That’s how financial advisors often describe what they do for clients.

Now there’s new research that lends credence to that idea, noting the importance of advisors who provide emotional support—financial well-being or peace of mind—to their clients.

The Vanguard Center for Investor Research last year published a report that sought to measure the value of financial advisory services to investors. As part of their research, co-authors Cynthia Pagliaro and Stephen Utkus looked not only at portfolio outcomes and financial goals, but looked at “emotional outcomes”—investors’ sense of well-being when they measured the value of advisors’ work.

And what they discovered in their report, “Assessing the Value of Advice,” is that emotional outcomes account for 45% of total perceived value, while 55% of value is associated with functional aspects of the relationship such as portfolio management, financial planning and other services.

Utkus and others weren’t surprised that clients gave such a high regard to emotional outcomes—which included a sense of trust (in the institution or advisor), the investor’s own sense of confidence, the investor’s perception of success or accomplishment in financial affairs, and the nature of behavioral coaching such as hand-holding in periods of market volatility.

“Most of the conventional descriptions of financial advice tend to focus on hard metrics like portfolio results or specific financial recommendations, but it always seemed to us, listening to input from advisors and clients, that psychological and behavioral elements were always a strong component of good advisor/client relationships,” says Utkus. “In the end, good advice isn’t just about improving the numbers; it’s about clients having an improved sense of financial well-being.”

Advisors tend to agree with this assessment. “Attempts to measure something that is essentially qualitative is always challenging,” says Deanna Sharpe, an associate professor in the Personal Financial Planning Department at the University of Missouri. “But results of studies that have attempted to assess such things as trust, confidence, a sense of security, etc., including Vanguard’s assessment, indicates that financial planning is a ‘full-brained’ activity, encompassing both equations and emotions, math and meaning.”

Dave Yeske, the managing director of Yeske Buie, and director of Golden Gate University’s financial planning program, says Vanguard’s “results make total sense to me.”

What’s more, Yeske includes those topics in Golden Gate’s financial planning curriculum. In an investments course he teaches, he devotes four-plus weeks of a 15-week term to various aspects of managing the client relationship in ways that foster trust and minimize “betrayal aversion.”

“We use the insights of behavioral finance along the way, not in our analysis of market anomalies but in the context of managing the client relationship and client behavior,” he says. “This is a hugely important dimension of being a financial planner who manages client investments.”

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