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Financial advice is more than dollars and cents — it’s a partnership

Vise's chief marketing officer talks about her personal financial journey

Growing up as the child of immigrant parents who, as small business owners, worked hard to put food on the table, Christine Tseng quickly learned the value of a dollar. She tracked every expense in a spreadsheet, saved for a rainy day, and invested before any of her close friends. Even in adulthood, when she found success in Silicon Valley, those habits remained a part of who she was.

So when it came time to find a financial advisor, she figured the process would be painless. After all, she did the leg work already. “I wasn’t looking for an advisor to get my finances in order. I didn’t have a lot of questions about managing my money or how to invest,” she remembers. What she wanted was someone who invested in her and how she can reach her personal goals. 

She’s not alone in feeling this way. A recent Harris Poll, commissioned by the Million Dollar Round Table, found that 85% of Americans trusted advisors who demonstrate emotional intelligence. You’re giving them access to your livelihood, so it makes sense that most people would want an advisor who is trustworthy, experienced, and emotionally attuned. 

But, of course, the ideal advisor is easy to describe, difficult to find. There are no yellow pages for financial advisors, and most people who have a good advisor found theirs from a close family member or friend. Christine didn’t have that luxury. “I tend to be an ambassador of new products and services for my network. I find the right people and then recommend them to everyone in my group,” she said. Finding an advisor would prove no different. 

Fortunately, her previous employer, Twitter, had arranged for everyone at the company to meet with a financial advisor before their IPO. “I remember walking into the advisor’s office and leaving 15 minutes later. It felt like I was one of 1,000 people they met that week,” she said. 

Even though she never chose this advisor, the short interaction shined a light on how impersonal and transactional this type of service could be. A 2019 study by data provider YCharts found that most people do not hear from their advisor nearly enough. Nearly 64% of those surveyed went as far as to say that their advisor infrequently or very infrequently contacts them. 

Years later, Christine would find herself in the same position, still without an advisor and without any leads. So she went where most people go for recommendations, the internet. A perfunctory search on Yelp and LinkedIn surfaced several potential choices. But like her previous conversations, these would prove just as futile; short 15-minute screeners about her investment goals, their fee structure, and not much else. 

After many failed meetings over a decade-long search, Christine started to reconsider what she wanted from an advisor. Her checklist had included questions like:

  1. Is this someone I can spend 20 to 30 years with?

  2. Do they ask about not just my professional but my personal goals?

  3. Do they specialize in my niche (e.g., tech employees)?

  4. Can they relate to my unique upbringing?

Maybe it was time to change course. 

That was until she met who would become her current advisor, who she also found on Yelp. Their first introductory meeting ran 90 minutes, a far cry from the transactional 15-minute conversations she had with other potential advisors. In that time, this advisor walked Christine through the entire financial planning process, trying to better understand Christine’s goals, risk tolerance, and ambitions beyond her career and money. “I wasn’t being treated like a bunch of numbers, graphs, and returns, which the other advisors had made me feel,” Christine said. 

Christine quickly realized that this was someone who answered “yes” to all of her questions. This was someone who even helped Christine on matters that had seemed outside the scope of a financial advisor’s job:

  1. How to negotiate a home price,

  2. What was in the fine print of an insurance policy,

  3. And whether to switch jobs or not.

“It was every decision in my life that required some kind of investment, not only the markets, [my advisor] was there for me to do that. Even walking through my health benefits and making sure that I was adequately covered,” said Christine. 

Christine’s experience, like so many others, is a stark reminder of how financial advice is not just about money; it’s about people.

September 3, 2021