Ronya Corey | Crain's Washington D.C.

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ronya Corey

Background:  

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is the wealth management division of Bank of America. Ronya Corey, who has worked for Merrill Lynch since 1993, is the founding partner of The Corey Group, based in Washington, D.C. 

The Mistake:

Very early on, there was a client who spent too much in retirement. I wasn't as persistent as I should have been [in telling them to curb their spending], and in the end they just spent away their investable assets.

They had a pension and social security, but I should have been much more direct with them and told them, "I think you need to find another advisor, because you're not taking my advice."

In the end they were still fine, but they did have to have a reduced retirement lifestyle because of what I didn’t tell them. And I used that as a way to change the way I interact with clients.

If you're not going to have an advisor that can tell you what you don't want to hear, what's the purpose of having an advisor?

The Lesson:

What I've learned is to not be afraid to tell clients what they don't want to hear.

I think successful financial advisor relationships are ones where the financial advisor isn't afraid to tell the client something they're not going to want to hear, even if it might make the client a little uneasy at the time.

If you're not going to have an advisor that can tell you what you don't want to hear, what's the purpose of having an advisor?

I act as a mentor in the office for the new hires, and I tell them what makes a great financial advisor, obviously, is someone that is a good listener, because you have to hear what a client is really saying in order to respond to them in a way that will connect with them.

But it's also important to be able to tell them, for example, not to sell in a bear market and educate them on the reason why not to sell. They can't be afraid of that. Because if they’re afraid to tell them [the truth], the clients will eventually find somebody that will educate them.

I think it's relevant for anyone in the service industry in general. We're in the service industry to help others. So it's really important to be authentic in the service that you provide others and the advice you give to others.

And as long as you're coming from an authentic and honest place, that will only benefit you and your client in the end.

Follow Merrill Lynch on Twitter at @MerrillLynch.

Photo courtesy of Merrill Lynch.