Before I started a new life at my current firm, I spent nearly eight years as a partner in a registered investment advisory, witnessing the tapestries of life.

One by one, I came to know every prospect who walked through our doors and greeted them ceremoniously like family. We always believed in the power of a good first impression and took that to the extreme. I took great pride in meticulously preparing our conference room for each guest with a rectangular, woven place mat; a blue, regal-designed folder; and a corporate pen with a small, clickable flashlight at the tip.

An hour before each appointment, I opened our small refrigerator freezer, delicately unwrapped the raw chocolate chip cookies and lay them side by side, an inch apart, in the toaster oven to bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes exactly. Like a delicate perfume, their intoxicating smell permeated the conference room while creating a halo of comfort to share unforgettable conversations—most of which remain with me.

My years of shadowing our financial advisors gave me a crash course in life. Watching them weave delicately through deep, emotional conversations—involving the sudden death of a child, an unexpected cancer diagnosis, the terminal illness of a spouse and plans to institutionalize a loved one in her 60s who was suffering from an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s—made me appreciate the fine art of financial planning and what it means to be a great advisor.

The conference room was my classroom and taught me one of the most critical life lessons: The human condition has no currency. It doesn’t know dollars from cents or net present value from future value. It doesn’t discriminate between a Henry (high income, not rich yet), a DINK (double income with no kids), or the uber-wealthy.

No single portfolio or tactical asset allocation can insulate a person from the natural randomness of life. Bad things happen to everyone, which is what it means to be human.

But within these stories of pain and struggle, as difficult as they are, lay the promising groundwork of opportunity for advisors who can provide an unmatched standard of care to their clients through difficult situations.

As both a lung cancer survivor and financial services industry professional, I can honestly say that the financial advisor who goes headfirst helping clients manage catastrophic situations will hold on to those clients for life. Their families will see such advisors as stewards and servants, and the advisors’ loyalty will be rewarded, appreciated and valued over time. But there’s more.

In the constant hunt for investment alpha—through alternatives, cryptocurrency or tax loss harvesting—advisors have access to a bounty of opportunities right at their fingertips.

But what I’ve come to discover is that kindness and generosity have a cascading effect, enhancing an advisor’s ability to earn a greater share of wallet, to keep more clients and to develop what we call “customer lifetime value.” Furthermore, by cultivating a practice of compassion and understanding, advisors often see more client referrals. These things offer tangible business metrics that help the bottom line. I refer to this effect as “return on relationship,” a powerful leverage that can amplify the success of any financial practice.

Here are five suggestions to boost that return and build strong bonds with clients during trying times when they are facing things like health crises or medical emergencies:

1. Send a personal, handwritten card and a care package. A random act of kindness need not be lavish or expensive, but it does need to be personal. You should spend an extra five minutes personally writing a heartfelt message, such as, “Dear Client, our thoughts are with you, sending abundant strength and positivity. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to assist you and your family at this time. Get well soon, Tina.” Combine your note with a thoughtful care package: Websites like and offer a variety of choices.

2. Check on clients periodically with calls and texts. While I was recovering from surgery and chemo, many people checked in with a call or text. One friend took pictures of the flowers in her yard and sent them to me with a kind note. I’ll attest that such simple gestures leave a lasting impression on your clients. Not only that, but they will also remember you for it. It’s also essential to check on the caregiver to see how you can help.

3. Volunteer to assist with complex medical claims and conversations with the client’s insurance company. The additional costs of hospitalization, surgery and medications can be costly and include out-of-pocket expenses. In such scenarios, financial advisors can provide invaluable support to their clients by assisting with medical claims, addressing queries and navigating disputes. Given the complexity of the medical system, individuals who are ill might find it overwhelming to manage these concerns on their own. I know I did. Financial advisors thus serve as a vital resource, ensuring clients can focus on their recovery without the added stress of financial and administrative burdens.

4. Ensure client accounts are in good order and have correct beneficiary designations. It’s a fundamental aspect of good business to maintain the accuracy of client accounts. This involves periodic reviews to ensure all accounts are in good standing and updated with the correct beneficiary designations. Advisors should also check the titling and ownership of accounts and other relevant documentation. By proactively managing these things, you can safeguard the interests of your clients and foster a relationship built on trust, ensuring that their financial legacies are well protected and aligned with their wishes.

5. Evaluate existing healthcare proxies and living wills. Another critical component of patient advocacy is evaluating and managing healthcare proxies and living wills. Hospitals invariably require these documents, which are pivotal in guiding medical decisions when patients cannot communicate their wishes. Advisors need to approach these discussions with patience and respect but with an intent to understand their clients’ perspectives and individual challenges. Through this approach, you can offer comprehensive support beyond traditional boundaries, showing genuine commitment to your clients’ well-being.

Looking back on my own life experience of fighting cancer and now being cancer-free, I am reminded that difficult circumstances bring out the best in people. Financial advisors who use this time to be present for and support their clients will make a more significant impact than any investment strategy does—the client will never forget how the advisor was there for them and will remain loyal for life.

Tina Powell is the chief of community at, a consulting and marketing agency.