Good Financial Planning Is Good Storytelling | ETF Trends

People are storytellers, not calculators. While numbers confound us, stories define us. And yet, this fundamental observation about human nature is largely missed by the wealth management industry, to the detriment of both client and advisor. Shaping Wealth founder Brian Portnoy explained to attendees at Exchange: An ETF Experience on Tuesday the importance of storytelling for one’s wealth management business.

“Story is the decoder ring of our reality. We were born to see patterns,” Portnoy said, adding: “Good financial planning is good storytelling.”

Citing Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, which can be found in movies ranging from Star Wars to The Devil Wears Prada, Portnoy noted that story matters not just in film but in real life — and wealth management.

“We are born to not only to enjoy but to inhabit stories that define not only what we want to do but who we are,” Portnoy said.

Portnoy explained that over the last generation, there’s been a deep transformation within the wealth management industry “from more of a transactional business to a relational business.” And as the industry transitions to this more relationship-oriented practice, financial advisors can “take on new and important and, in some ways, exciting roles.”

“We are helping people along life’s journey, and we’re doing so wearing different hats, playing different parts. We are both mechanic and guide for others’ life journeys.”

Portnoy also referred to the Choose Your Own Adventure books that were popular in the 1980s and ’90s, which gave the reader choices as to where the story would go. Financial planners are in a position to help clients shape and choose their stories.

“We have choices along the way. We have agency,” he said. “We have authorship over our stories. So, what is your client’s adventure? What is their story?”

For more coverage of the Exchange conference, please visit VettaFi | ETF Trends.