Most advisors claim to be client-centered, and they aim to do what is best for their clients. However, according to research, a significant gap lies between their intent and reality. This is the case with all types of advisors, from wealth managers and lawyers, to accountants and bankers.

To truly be client-centered you have to want and be able to do the best job possible for clients. Integrity, for example, is a cornerstone of being client-centered. You must put clients' interests ahead of your own.

Being client-centered is an attitude and an ethical stance. It is also a skill set incorporating discovery. You cannot be client-centered unless you have a solid in-depth understanding of your clients’ needs and wants, dreams and concerns. Failing to effectively profile them dramatically restricts your ability to provide viable and worthwhile solutions.

“We repeatedly find in both research studies and field-level advisory coaching that most advisors intend to be client-centered, but their efforts are undercut by their limited time and tools to assess the full spectrum of client needs," said Brett Van Bortel, director of consulting services at Invesco Consulting. "We see advisors form habits that help them address two to three items that they become effective with, but these same habits tend to limit them from pursuing all needs and opportunities with a client. We have found that wealth mapping literally helps them see the client’s big picture, and delivers a simple, implementable methodology to provision legitimate wealth management.”

One methodology effective for profiling the affluent is the "Whole Client Model." It is a process for developing a comprehensive and deep understanding of the wealthy and, based on that understanding, developing an individualized approach to working with them. The Whole Client Model is comprised of these seven categories, which together represent a complete picture of a wealthy individual:

• Affluent client vitals: Who they are, their net worth, and so forth.
• Goals and critical concerns: What is important to them and what they aim to achieve.
• Financials: Their balance sheet and sources of money.
• Relationships: Important personal and professionals relationships.
• Professionals: The advisors they are using and why.
• Process: How they prefer to work with advisors.
• Interests: What they like to do outside of business, including their charitable concerns.

“With the Whole Client Model, the ideal way to capture and present the information gathered is as a real-time schematic,” Van Bortel said. “The result is a mind map of the client. It provides advisors with a comprehensive picture they can easily use to identify opportunities to address needs and concerns and deliver value.”

Professionals can potentially employ other powerful approaches so that they are systematically collecting and organizing information about their clients. It is critical to use some methodology that enables you to develop a holistic understanding of your clients. This then sets the stage for you to provide the best possible, customized solutions. Thus, you are able to effectively match their objectives and circumstances with your services and products. Doing so will make you truly client-centered.

Russ Alan Prince, president of R.A. Prince & Associates, is a consultant to family offices, the ultra-wealthy and select professionals.