Transforming something complex into something simple is, without a doubt, a challenging proposition. It tests us to ensure that we truly understand what we are talking about and that we can distill it into understandable, manageable chunks. The formula is to remove the layers of complexity to reach what is simple at the core. Simple communication is natural, easy, direct, concise, clear and unpretentious. It helps to add a little creativity and innovation to the mix.

Rounding out and elevating those discussions were further techniques and strategies shared by White Glove’s carefully curated strategic partner firms that they designate as their syndicate partners. In aggregate, the syndicate partners painted a very clear picture of how simplicity comes out from the conscious merging of experience and wisdom.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” —Leonardo da Vinci

Jason L Smith, founder of Clarity 2 Prosperity and author of The Bucket Plan, put into context that a confused mind says “no” and does nothing, as well as, any client or prospect saying “I have to think this over” is because the advisor has overcomplicated things. With the goal of simplifying the often complex world of financial planning, Jason went over his book and financial planning process, which is based on a three-bucket philosophy of strategically positioning assets to plan for and mitigate the risks and dangers that can occur in retirement. The key to his communication strategy of the three buckets is to impart an easy plan of action around retirement that is free from worry, stress and confusion for the client. The process he developed begins with the art of knowing how to ask the right questions to isolate the client’s primary pain points, briefly lays out major risks and mistakes others have taken, and maps out the client’s time horizon and financial plan around “Now”, “Soon” and “Later” buckets. You communicate simply in an encouraging and motivating way and let them ask the complex questions, if they have any. You leave them with the confidence of letting them know you are doing all the sophisticated actions behind the scenes. Jason even brought this simplified process for review to the DOL and the SEC.

This presentation brought to mind an analogy of thinking about the issue of simplicity versus complexity as a river: “It flows easiest when there are no rocks or boulders in the way. The flow of the river is effortless and no resources are wasted. Contrast that with a river full of debris and rocks. The river flows more slowly as it navigates the hazards in its way.” That is the difference between the power of simplicity and the challenge of complexity. It provides a great metaphor to guide advisors in their business. Not every complexity is bad, the point is how to eliminate the unnecessary complexity to make it elegant.

“Complexity is enemy of execution.” —Anthony Robbins

Pat Quinn, a professional consultant and keynote speaker with an advanced degree in brain research, discussed how in order to truly communicate with people you need to understand how adults process and learn new information. He mentioned the importance of studying the body of work coming from the social sciences, mentioning the work of Daniel Pink and Robert Cialdini. He made a strong point that using this behavioral information is not to be manipulative, but rather, to know how to build structured communication frameworks to be able to connect with people. He provided an example of his four-part story bridge framework that aims to communicate ideas using an initial “heart” story, moving to just enough facts to address the “head,” then offering a “hand” to a call to action, then closing on another point addressing the “heart.” His formula—based on social science—is a heart, head, hands, heart communication structure in order to maximize potential for higher engagement and moving clients to positive action in their best interests.

Dan Collison, managing partner of Advice2Advisors, has focused on the education and development of financial advisors towards a comprehensive, holistic approach to financial planning. He strongly reinforced that estate planning is a perfect topic for advisors to focus on. The key opportunity for them is to simplify its complexities so that the audience can better understand the issues and subsequently, their need to take action. Dan went on to recommend the work of Richard Thaler, who coined the term of being a “choice architect”—the practice of influencing choice by “organizing the context in which people make decisions.”  Most advisors tend to lose their audience in the first few minutes by talking in overly technical language. Rather, they should open up their audience with tough questions that help the participants become part of the conversation; engage them emotionally in a simplified way; and then “nudging” them to realize why they need to act now rather than later. As Dan put it, “Disturb, then motivate.” He outlined how the advisor using this communication approach can position themselves as the client’s personal CFO—just like a typical CEO relies on their CFO to qualify and quantify goals.

Scott Huff, founder of Yourefolio, is a financial advisor who acknowledged the fact that 60% of adults do not have an estate plan due to the complexity and strong emotions tied to the subject and took it upon himself to correct this problem. He built a legacy planning software platform with innovative tools and modules designed to more easily explain, stress test, prepare and implement a full estate planning process in a more motivating way for his clients. This is a great example of how advisors can create new solutions and processes to actively work on simplifying financial planning complexities and provide more clarity to motivate clients to be prepared.

 “Simplicity is a state of mind.” —Charles Wagner