Implement the SCARF Model with Your Clients

Say a client has been overspending on his credit card. You have a chat about it, and he leaves your office, assuring you that he’s going to rein it in. But at your next meeting, he hasn’t decreased excessive spending and he seems frustrated.

Why is your client acting like this? Perhaps it’s because he felt threatened when you told him to curb his spending at the previous meeting. In this case, the SCARF model might come in handy.

David Rock developed the SCARF model, which is rooted in neuroscience, in a 2008 paper titled, “SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others,” published by the NeuroLeadership Institute.

According to Rock, status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness (SCARF) are the five areas that activate our brains to think we are either being threatened or rewarded.

In Daniel Crosby’s keynote speech at the 2018 FPA Annual Conference, he spoke about how our brains are wired for survival and the decisions we make are to ensure that we do just that. Because of this, our brains can’t tell the difference between a well-meaning person who’s offering constructive feedback and somebody threatening our safety. So, here’s how SCARF can help you.

According to the Mindtools.com article, “David Rock’s SCARF Model: Using Neuroscience to Work Effectively with Others,” you can minimize threats and maximize rewards in the following ways to better help colleagues and clients:


This is our importance relative to other people. People like to feel important. Talk to your clients patiently and gently or frame your constructive feedback in a way that eliminates the so-called threat.


This is our ability to predict what’s going to happen next. If we are uncertain, we feel threatened and we can’t focus because we’re too busy trying to make sense of things. If what you’re explaining to your client is too complex and causes uncertainty, break it down for them.


This is our sense of control over things. Show your clients that you trust their judgment. Delegate, include them in decision-making, let them take on more responsibility and let them try new things.


This relates to how safe we feel with others. Connect with people. Build up a strong bond by scheduling regular meetings or check-ins.


This relates to how fair we think exchanges are between people. When people think things are unfair, they feel incredibly threatened. Minimize this by being honest and having clear expectations.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn


How To Get the Most Out Of Industry Conferences

Fall is the time of year for industry conferences, like the FPA Annual Conference in Minneapolis that starts tomorrow. These events are a great way to hone your knowledge, meet new people and stay up to date on new and exciting ideas in the profession. Here are some tips to make the most of your next event:

Set your schedule in advance. Find out what the sessions are and make a list of the ones you want to attend. This doesn’t mean you can’t make some changes once you get to the event, but oftentimes there is very little time between breakout sessions and you don’t want to be scrambling and trying to make a decision.

Get out of your comfort zone. It’s so easy to attend sessions on topics that you are more comfortable with. You should be using this time to expose yourself to new and unfamiliar topics.

Review the schedule with someone who knows and understands your career path. Before every conference, I go over my plans with one or two members on my team. We’ll review the sessions I’ve picked to see if there are other options that might be better aligned with my goals, skill set and ideal client profile.

Come prepared. You wouldn’t come to a client meeting without a way to take notes. The same goes for a conference. For some people that might be a laptop, for others it might be a pen and paper. Whatever system works best for you, just make sure that your notes are in a place that you can find them later.

Don’t skip the sponsors. Do your research ahead of time—who’s coming and what services do they provide? Can you make a good connection? Even if you aren’t sure their service may not fit your needs right now, they may later. Or, even better, an opportunity may come along where you can connect them with someone else.

Do some networking. Find out who is going in advance and make a list of people you might want to connect with. Many conferences have apps you can utilize for this, as well as LinkedIn pages or Facebook events. Find out if there are any meetups or dinners you could attend. If you see someone by themselves, ask if you can join them. Many people are attending these events solo and may be uncomfortable going up to others.

Do a data dump when you get back. You’ve just absorbed a ton of information, now you’ll want to put it together in a meaningful way. I like to schedule a meeting with the people I initially went over my schedule with and bring back my big takeaways.

Share with your team. Last but not least, share what you’ve learned with your team. I will usually review the key points at our weekly staff meeting and bring more specific topics in-depth to others that I know would be interested.

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Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of the FPA Next Generation Planner, an app publication that provides helpful and relevant content specifically for NexGen planners. Download the app in the Apple App or Google Play store. Want to write for the FPA Next Generation Planner or have story ideas? Email NGP@OneFPA.org

Jessica Goedtel

Jessica Goedtel, CFP®, is an assistant vice president at Valley National Financial Advisors in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


Are You Adapting for Your Future Clients?

The pace of change today—from technology adoption to consumer demand for a personalized, convenient service experience—is unprecedented. What are financial planners doing to adapt to change, and how will they innovate in the future? These are the central questions explored in new research from SEI and FPA, which will be released at the FPA Annual Conference next week in Minneapolis.

Qualitative data from in-depth personal interviews with planning practitioners was combined with the results of robust online surveys of both planners and investors to reach the general conclusion that planners may not be effectively preparing for the client-centric experience that investors will demand in the future. The results of the joint research will be presented at the FPA Annual Conference in Minneapolis next week. Here are a few key takeaways (stay tuned to the FPA Research and Practice Institute for the full research report after it is released):

More Differentiation Needed

When asked to choose among 10 options that best described their primary differentiator, the most popular options among financial planners were “offers life planning and financial planning” (selected by 28 percent of the online survey respondents) and “fosters personal connections” (selected by 24 percent). Only 5 percent chose “other” and offered unique descriptors that could meaningfully set them apart from the competition, such as “tax-free retirement specialist.”

Nearly half (48 percent) of planners surveyed described themselves as generalists who work with any client who meets their minimum account size. Less than one-quarter (24 percent) of planners surveyed segment their clients and prospects by niche.

Meanwhile, investors were asked the top reasons why they stay with their current financial planner. The most popular reason, selected by 69 percent of investors surveyed, was because the planner is available to answer questions. Nearly 60 percent also indicated they stay because of the personality of their planner; simply put—investors like their planners.

Technology Disconnect?

Clients like you; that’s great—but will your likeability be enough to grow your business in the future? The investors who participated in the survey (686 non self-directed investors with investable assets over $100,000) were either very comfortable (38 percent) or somewhat comfortable (42 percent) with digital tools. Yet just one-third (31 percent) currently use an online portal to manage their accounts. Are planners missing an opportunity to provide clients the tech tools they are accustomed to using in other parts of their lives?

Although planners are well aware that technology will be a “theme” they will encounter over the next five to 10 years, just one-quarter of planners surveyed said that one of their top three business goals over the next five to 10 years will be to adopt the best new financial technology on the market. Planners also believe that technology is the key to freeing up more time to spend on personal connections with clients.

But, there may be disillusions when it comes to the work involved in adapting planning practices to new technology and evolving client demands. When asked how they expect to evolve their client experience over the next five to 10 years, only 22 percent of planners surveyed reported that they will have to adapt their process at all for the future.

Editor’s note: If you’re in Minneapolis and want to learn more about this research, check out the session “Advisory Firms in 2030: The Innovation Imperative” at 10:45 a.m., Wednesday Oct. 16 in MCC 101 HIJ. If you haven’t registered yet, do so today. Want to stay tuned into what’s happening at the conference if you’re not there? Read the conference blog

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Carly Schulaka is editor of the Journal of Financial Planning. Reach her at cschulaka@onefpa.org.