if you’re right, what would you do with your money?” Because you have to do something with your money. But if you’re right, and you think for the next one hundred years the market’s going down, it’s going to stay down, let’s talk through that. “Well, I’d go to gold, or I’d go to cash and I’d put it under my bed, or I pull it out of all the —” It’s like, “OK, let’s talk about that scenario. What’s the likelihood of that, and then those choices? What if you’re wrong and it behaves as it has for the last 150 years, and it recovers and it improves? What choices would you make then, and what probability do you assign to that?” And so you help people sort of think through worst case, best case, best choice in the moment.

And the worst decisions are the all or nothings, right? And you get people through a series of questions and self-discovery. I got a leader that says, “You embrace what you discover, you resist what you’re told.” And so it’s really easy as leaders to tell a lot, and I’m probably guilty of that more than most, but I get good at asking questions and looking at extremes and getting people to examine it. 

I think most of the time humans make better decisions if they slow down and they stop the hijacked amygdala from taking over their decision-making. And then they look at the worst case, the best case and then what’s the best decision in the moment. I think they come to good conclusions. It’s the slowing down that’s hard.

Ryan Goulart:

Hey, listeners, Ryan here. Whether you work in financial services or not, if you’re curious about learning more about the relationship skills that Bill talked about, you can discover our programs on behavioral financial advice for those in financial services or breakthrough leadership for those that are not. Either way, both programs provide you with the insight that you need to inspire confidence in others. Learn more at think2perform.com.

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah, which speaks to that long-term view that you articulated, just being able to step back and look at the big picture and realize that sometimes you have to take a 10-year picture of how this fits into all of this. I’m reading a book right now that is about sales leadership, surprisingly, and one of the things the one of the chief revenue officers of this technology company was asked is that he’s constantly told that he’s a firefighter, that he’s putting out fires all the time. 

And in rebuttal to this, and I’m curious to see what your response to this will be, he says, “I’m not a firefighter, I’m a forest ranger. And I need to make sure that — I’m managing millions of acres of land, millions of trees, and sometimes fires break out. It’s when they become so big that I need to, as the forest ranger, need to be able to look at it.”

How does that resonate with you? Because I mean, just to kind of further context for this question, we’ve had individual contributors, we’ve had middle managers, we’ve had VPs, we’ve had executives on this podcast, and everyone kind of gives a little bit of a different answer to this as they kind of move up the hierarchy of a company. 

I’m always curious about how people respond to something like that because obviously you’re working on different priorities in your position now than you were 30-plus years ago as an advisor. So what does that look like for you as you — or maybe it’s the same mindset, it’s just shifted over time? As a forest ranger yourself, how do you manage everything that you have to focus on from a day to day, from a year to year, and most often probably, a five-, 10-year plan?

Bill Williams:

That’s an apt analogy. I like that sales leader’s response that he’s more of the forest ranger, and he’s responsible for a vast amount of trees and acreage and land. And I think you can’t sit there and think there’s never going to be a fire that breaks out. You got to ask, “When a fire breaks out out, how do I handle it? What leader am I in that moment and are my people prepared to put the fire out and to protect the acreage and the trees?” 

But mostly, I’m overseeing this land so that people can enjoy it and it’s there for generations to come, and I’ve got a vision of what I want to accomplish. And if you get overwhelmed by the little fires, you begin to lose sight of why you’re there in the first place, which is to help people have something better in the future, whether you’re selling software or you’re in financial services.

So you relate it back to my role. So as the executive vice president and president of an independent advisor group, I’ve got 8,200 advisors. They’ve got something like 13,000 employees that work for them in their practices. I’ve got another couple of hundred people in my corporate office that support all of the advisors in the field. And we’ve got, I don’t know, 2 million clients that we support. So you could say, yeah, I spent a lot of my day solving problems or putting out fires, but I function best when I figure out how to break things down in formulas. 

So I have an engineering background that then turned into an economics and a finance background and got my CFP designation in the early ’90s, and then I was an advisor for a while. I tend — it drives my wife kind of nuts at times — I tend to think about things in a formulaic way. So I solve complex, even human problems, by trying to write down on a piece of paper, “What is the formula for this?”

And so in my world, success, at least on paper, looks like more advisors and more productive advisors. And productivity is a function of how many clients do they serve, how deep do they take the financial planning relationship, do the clients stay with them? Do they attract a lot more clients? That’s productivity on one side of the equation. And then, am I attracting and keeping the right advisors at my company, people who are high integrity, who work hard, who care about the client, who believe in financial planning, et cetera, et cetera? 

And then from that, if I can just get those two elements on a piece of paper and I get my team to see those two elements, more advisors, more productive advisors, I can then build, with my team, collaboratively, a set of strategies underneath. Well, we need to retain our existing advisors. How are we going to do that? Well, people stay where they’re valued. People stay where they have a relationship. People stay where they’re growing and getting value. All right, so how do we do that? Are we contacting our advisors enough? What does that look like? When we contact them, what conversation are we having? Do we know them at a core level, at a values-based level? Are we adding insights? Are we bringing them new technology and ideas? All with the pursuit of helping that advisor to build a better relationship with their clients. 

At the core, I have a belief that every advisor cares super-deeply about their clients. So how do I help further that and bring them something that helps them have a better relationship with their clients? And on the other side, am I building tools and systems to help that client relationship go deeper, so the client feels that this is the only place to keep their life savings and the only place they go for advice, et cetera, et cetera? 

So you asked the question. I could then get lost pretty easily in, “Oh, this isn’t working, or this advisor’s upset, or somebody’s complaining about this technology,” which in the course of my day, there’s plenty of that. And so back to the forest. I can either look at the trees, or I could look at the breadth of the forest and the beauty of the forest. That’s how I try to take my role and stop fighting the daily fires and focus on the big picture by leading people with hope and optimism and trying to inject just a little bit of reality with an ideal future vision in the conversation.

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah, that’s an awesome answer to a very complex question. Because change is ever present and you’re only one person, so you have to lead through people. I mean, the vision component is important. And how do you resist the urge, having had so many of the positions up the hierarchy of the company, how do you — and this is something I’m learning as a relatively new leader, too, trying to understand, how do you let go? Because there’s an ideal state that I might have, and it might be different than the ideal state that the person I’m leading. And this might be news to everyone, too — here, even at Think2Perform, we have a leadership journey. So I mean, it’s just fun to kind of parse this together. But how do you let go? How do you trust? How do you let go to help your team be the best team they can be?

Bill Williams:

Is the question, how do you let go of the need to control or the need to step in and do —

Ryan Goulart:

Well-played, yes. All of that. I would say the control component, too, is probably the best way to summarize the question.

Bill Williams:

First of all, I think control in general is a bit of an illusion, right? But I don’t feel like I’m actually… There’s a difference between delegation and abdication. And so I view anybody who works in my organization — and you could say, “Well, you’re the head of a large organization.” Now I have a boss, and my boss has a board of directors, and then there’s — everybody’s got somebody they’re accountable to. And I think it comes down to, as a leader, do you view yourself as the boss on high, or are you responsible for partnering with people to help them be successful in their role? And I hope I come to work with the mindset that people don’t necessarily work for me, especially in society where people have a choice of where they work. You could go get jobs in this market in a lot of different places, and so people voluntarily choose to spend their time in meaningful work in my organization. I have to assume they’ve got a lot of choice.

And so then, how do I partner with them to actualize their dreams and goals? It’s easier to let go when I sort of center myself on, “I’m helping them to improve their skill set so they are feeling more confident about their financial future.” I can’t step past them and do the work, or I can’t gain scale. I can’t step past them and do the work or micromanage them, or they’re not going to want to continue to work with me. I can’t step past them and do the work, or they end up feeling disempowered. And so it’s finding that line though, because if I simply say, “Here’s the why. Here’s the vision. Here’s a bunch of tactics. I’ll see you at the end of the year and see how you did.” 

You laughed, right?

Ryan Goulart:

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Bill Williams:

And you realize how ridiculous that is. The question is, how often are you checking in, and what’s the nature of your questions, and how are you phrasing the questions? And are you sounding in those questions like the dictatorial boss, like, “Ryan, what did you get done last week? How many calls did you make? How many sales did you make? Did you follow our formula”? If that’s what they hear every single week, eventually after a bunch of weeks of that, they’re pretty beat down. 

A good leader says, “Tell me about your week last week.” And then sits back and listens and then says, “Well, why do you think that success occurred? Or why do you think you missed on some of your numbers? What was going on in your world, and how are you thinking about that? And then as you think about the future, how is that going to change? What choices could you make to make it better? Is there something I can do to help you that you can think of that would be valuable?”

If you’re curious and you help somebody self-discover, and then you help them solve their problem, the next time they face the same thing, and they get good at asking themselves the same questions, your job sort of elevates. It never changes that you have to keep meeting with your people and having good conversations. Just the quality of your questions changes over time. And that’s probably the greatest joy. I mean, I’ve worked with some of my leaders for 25 years on my team. It’s a very different conversation than somebody who just started with me last week. 

And some of that is readiness model, which I’m sure your team teaches. Some of that is their experience. And some of that is just that you’re at a different level of understanding when you’ve been in the same business at the same time for 25 years. Now you’re solving a different-level problem, and you’re discussing things at a different level.

Ryan Goulart:

Super helpful. And I love the illusion of control. It’s totally true. And I want to play on the future for the time that we have remaining. As you kind of look at, let’s say five, 10 years out, and obviously you work in financial services, what are the things that you’re focusing on as you anticipate some of the — whether it be regulatory changes, whether it be advisor shifts, whether it be generational wealth transfers. What are some of the things that you’re seeing that are giving you that hope and optimism for the future?

Bill Williams:

First of all, I think we can all acknowledge that technology is evolving really quickly. I mean, the hot thing right now in the world, and it’ll be a hot thing next year that’s different, but ChatGPT, right? I mean, you enter a question, and you could even have ChatGPT write you a love letter to your spouse. And you can ask it, “What’s the best way to plan for retirement?” You can enter in a bunch of information about your situation. It could produce a financial plan. The thing that probably I’m focused on the most is how to help my advisors in my business do what is uniquely human and to let other systems and processes and technology do what technology and artificial intelligence can do.

I think that humans are really well-wired in our gut. You and I know when we’re, at our core, reading something that a human wrote and reading something that an artificial intelligence wrote. And whether we can consciously discern the difference or it’s in our instincts, we’ll always be able to tell the difference. So take that, and set that concept aside just for a second. Now, I want you to imagine a really difficult, fearful life moment. 

So you’re on an airplane and there’s massive turbulence, and the flight attendant comes on and says, “Don’t worry, the computer’s going to right us. The pilots are passed out, but the computer’s going to land us safely.” Do you feel different than if the voice on the overhead speaker as you’re strapped into your seat and the plane is falling rapidly is a captain that says, “Don’t worry, folks. I’ve done this a thousand times. We’re just in a pocket of air. We got plenty of airspace, and we’re going to get through this very quickly. Don’t worry”? Which do you feel better about?

Or you imagine you’ve just been diagnosed with a very rare condition that requires very intricate surgery, and the hospital says, “Don’t worry, we’ve got a great robot that can do this surgery for you or, I’ve got the best surgeon in the world that’s done this hundreds of thousands of times. Which one do you feel better about?” I think in my world, money is that thing that produces, for right or wrong, a lot of emotion. And what I’ve discovered, there’s this great myth that, when you have a lot of money, that you stop worrying about it, and that only people without money worry. And it’s actually not true, in my experience, having been around lots and lots of rich people and lots of people who are trying to accumulate money. I’ve discovered sort of the predominant emotion around money is a bit of worry and fear.

If you’ve got a lot of money, you’re worried, am I investing it right? Am I doing the right thing for my future generation? Am I using it wisely now? Do I have access to it to do the things I want in life? Am I actualizing in the best way the vision of how to spend my time on earth? And so you end up sort of obsessing on that a lot. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re constantly, am I saving enough? Will I ever have enough? Am I getting a good return on that money so that it multiplies? Will I lose this? All those kind of things. You can imagine those two scenarios. But then there’s everything in between.

But I’m not running into many people that say to me, “Wow, I’m completely at ease with everything I’ve got. I think I’m doing the perfect thing with my money. I think I’m perfectly protected.” So take those three concepts for a second. You’ve got a proliferation of technology at a very fast rate that technically could give you better answers on your finances and information on your finances than ever before. You know that people are extremely worried about money as one of their predominant things. And then you say, “What is the role of a financial advisor?” My job is to paint a picture for my advisors of where they can invest their time for a good return for them, but real value in society. You have to bridge that gap.

So I talk about that as bionic advice. I grew up in a time where there was actually a show called “The Bionic Man” and “The Bionic Woman” in the ’70s. But how do you take what is uniquely human, our ability to empathize with another human being, our ability to connect, our ability to understand our ability to sort of help people make trade-offs of values? Just because it’s the right economic choice to make doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for that family. And so it’s not about getting the most money, it’s about making the best choice with the money against your values and your vision and your ideal world.

If you position yourself that way as a financial advisor, I think you’re always going to have value in this world, and you’re actually going to be more valued by your clients. But at the same time, how do you get yourself away from doing tasks that others can do even better, especially technology? In many cases, managing money could be more effective if you turn it over to somebody else or leverage technology to rebalance and do those things. You could get answers very quickly to complex problems by using artificial intelligence. So then what that should allow you to do is see your clients more often, to solve more of their problems, to ask more questions, to show that you care more often, and to build out your teams to have more contact.

So could you have a more frequent contact that’s more meaningful to clients, that takes them deeper to solve more problems? There’s a never-ending set of things you could do for any family. Can you ever really have examined their budget and figured out another way to save a little bit of money enough? Could you ever really go deep enough on their investment portfolio? Could you ever go deep enough on protection and insurance and searching around for the most cost-effective way to protect them? Is their estate plan really written in the best possible way? Now, they may have less tolerance for those many meetings on their financial situation, but you could imagine a world where you could keep taking that deeper and deeper if your time was freed up from technology.

Sorry, it was a very long answer. But you asked me what do I think the future holds, and I think the future is very bright for that advisor that positions themselves as a problem-solver, as somebody who really cares about clients, who can really help them manage their emotions around money. If you stay in that lane, you are super-valuable, and people will pay you a huge premium to be part of their lives. I think if you have positioned yourself around asset management or around transactions or around one meeting a year to do a basic financial plan, and then you send them on their way, you’re going to get replaced by a very smart human-like computer at some point. Your days are numbered. And we can see lots of industries where that’s the case. And so that’s my mission right now is to help people stay uniquely human in an inhuman financial world.

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah, love that. Thank you so much, Bill.

Bill Williams:

Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan Goulart:

As we wrap this episode, we’re committed to helping you make the ideal real. If you found this program helpful, share it and help someone else make their ideal real, too. Until next time, for Think2Perform, I’m Ryan Goulart. Take care.

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