Herbers & Company has hired a financial therapist to expand the independent consulting firm’s education on client communication, behavioral finance and digital client experiences.
In mid-August, Sonya Lutter, who had been a professor at Kansas State University for 12 years, joined Herbers & Co.’s Academy as its new director of institutional research and education. She has improved the curriculum for dozens of degree programs, contributed to several books on consumer behaviors and previously served as the Financial Therapy Association’s president for three years.
In Lutter’s role as the firm’s first financial therapist, she will build research-based educational employee training programs to better client experience and communication. She will also work with the firm’s institutional partners to expand their training programs to financial advisors, said Angie Herbers, the company’s managing partner.
“The client experience and advisor experience is the future of work and servicing others, and [Lutter] comes with that great ability as well,” Herbers said.
In addition to her work as a financial therapist, Lutter led a top-tier CFP-registered program at Kansas State University. Her experience and research into financial therapy, along with marriage and family therapy, was a bonus, Herbers said.
“She’s the best, and that is, truly, the honest answer,” Herbers said. “We don’t know of anyone who has the leadership capabilities, the background and education, and has come from a top-three CFP-registered program.”
Lutter’s hiring signifies an industrywide shift regarding financial psychology, something which has become more important to firms and their client relationships, said Sarah Fallaw, president of DataPoints, a company that provides automated behavioral finance tools to the financial services industry.
Hiring financial therapists is still relatively new, and it’s taken some time for the industry to recognize the value of financial psychology, she said.
Clients come in with unique characteristics, attitudes and values toward money. In many cases, financial therapists and psychologists have the training to work with clients and tackle those tricky topics, making them uniquely qualified to dig into clients’ money beliefs and critical life experiences, according to Fallaw.
Firms that can embrace this kind of behavioral side or the psychological side will be better able to retain clients and anticipate what they might do in the future, she said.
“The tide is turning toward engaging in that kind of personalized relationship-building with clients, and they’re recognizing the value of that because you’re able to better communicate with them and certainly add value beyond sort of the mechanics of financial planning,” Fallaw said.