Intimacy? Are You Serious?
by Tony DiLeonardi
What thoughts come to mind when you hear the word
intimacy? This may be a dangerous theme to open with because for
many people, the word intimacy feels awkward or uncomfortable. For
others, it's almost laughable. With the rise in popularity of
personal development and self-help books, blogs, and TV shows,
intimacy has become a mainstream buzzword. It's generally used in
reference to male/female relationships. You know, you've seen the
women's magazine article: "Six Ways to Improve Intimacy with Your
Partner…Tonight." I think the word intimacy has gotten a bad rap
simply because it's misunderstood, much like the term "affirmation"
did back in the days of Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live.
Remember his powerful affirmation? "I'm good enough, smart enough,
and gosh darn it, people like me." We all had a good laugh and
dismissed as nonsense what is actually a pretty useful development
Same thing goes for intimacy. Many people have been
turned off simply because of incorrect or over usage. So, before we
go any further, I'm asking you to release any preconceived notions
of intimacy. For us to build lifelong and multigenerational
clients, we need it.
I use intimacy for two reasons. First, it's because I
truly believe it's the best word for what we are trying to create.
And, secondly, because I feel it causes us to think. And isn't that
really the definition of learning? After all, as professor and
author Howard Hendricks said, "It's not what you think you are;
rather it's what you think, you are."
If we look at the word intimate, it comes from the
Latin intima, signifying the deepest, most internal part of
something. The key word here to me is something. I argue that of
all the service providers your clients have-as well as the
prospective time-stealers and those attempting to add some value in
the lives of your clients-your role and duty is the deepest, most
internal part of their life. Not more important or deeper than
their family or faith, perhaps, but certainly deeper and more
internal than say, the mechanic, plumber, local politician, medical
doctor, or nurse. Medical doctor? Really? Yes, perhaps even him or
There is one thing that each medical professional has
in common. Eventually he or she will lose 100% of their clients,
which he or she calls patients. Each one of them will die. But what
you do, the trusted wealth professional, has the ability to go on
for generation after generation. That's powerful.
In medicine, the intima is the inner lining of the
arteries, the tunica interna, or inner coat. This joins with the
endocardium, the inner lining of the heart. The intimate layer is
the most profound and the most tender. To be intimate with another
is to be open and uncover one's inner thoughts. We tend to do this
with great anxiety and vulnerability, but that's exactly what is
needed from you with your best clients to create the mutual
intimacy that leads to lifelong relationships and passes to future
Why Does Intimacy Matter?
The data and the told and untold stories of this
industry indicate that most of your clients don't feel that you
care about them, their family and their needs. You may care about
the size of their wealth, the products they use, and the
"suitability" for those products. Consider this:
- 98% of adult children switch financial advisers
once they have received their inheritance from their parents.
("Engaging and Retaining Families," Investments & Wealth
Monitor, IMCA, September/October 2011)
- On average, affluent clients with more than $5M in
assets have seven advisers in their lifetime.
- 25% of the affluent claim they are looking for a
new "planner" not because of performance, but rather, lack of
contact. (Phoenix Wealth Management Survey.)
Therefore, intimacy in your practice with your best
clients matters because it's how you will perform your noble
calling, attract and keep your clients, and inherit more clients
because of not just what you do for them, but how you do it.
In journalist Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink
(Back Bay Books, 2005), he looks at medical professionals and their
likelihood of being sued for malpractice. The net of the example is
those medical professionals whose patients consider them to have a
favorable bedside manner, regardless of their technical proficiency
and competency of the MD, were less likely to be sued for
malpractice than those doctors who had real or perceived bad
bedside manner. He found out that in many cases, the patient's
feelings of a good bedside manner versus a bad bedside manner came
from just three minutes more of dialogue (connection) with the
patient. That was from 15 minutes to 18 minutes of intimacy. A bit
of interest, compassion, and concern from the doctor created a much
healthier, productive, and profitable relationship. It was not just
the medicine; it was also the relationship.
So, three more minutes of genuine, caring
conversation means a doctor is less likely to be sued than a doctor
who is technically more proficient, but perceived as less caring,
compassionate, and does not take the time to know his or her
patient. What does this have to do with you, the wealth
professional? Everything. I believe this example is absolutely
transferable to your business and our industry. We need to improve
our bedside manner (our intimacy) for all the right reasons.