Gift giving: The thought, timing matters

By Laura Curtis Ferrera | August 16, 2010 | Last updated on August 16, 2010
3 min read

Sure, advisors take care of financial matters for their clients but there’s a personal side to the advisory business that should be nurtured as seriously and conscientiously as any investment portfolio. Fostering a deeper connection between broker and client creates a sense of interpersonal obligation that has become essential to client retention.

Most advisors already understand the need to demonstrate how much they appreciate their clients. So, they send a gift or a card at Christmas and assume they’ve done their duty.

Not so fast. Gift giving has become consigned to the traditional holiday season almost by default but how much actual thought have advisors put into this ritual? After all, December is a cluttered month. That box of chocolates or Group of Seven card is lost in a sea of other gifts. Your well-intentioned token of appreciation will never outshine the diamond pendant or family heirloom that your clients may receive over the holidays.

Don’t despair. Gift-giving is something that can happen at various points throughout the year – and with more impact. A thoughtful gesture at one of the lesser-celebrated holidays will stand out and solidify the client-advisor connection, as any good gift should.

First, some don’ts. Birthdays are too obvious; sending a card with a brief signature or a predictable gift seems contrived and falls into the same clutter trap as a Christmas gift – how does your deed get noticed among the weekend getaway to Paris or the bottle of rare single malt Scotch your client is probably enjoying?

Wedding anniversaries are another no-no – that’s a time for the couple to celebrate each other and their families. Let them get the presents for that occasion, plus, you never know the state of anyone’s marriage. Your message of congratulations on an enduring union may fall short.

So, what else is there? Well, how about Remembrance Day, which resonates with so many Canadians? Try printing the full text of “In Flanders Fields” on high-quality paper. Attach a poppy pin to the card and send it along with a note explaining that you made a contribution on their behalf to veterans’ charities. That’s sure to strike a chord.

Halloween is a good holiday for newer advisors with a client base of younger families. A pumpkin left on the doorstep, with a carving kit and a hand-written note attached with black ribbon is a unique way to make the connection between your services and the future of this growing family.

Perhaps the best alternative to the December holiday season is Thanksgiving, which offers several gift options. One of my favourites is to send a sugar maple sapling in a biodegradable box with a message conveying the notion that family gathered for the big meal can take stock of their blessings and find a place in the yard to plant the young tree. They’ll enjoy watching it get bigger and stronger as the years pass.

Other celebrations throughout the calendar present more possibilities but it’s probably best to avoid Valentine’s Day, creepy for obvious reasons.

Money isn’t “just money,” after all. By thinking creatively, advisors can find ways to show clients that their business isn’t “just business.” A well thought-out gift at any time of year is a great way to forge a lasting bond between both parties.

  • Laura Curtis Ferrera is the Head of Marketing and Communications, Macquarie Banking and Financial Services Group , which includes Macquarie Private Wealth Inc., a member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund and IIROC.

    Laura Curtis Ferrera