A lack of soft skills could cost advisors revenues today, but in the future, it could cost them their practice.

Advisors are often encouraged to view life transitions like a death in a client’s family as business opportunities -- but they must  also consider the emotional consequences of grieving if they are to offer clients holistic planning services.

“People want an advisor that’s good at these skills,” says Amy Florian, founder and CEO of Corgenius. “Clients figure advisors are going to be good at the finances, but what are really looking for is someone who also understands them and can walk them through life’s transition like a person, not a number in a portfolio.”

While today’s financial industry excels at managing the financial implications of events like marriage, divorce, education, business mergers and sales, and death, it still often falls behind in the “soft skills” that help someone emotionally navigate transitions.

Florian says that industry participants only take the first step in serving their clients in transition by making sure the financial framework -- items like insurance, an estate plan, trusts, educational savings, long-term health care plans -- is in place. To fully serve client transitions, advisors need to learn how to communicate around emotions like grief, loss, joy, fear and guilt.

“Advisors fall short because they concentrate too much on that financial part,” Florian says. “Diving into business and finances after a client’s family member has died just because that’s all you know how to do isn’t really serving the client. It’s not what they need at that moment. That client needs grief support.”

Florian is a thanatologist, an expert in the study of death, grief, and transition  particularly the psychological, cognitive, cultural and emotional effects of death and loss, she holds a Fellow in Thanatology from the Association of Death Education and Counseling in addition to a master's degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University, Chicago.  Her firm, Corgenius, is a professional training organization that teaches skills to better serve clients and colleagues in grief and transition.

Florian says that grief support starts with communications skills -- telephone and office etiquette, for example, and asking questions that invite the client to tell their story.

Asking the right questions can help advisors determine the right time to proceed with addressing a client’s financial needs, says Florian.

“After a death, there are some things that have to happen on a certain time frame, and advisors can say to clients ‘these things need to happen on a schedule, and I’ve got your back,” Florian says. “There are other steps, like portfolio readjustments or selling a house, that don’t absolutely have to happen immediately, and they probably shouldn’t.”