Chris Answers Your Questions

As an investment advisor,what’s at the core of your approach to working with clients?

I’ve been working as an investment advisor for over 25 years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over time it’s this: Contrary to popular belief, it’s emotions – not logic or reason – that drives investors in making critical investment decisions. For that reason, financial advisors need to understand the emotional factors that drive their clients’ behavior, and their attitudes about risk-taking and money management. If they do, they will be better able to fashion wealth management plans that are suited to an individual client’s personality, temperament, and risk tolerance.

Where does the emotional mindset that drives a person’s thinking about investing come from?
In many cases, I’ve found that people’s views about money and investing can be traced back to early life experiences of pain and loss that are associated with family, friends, relationships, and love. These formative experiences can include: the ‘imperfect love” a child received from their parents; childhood events that featured danger, threat or loss; the influence of key authority figures in a young childhood life; family values and culture, and much more. These factors all shape the development and growth of an individual’s ‘emotional template’ which governs how they relate to the world around them.
How does this emotional template then drive an adult’s decision-making process about investing?
As adults, the embedded emotional elements in a person’s make-up greatly influence an individual’s risk tolerance, their feelings about gain and loss, their capacity to trust others, and their ability or inability to act in their own financial interest, especially in high-stakes circumstances such as economic uncertainty, significant life transitions, or a roiling stock market. For example, a person who experiences significant personal or emotional loss or pain as a child may, as an adult, have little trust in others, have a deep-seated need for security and control, and be very risk-intolerant when it comes to investing.
How does all of this influence your approach as a wealth advisor?
As a wealth advisor, it’s important for me to understand what drives my clients’ views about money and investing so I can counsel them appropriately about how to manage their wealth and make investment choices. For that reason, I like to begin my work with clients by delving into their personal stories and family histories, in order to understand what has shaped their investment thinking as adults. I look not only to identify the emotional drivers of their decision-making, but also the personal and family values that influence them when it comes to making investment decisions. For example, what do they see as the purpose of their wealth? To what goals (financial, personal, familial, etc.) do they want to commit themselves? In many cases, I find that investors have never been asked such questions as part of the investment planning process. But for me, understanding this “back story” is key to advising my clients in a professional and ethical way.
Talk more about your approach to investment advising. How is it different from that of other wealth advisors out there?

For me, advising people about their money isn’t about pushing specific financial products. It’s about truly understanding each and every client as an individual. For that reason, Working with the Emotional Investor blends fresh insights from social psychology and neuroscience, with sophisticated client engagement techniques, to help wealth advisors build strong and sustainable relationships with clients based on trust, empathy, and strong professional ethics.

You sound like a very philosophical guy, one’s whose approach to investment planning is based on more than just financial results for you or your client.

Yes indeed! I try to bring a servant leadership approach to my work with clients, believing that I’m there to serve their interests (personal, familial, financial) not my own. In fact, I devote an entire chapter of Working with the Emotional Investor just to the topic of servant leadership! One can only exercise servant leadership when one understands and appreciates the personality of one’s clients, and develops investment plans that are aligned with their unique personality, temperament, values, and financial goals. For me, this is at the heart of my fiduciary responsibility to those I serve.

You write in your book that understanding the dynamics of a client’s personality is always important but is especially important in high-stakes situations. Can you explain what you mean?

All people have an emotional “operating system” (the emotional template we talked about earlier) that is the foundation of their personality, and that governs how they operate in the world. For investment advisors it’s particularly important to understand how people’s personalities can change – or at least become more evident — in high-stakes or high-stress situations, such as when the stock market is in free fall or economic volatility and uncertainty are in the air.

In my experience, people take on one of three specific personality types when the financial stakes get high.

Some people become what I call “Fixers.” Fixers are people with a strong will to overcome whatever obstacles stand in their way. If you have a Fixer for a client, you generally know it because they like to be in charge and in control. They want to win at any cost.

Other people reveal themselves to be “Survivors.” Survivors tend to sacrifice themselves for causes they believe in, even if it goes against their interests. Survivors, for example, may hold on to a bad stock, even when it’s dropping in value, simply because they believe in that stock or have owned it for a long time.

Then there are “Protectors.” Protectors are focused on taking care of other people. Stewardship for others is at the core of the Protector’s personality. If you have a Protector as a client you’ll know it, because as part of their estate, investment, and retirement planning activities they’re likely to talk a lot about others including spouses, children, family members, and friends. They are guardians, stewards, and caretakers by nature.

I would never take a “one size fits all” approach to dealing with all these personality types. Each has different priorities, needs, and interests. So, I need to gauge my approach and strategy to each accordingly, based on my knowledge of them not just as clients but as unique individuals.

So, who is the intended audience for Working with the Emotional Investor? Is it wealth advisors or investors? Both?

Actually it’s both! I originally wrote this book to help wealth advisors better understand their clients from an emotional and psychological point of view, and to share client relationship building approaches and techniques that I’ve found can help any advisor take their work with clients to new levels. But the book is also a good read for anybody who’s interested in better understanding the connection between emotions and investing, and who’s interested in understanding their own personality and emotions when it comes to investments. So, in that respect, my book can help both wealth advisors and investors to be better at what they do with each other!

It sounds like Working with the Emotional Investor would be a great read for anybody in the professions of wealth management, financial planning, and retirement/estate planning. Where can people buy Working with the Emotional Investor?
It’s available on, Barnes &, Books a Million, and through other major online book outlets. It can also be found in or ordered through brick and mortar bookstores.
Are bulk discount available?
Yes. Discounts can be arranged for purchases of 20 books or more.
Are you available for speaking engagements about your book and about the profession of wealth management and investment planning in general?
Yes. I’m available for speaking engagements and also for corporate training sessions, workshops, and webinars, depending on what an organization requires. I’ve spoken in the past for organizations such as Family Office Exchange, the CFA Institute, PNC Bank, and others.
If people want to reach you where can they do so?

They can reach me at