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How Utilizing Visualizations Can Enhance Shopper Communication


Government Abstract

Communication is among the most essential abilities for a monetary advisor. Whereas technical experience is critical to formulate a monetary plan, having the ability to clearly talk the findings to a consumer could make all of the distinction between whether or not or not the consumer will perceive and conform to implement the advisor’s suggestions. Many advisors are accustomed to utilizing verbal communication with shoppers (e.g., in consumer conferences) and written communication (e.g., via the supply of a written plan), nevertheless, some ideas are troublesome to clarify and perceive via these means. However by utilizing visualization aids of their communication, advisors can make clear advanced data and generate higher conversations with shoppers.

In keeping with one studying mannequin, there are 4 primary classes of studying types: visible, auditory, studying/writing, and kinesthetic. Analysis means that communication and schooling are each more practical when a number of studying types are integrated as a result of a person’s most well-liked studying model usually varies day-to-day. Moreover, presenters who use visualizations can are typically perceived by their viewers as higher ready, extra skilled, and extra attention-grabbing than those that rely solely on text-based displays. Taken collectively, these findings recommend that utilizing visualizations when presenting data to shoppers utilizing different modes (verbally in conferences and thru written plans) could be a good strategy to display experience whereas constructing rapport with the viewers.

When contemplating use visualizations, you will need to acknowledge that completely different types of visualizations can be utilized to satisfy completely different communication targets. As an example, visualizations could be categorized based mostly on their content material (conceptual or data-driven) and objective (declarative or exploratory). By contemplating the character of the content material and objective of their message, advisors can select an acceptable model of visualization to implement. For instance, data-driven, declarative concepts could be conveyed by ‘on a regular basis knowledge’ visualizations, reminiscent of a chart or graph objectively illustrating relationships between information and figures (e.g., the S&P 500’s efficiency throughout the previous yr). Alternatively, a conceptual, exploratory concept could be higher conveyed via an ‘concept era’ visualization, reminiscent of an array of concepts that encourage brainstorming concepts. Conceptual, declarative concepts are finest conveyed via visualizations that illustrate troublesome ideas, and knowledge pushed, exploratory concepts can usually be conveyed by combining visualizations merged collectively from a number of sources of knowledge to encourage identification of recent developments or themes.

Advisors can select to create their very own visualizations (reminiscent of a easy Venn diagram), however can even go for turnkey software program options or white-labeled merchandise for extra elaborate visualizations. Whichever possibility an advisor chooses, there are key design rules to bear in mind. For instance, the considerate use of traces, colours, shading, font dimension, and different visible components will help to speak concepts and draw consideration to key elements of the visualization.

In the end, the important thing level is that visualizations could be a useful gizmo for bettering advisor communication and consumer comprehension. Given the data-intensive nature of economic plans, visualizations can function a helpful complement to written and verbal communication from the advisor and may present readability to shoppers, which may give shoppers extra confidence of their plans and of their advisors!

Michael Lecours

Writer: Michael Lecours, CFP®

Visitor Contributor

Michael Lecours, CFP® is a Co-Founding father of fpPathfinder. fpPathfinder makes checklists and flowcharts to assist advisors be extra diligent within the planning course of for his or her shoppers. Michael can be a monetary advisor and planner at Ohanesian / Lecours. Michael started his profession in promoting and makes use of that have to distill advanced monetary planning ideas into easy methods for shoppers. He has been featured within the Journal of Monetary Planning.

In relation to communication, monetary advisors sometimes take considered one of two approaches to clarify monetary planning ideas to shoppers and prospects. They may both verbally clarify their concepts or write out their factors in an electronic mail or report back to share with their consumer. Each could be helpful as strategies of communication, however every comes with its personal particular set of points.

For instance, a consumer who solely hears a suggestion might grow to be overwhelmed making an attempt to maintain monitor of the numbers, whereas a consumer who solely reads the advice might get misplaced within the particulars and fail to grasp the high-level motive that the advisor is recommending the technique. Whereas there are a lot of methods to beat miscommunication, there may be one explicit technique to assist advisors be sure that their shoppers perceive what they should know: incorporating visualizations when speaking with a consumer throughout conferences.

Visualizations Are Efficient Aids In Communication

Visualizations could be an essential software to assist advisors talk with their shoppers. Contemplate the previous adage, “An image is price a thousand phrases”, showing in Printer’s Ink, an promoting commerce journal printed within the Nineteen Twenties, advocating using extra graphics and fewer textual content for ads to be efficient throughout a time when most ads consisted of textual content. To the purpose of this adage, visualizations have usually been used all through historical past to assist clarify advanced concepts, as they provide a singular alternative to obviously convey ideas that will in any other case be notably troublesome to clarify via both spoken or written phrase alone.

The rationale visible communication could be so efficient offers with the way it pertains to completely different studying types. In keeping with the VARK studying mannequin, developed by Neil Fleming to assist individuals perceive the strategy of studying that works most successfully for themselves, there are 4 primary classes of studying types: visible, auditory, studying/writing, and kinesthetic. Whereas Fleming argued that folks had a most well-liked studying model, additional analysis has prompt that more practical communication and schooling happen when a number of studying types are integrated as a result of somebody’s most well-liked studying model really can differ day-to-day.

Vark Model of Learning Styles Mike Lecours Visualizations

Within the classroom, lecturers usually try to coach college students utilizing strategies that handle quite a lot of studying types as a result of individuals have other ways of taking in data most successfully and thus have a desire for the way they be taught finest. A 2011 research by Iranian researcher Abbas Pourhossein Gilakjani discovered that the scholars within the research typically most well-liked to make use of visible studying types over auditory or kinesthetic studying types.

The important thing level, although, is to acknowledge that conveying data solely in a single explicit model – e.g., all the time sending every thing as a written electronic mail, or all the time explaining verbally – is probably not an excellent match not less than a few of the time for some shoppers (and probably not an excellent match all of the time for sure shoppers which will have a powerful desire for one more studying model). For which using the visible model – in any other case much less usually utilized by monetary advisors – creates the chance to develop communication.

Visualization Can Assist Consideration, Settlement, And Retention

To look at studying types in a enterprise setting, a research by Swiss researchers Sebastian Kernbach and Martin Eppler was carried out in 2010 to see if visualizations did a greater job speaking a proposed enterprise technique than textual content. The authors offered a enterprise technique to check members utilizing considered one of three codecs: a text-based bullet listing, a visible metaphor (which makes use of a graphically structured structure utilizing a metaphor to characterize new concepts utilizing ideas from an already mastered topic space), and a temporal roadmap diagram (designed to visually spotlight the chronological capabilities and relationships within the technique).

Text Based and Visual Presentation Formats Mike Lecours Visualizations

Their outcomes prompt that the visible codecs (vis-à-vis the visible metaphor and temporal roadmap displays) have been “considerably higher than textual content by way of the achieved consideration, settlement, and retention.” This additional means that visualizations are an essential ingredient within the communication technique.

One shocking revelation from Kernbach and Eppler’s analysis was that presenters utilizing visualizations have been perceived to be higher (extra ready, extra skilled, extra clear, extra persuasive, extra attention-grabbing, or a mixture of those attributes) than presenters who used textual content. This implies that advisors who incorporate extra visualizations into their communication might merely be higher favored by a consumer or prospect. And if the advisor is healthier favored, the consumer could also be extra possible to stick with the advisor or to behave upon the recommendation that’s offered.

The Course of Of Visible Pondering

Dan Roam, the writer of The Again of The Serviette, has laid out 4 steps of visible considering that apply to individuals when really taking a look at a visible:

The Step Visual Thinking Process Mike Lecours Visualizations

Step 1 – Wanting. Step one of visible considering includes really trying on the visible. For this step, people are accumulating and screening the visible. They could be trying on the entire visible to grasp what’s making an attempt to be communicated, or they might be on the lookout for one thing acquainted or one thing they acknowledge (and should even see components which are complicated). In essence, a person merely begins by getting their bearings with the visible.

Step 2 – Seeing. The second step includes a extra thorough inspection of the data and includes deciding on areas of the visible to concentrate on. Maybe the individual begins on the lookout for patterns or observing the place patterns don’t exist. At this step, components of the visible might begin to stand out for additional inspection.

Step 3 – Imagining. On this step, an individual begins to suppose critically about what they’ve seen. Maybe they might be questioning in regards to the ramifications of what they see within the visible. Or, maybe there’s a want for extra data to additional perceive the visible. At this stage, they’re considering critically in regards to the visible and what it could be speaking.

Step 4 – Exhibiting. The ultimate step within the course of is having the ability to present the visible to another person and assist talk it to them. This step is about making the visible extra clear. Maybe there are key factors, developments, or observations to share.

In apply, when contemplating visible content material to make use of with shoppers, advisors might undergo these 4 steps. Maybe they Look, See, and Think about a consumer’s efficiency report earlier than Exhibiting it to them throughout a gathering presentation. On this case, advisors are serving to the consumer undergo the primary three steps of their very own technique of visible considering extra simply.

The Model Of A Visualization Can Be Categorized Based mostly On Its Content material And Objective

Not all visualizations are the identical. Totally different types of visualizations must be used to assist in several communications targets. In his 2016 Harvard Enterprise Overview article, “Visualizations that Actually Work”, Scott Berinato gives a framework that characterizes visualizations by asking two questions:

  • Is the data within the visualization conceptual or data-driven?; and
  • Is the aim of the visualization to declare one thing or to discover one thing?

The primary query addresses the content material of visualizations and whether or not they’re used to explain qualitative data (like an idea or technique) or quantitative data (reminiscent of knowledge, data, or statistics), whereas the second query addresses the objective of visualizations and whether or not they are often organized as declarative (to make some extent or a press release) or exploratory (to elicit suggestions on a brand new development or to brainstorm concepts).

Relying on the solutions to those questions addressing each content material and objective, a visualization can match into considered one of 4 classes, as illustrated within the graphic under.

The Four Types of Data Visualization Mike Lecours Visualizations

Every of those 4 common classes identifies how the model of visualization fulfills a singular objective of communication, as mentioned under.

Thought Illustration: Conceptual – Declarative

On this case, the visible helps to speak a recognized idea. If a consumer referred to as involved a few market correction and expressed a need to promote their shares, an advisor might start by speaking about why they need to keep invested. To strengthen the argument, the advisor might comply with up with an electronic mail to summarize the dialog and embrace a visible.

Carl Richards is a pacesetter on this subject with a whole lot of straightforward sketches to clarify advanced ideas (together with one that may realign a consumer’s concentrate on the essential issues which are inside their management). On this case, the visible can ship a strong message that may be misplaced in written or spoken communication. In different phrases, the visible is used to “promote” an idea or technique.

Idea Illustration Communicating Known Concepts Mike Lecours Visualizations

Thought Era: Conceptual – Exploratory

In comparison with Thought Illustration, the Thought Era visualization is a helpful assist within the brainstorming course of. For instance, an advisor can use concept era visuals to uncover one thing new that they don’t already know and that the consumer might have by no means considered earlier than, reminiscent of by serving to shoppers or prospects take into consideration their future and priorities to establish the objectives they wish to handle of their monetary plans.

Idea Generation Discovering New Information Mike Lecours Visualizations

On a regular basis Knowledge Visualization: Knowledge-Pushed – Declarative

When most advisors take into consideration visualizations, they consider data-driven charts and graphs displaying account valuations or web price over time, which frequently encompass bar charts and graphs that report on 1 to 2 forms of knowledge (time and account values are sometimes the commonest). These visualizations will help to set the context for extra significant conversations and for reporting functions. Utilizing charts will help shoppers shortly and simply put key numbers in perspective relative to earlier years. If a consumer appears at a press release and sees that their accounts are down a complete of $10,000, it could evoke concern. But when there’s a chart that reveals that, over the past three years, their accounts have appreciated greater than $250,000, it might probably assist to place that $10,000 decline into perspective.

Beneath is a quite simple chart of a preferred funding – an S&P 500 ETF – displaying the date on one axis and the value on the opposite axis. The information reveals how the value of the ETF has modified over the past yr. It’s reporting on a development and making a declarative assertion about how the ETF has carried out.

Everyday Data Visualization Providing Context for Additional Discussion Mike Lecours Visualizations

Visible Discovery Of Knowledge: Knowledge-Pushed – Exploratory

That is usually the class the place many alternative sources of knowledge are mixed into one visualization to establish new developments or themes. There could also be some trial and error concerned because the parameters of the visualization are modified to see if higher developments or insights could be garnered.

For instance, the chart under illustrates the identical inventory proven within the “On a regular basis Knowledge Visualization” graphic above, however now it consists of a number of completely different knowledge factors. A few of the adjustments embrace using coloration, development traces, buying and selling quantity exercise, and the kind of traces used (e.g., candlesticks).

Together, these additions create a special perspective from the earlier chart. Whereas the earlier chart reported on just one facet of the information, this chart consists of extra knowledge concerns to encourage the invention of insights and developments.

Visual Discovery of Data Identifying Trends and Themes Mike Lecours Visualizations             

Turning Concepts Into Visualizations

Understanding the advantages that visualizations can supply to enhance communication efforts is step one for advisors to absorb designing an efficient visible; the subsequent step is to establish which model of visualization will work finest to speak data to shoppers. Fortunately, there are instruments and assets obtainable to assist create efficient visualizations.

Typically, there are two choices for advisors to think about: Creating the visualizations themselves or contemplating one of many many turnkey choices for assist. For individuals who determine to construct their very own, there are programs that may assist train make efficient visualizations. Harvard gives a course on knowledge visualization that focuses on serving to professionals higher current knowledge and knowledge (with no necessities for a selected software program or programming expertise).

Particular visualization classes could be created both by the advisor themselves or via using turnkey choices.

Thought Illustration (Utilizing Visualizations To Clarify Advanced Ideas)

Creating Visualizations Your self: Advisors can create visualizations on their very own with many alternative instruments. Visualizations don’t should be sophisticated – Carl Richards used a Sharpie marker to sketch out his ideas. Microsoft Phrase and lots of different functions supply easy instruments and templates to place collectively visualizations reminiscent of course of maps and pyramid charts.

Categories of Microsoft Words SmartArt Illustration Tool Features Mike Lecours Visualizations

Advisors can even use software program applications to create graphics that look extra skilled. Canva is a well-liked design utility that may mean you can create all types of graphics. And the very best half is that it is rather simple to make use of.

Napkin Finance Book CoverAdvisors who can create the idea, however don’t have the will or skill to really design it themselves, can outsource designers to assist deliver their idea to life. For instance, Fiverr, Upwork, and 99designs can join advisors to quite a lot of completely different designers. Writer Tina Hay developed sufficient visuals to assist her create a ebook entitled Serviette Finance: Construct Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Much less. You’ll be able to learn her story and see a number of examples of her work at NBCNews.com.

Turnkey Choices: Advisors preferring to not create graphics themselves have loads of turnkey choices to think about, relying on their communication targets. The turnkey choices sometimes present advisors with the visible and provides them the chance to then white-label it to their firm/model.

As an example, related in model to Conduct Hole’s graphics, MoneyVisuals gives a large library of graphics to assist assist in explaining troublesome ideas. MoneyVisuals takes it a step additional, although, by writing client-facing memos that may accompany the visible, which the advisor has the choice to share with their shoppers.

Money Visuals Mike Lecours Visualizations

One other instance is fpPathfinder, which creates flowcharts to assist clarify monetary planning ideas like their 2022 model of “Can I Make A Deductible IRA Contribution?”. The flowcharts will help illustrate the principles related to sure planning methods or assist visualize the important thing selections a consumer should think about earlier than making a choice.

fpPatherfinder Can I Make A Deductible IRA Contribution Mike Lecours Visualizations

Thought Era (Brainstorming Periods)

Creating Visualizations Your self: Thought Era visualizations will help advisors establish new concepts or lead higher brainstorming periods in consumer conferences. For instance, utilizing a whiteboard or iPad (or every other medium handy for the advisor and consumer) to create thoughts maps will help shoppers seize objectives and talk their aspirations or just assist them categorize their property.

Turnkey Choices: MindMeister is an utility that may assist with thoughts mapping. Thoughts mapping workouts are an ideal instance of how an advisor might incorporate a visible part into a gathering presentation with a brand new consumer or prospect to assist establish and talk about their monetary objectives.

No matter whether or not advisors use a software to facilitate brainstorming or select to do it themselves, they might discover it useful to see how different advisors have integrated brainstorming into their processes. For instance, Sten Morgan incorporates whiteboard periods into a few of his conferences to assist the consumer or prospect perceive a few of the planning choices to think about.

Creating Visualizations Your self: On a regular basis Knowledge visualizations are the true area of Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Advisors who wish to create their very own visuals can use these two functions for his or her flexibility in creating all kinds of various charts and graphs to clarify knowledge.

Turnkey Choices: Most monetary planning and efficiency reporting software program covers this type of On a regular basis Knowledge visualization. They usually embrace the potential to create charts displaying the change in a consumer’s web price or efficiency of particular investments.

One-page monetary plans can even fall into this class, as they supply a concise strategy to seize a whole lot of helpful data on one web page. A number of one-page choices assist report on developments for shoppers, together with One Web page Monetary Plan, Lovely Monetary Plan, and Proper Capital’s Snapshot.

Fident One Page Financial Plan Mike Lecours Visualizations

Clearnomics gives white-labeled chartbooks illustrating market and financial charts. Included are observations that accompany every chart to assist clarify essential developments and to place the chart into perspective.

These graphics could be discovered elsewhere, however it is a highly effective software to make use of as a result of the white-labeled visuals could be custom-made to match the advisor’s model.

Clearnomics Total Returns and Pullbacks Mike Lecours Visualizations

Visible Discovery (Uncovering New Insights By Wanting At Visualizations)

Creating Visualizations Your self: As soon as advisors have knowledge, there are a plethora of instruments obtainable to assist them create subtle visualizations. Harvard Enterprise Faculty has compiled an inventory of a number of prime instruments that enterprise professionals can use, starting from Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets (which permits the consumer to add dwell monetary knowledge like inventory costs to visualizations) to classy charts developed by Tableau (which has particular options to assist the Wealth Administration business collect insights into sophisticated buying and selling methods and inventory screening) and Datawrapper (which is a free web site that may convert consumer knowledge right into a custom-made, polished graphic format and supply embed codes for the completed graphic).

One other format to think about is a Sankey diagram, a sort of visualization that depicts processes by indicating charges or frequencies with the sizes of chart components. An attention-grabbing instance of a Sankey diagram that advisors have created illustrates the consumer’s revenue and bills. Mike Zung of Java Wealth Planning has integrated a model of this right into a deliverable he gives to his consumer and was featured within the Kitces Monetary Planning Worth Summit of 2021.

Cash Flow Estimate Baseline and Mike Lecours Visualizations

Turnkey Choices: Making an attempt to supply clear knowledge can generally be an excessive amount of of an impediment for advisors to sort out. When that is the case, there are many choices to think about that may assist them uncover new concepts for shoppers.

Mike Zung has not too long ago developed a collection of templates that permit advisors to create their very own one-page monetary plan. One of many modules permits for the creation of a Sankey diagram that outlines cashflows. He has additionally turned this right into a module obtainable in Lovely Monetary Plan.

Funding-oriented choices embrace Fund Visualizer and Morningstar Advisor Workstation, which can be utilized to establish new insights for a client-specific portfolio that will in any other case be troublesome to see if trying solely on the knowledge or simply seeing the numbers. The intention of those sorts of studies is to uncover new observations, developments, or insights that in any other case could also be missed.

For instance, Morningstar Workplace’s Portfolio Snapshot gives a Danger Evaluation chart that shortly reveals the danger/return profile for particular person investments, the portfolio as an entire, and the benchmark. This could uncover observations for the advisor that they’d not have seen in any other case.

Morningstar Risk Analysis Mike Lecours Visualizations

Visible Capitalist gives visualizations with a broader market and financial perspective in a singular means. For instance, think about its illustration of the State Of The World’s Debt. Merely taking a look at this instance invitations inquiry in a means that different charts might not present.

State of the Worlds Debt Mike Lecours Visualizations

Investments Illustrated gives a fascinating account of US and worldwide markets in an enormous chart that examines numerous elements of market historical past.

The Big Picture Mike Lecours Visualizations

Whereas a chart illustrating a typical stability sheet or assertion of money movement is ubiquitous, monetary planning software program firm Asset-Map introduces a singular perspective by using a Gestalt-style visualization that presents the identical type of data in a means that’s extra intuitive and extra digestible for the consumer.

In an earlier article, Derek Tharpe means that the one-page format of a consumer’s Asset-Map helps “advisors draw out patterns and formulate holistic perceptions which are related to the consumer’s broader environmental contexts.” Merely presenting the identical type of data in a singular means can lead to new insights that will in any other case be misplaced.

Asset Maps Holistic One Page Client Reporting Format

One of many key targets of Visible Discovery is to current data in new methods to encourage the identification of recent developments or observations beforehand unrealized. Whereas many examples listed on this part could also be used initially with shoppers to discover Visible Discovery, these similar approaches might grow to be extra helpful as On a regular basis Knowledge Visualization instruments over time as shoppers grow to be accustomed to them. It is because the position of visuals which are used with shoppers frequently (e.g., Asset-Map studies or Sankey diagrams) are typically much less about visible discovery (because the visible now not presents them with novel data that promotes new concepts) and, as an alternative, grow to be extra about reporting on current developments.

Design Ideas Of Efficient Visualizations

For the visuals which are developed to make some extent (i.e., Thought Illustrations and On a regular basis Knowledge Visualizations), following sure design rules will assist to make sure concepts are communicated clearly. One of the essential elements that units a well-designed visualization aside from one that’s poorly designed is how the general context of the communication is considered. Strains, colours, shading, font dimension, and numerous different components must be utilized to assist talk the concept and draw consideration to the important thing elements of the visible to assist in communication.

Good Charts Book CoverScott Berinato has authored a ebook on this very topic entitled Good Charts: The HBR Information to Making Smarter, Extra Persuasive Knowledge Visualizations, and has additionally offered two glorious webinars on the subject: The Proper Stuff: Chart Varieties and Visualization Greatest (and Worst) Practices and Higher Charts in a Couple of Hours: Sketching to Win. These are all assets that may assist advisors perceive essential rules about utilizing visuals to create efficient displays.

UX Collective additionally gives a number of design-related objects to think about when designing a chart. Just a few of essentially the most related examples embrace:

  • Use a well-known chart sort. If you happen to use a posh or uncommon chart sort, it could be distracting for the consumer.
  • Add not more than 5 slices to a pie chart. It turns into too cluttered to incorporate greater than 5 slices. If that’s not potential, think about a special chart sort.
  • Don’t use randomly generated colours. Take care to pick out colours which are distinct from one another. Be conscious that inexperienced is usually used to characterize one thing optimistic, and crimson usually represents one thing unfavorable. Which signifies that displaying a unfavorable quantity in a inexperienced font could also be complicated!
  • Development traces could be distracting. Earlier than including a development line to a chart, see if the story could be instructed with out including the development line.
  • Embrace a legend solely when it’s really wanted. In some circumstances, the data ordinarily present in a legend could be integrated into the title of the chart.

Beneath is a abstract of a few of the instruments and assets recognized earlier:

Visualization Tools Resources and Turnkey Solutions Mike Lecours Visualizations


In the end, the important thing level is that visualization performs an essential position in communication. Whereas it doesn’t essentially change an precise dialog with a consumer, it does present a beautiful complement to a gathering or electronic mail. Not solely can visualizations assist to convey an idea extra clearly, however, as analysis has prompt, they will additionally lead shoppers to understand their advisor extra favorably.

For monetary advisors, the business lends itself very nicely to using visualizations. There may be an amazing quantity of essential but advanced data (from funding to tax-related knowledge) that should be communicated to shoppers. Thankfully, there are many instruments and assets obtainable for advisors to develop nice visuals, whether or not they choose doing it themselves or discovering turnkey options. And by strategically utilizing visuals, advisors can attain their communication objectives, offering readability for his or her shoppers and serving to them perceive their monetary plans to make the fitting selections!

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