Strong storytelling can enhance your reputation while educating and empowering clients
Strong storytelling can enhance your reputation while educating and empowering clients
By Melissa Banigan
In the world of finance, a new narrative is swiftly taking shape — one that combines profitability with purpose and financial returns with positive impact. As the transition toward sustainable investing continues, wealth advisors find themselves at the forefront of this transformative movement, with a unique role in shaping the narrative and communicating the importance of sustainable investment stories to their clients.
By crafting compelling narratives that convey the larger impact of sustainable investments on ourselves, our communities, and the world, wealth advisors can provide their clients with more than just financial data — they can also engage their clients on an emotional and intellectual level, igniting a sense of purpose, aligning investments with values, and driving positive change.
As a storyteller with over 15 years of experience helping purpose-driven companies and communities around the world tell stories that matter, I’d like to share my take on how wealth advisors can use the art of storytelling to move the needle with their clients, drawing inspiration from the rich tradition of oral storytelling to enhance the effectiveness of sustainable investment narratives.
Connection and Authenticity Through Consistent Core Messaging
One key element of oral storytelling is the presence of a single overarching message or takeaway. In the oral tradition, a story may change slightly over the years as it is passed from person to person, adapting to different cultural contexts and audiences while preserving its core message. This practice of distilling a story down to its essence is also crucial in corporate storytelling as it ensures that the message is clear and memorable.
Wealth advisors can benefit from this concept of stories spreading through communities and networks. Compelling corporate stories have the potential to resonate with a wide audience and become ingrained in our social vernacular.
Outside of the wealth advisory space, a notable example of a company that achieved this is Apple. Their iconic "1984" Super Bowl commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, is widely regarded as a groundbreaking advertisement that not only introduced the Macintosh computer but also conveyed a powerful message about individuality and defying conformity. The commercial showcased Apple's innovative spirit and positioned the company as a champion of independent thinking. Over time, its message became deeply embedded in popular culture, with references and parodies appearing even now, nearly 40 years later, in various forms of media. Many people today may recognize the message of the commercial without even realizing it originated from Apple. This demonstrates how a corporate story, when effectively crafted and widely shared, can transcend its original context and become part of a larger cultural narrative.
An overwhelming majority of today’s investors in the United States — a whopping 85 percent — express an interest in investing more sustainably. No longer focused solely on financial returns, they want their investments to have a positive impact on the world. By telling compelling sustainable investment stories, wealth advisories can attract and retain more of the vast number of clients who prioritize sustainability and responsible investing.
Telling sustainable investment stories brings to life the tangible outcomes of sustainable investments, showcasing the companies and projects creating positive change in areas such as renewable energy and social impact initiatives. For example, wealth advisors can share stories about companies that don’t meet diversity thresholds so investors may choose to divest from them, as well as provide examples of companies that perform well within a portfolio on diversity metrics. For instance, ETSY fosters diversity within the workplace by having women and non-binary people make up half of their executive team and their board, and nearly half of their overall workforce.
Enhancing Reputation and Credibility Through Communications
By illustrating the measurable impact of sustainable investments, wealth advisors can foster a sense of purpose and connection for their clients, strengthening their commitment to sustainable finance. But it can also profoundly impact their reputation and credibility by demonstrating their commitment to environmental and social responsibility, positioning them as trusted leaders in sustainable finance. By actively incorporating sustainability considerations into their investment strategies and then sharing stories about successful sustainable investments, wealth advisors can build trust with clients who seek both financial returns and positive impacts. These stories serve as evidence of their expertise and track record in identifying investment opportunities that generate financial and sustainable returns.
Consider a wealth advisor who shares the story of a socially responsible investment portfolio that has consistently matched, or even outperformed, more traditional portfolios over the years. By highlighting stories about financial success achieved through sustainable investing, the advisory not only attracts new clients but also reinforces the trust and loyalty of existing clients who value the alignment of their investments with their values. This is why great wealth advisory firms recognize the importance of a strong marketing and communications function in their business strategy. As company storytellers share sustainable investment messages with a wealth advisor’s network, word-of-mouth referrals and positive testimonials from satisfied clients who appreciate the advisory's commitment to sustainability further enhance the advisor’s reputation in the industry.
Educating and Empowering Clients
One of the key roles of wealth advisories is to educate and empower their clients. Sustainable investment stories provide a powerful tool for achieving this objective and help wealth advisors tell stories that connect to investors’ values. For example, suppose an investor is a doctor with ties to a developing country. They might appreciate stories that showcase the success story of a pharmaceutical company that distributes affordable and life-saving medicines in underserved regions. Or if a client contributes to a Black church in their community, they might want to hear more stories about investment funds supporting racial justice initiatives.
This approach educates clients about the power of sustainable finance but also empowers them to make informed investment decisions that align with their values. Through ongoing communication and education, wealth advisors can deepen clients' understanding of the broader impact of their investment choices and foster a sense of personal fulfillment derived from investing with purpose.
As more people become aware of the benefits of sustainable investing and the opportunities to make a positive difference, the demand for sustainable investment options grows. As forward-thinking wealth advisors share more thoughtful stories about sustainable investment through their networks, clients who might not have previously considered sustainable investing may be inspired by the potential to make a difference through their investment choices. This, in turn, could encourage more companies to adopt sustainable practices, creating a positive ripple effect in the investment landscape.
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