There is something about memory loss that should raise a red flag when it comes to your aging clients and their investments.  Are you prepared?

By 2030, there will be 72.1 million people in the U.S. over age 65, or “elders”.  7.7 million of them will have Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).   This directly translates to a large number of impaired clients making or attempting to make financial transactions and decisions. Some of those transactions could be with you.

According to respected researcher, attorney and neuropsychologist at the University of Alabama, Burmingham, Dr. Daniel Marson, losing capacity for financial decisions is something we need to be ready for, as it affects a huge part of our population.   The problem is growing. Financial institutions, organizations and banks need to take preventive steps to avoid financial losses and exploitation of their clients.

What are the implications for the financial services industry?  Demographics and dementia demonstrate that policies need to change and institutions need to explicitly plan for diminished financial capacity in their investors.  We’re not just talking about escalating a matter to compliance when a client seems to be behaving oddly. We are suggesting that institutions and organizations get over the brick wall excuse that it’s not their problem, it’s the family’s problem.  Financial professionals need to change the thinking that privacy concerns prevent them at all times from doing anything unless the client gives permission. A client who is impaired for decision-making may not be willing or able to give permission for you to discuss a problem with family until it is too late.  Getting permission needs to be a proactive mandate.

Privacy does not have to be a problem if your organization, institution, or you, as an individual plan for the possibility of diminished capacity as a part of all investment transactions.  That planning will include obtaining a special authorization for the financial services professional to contact a designated person when certain criteria are met.  That, of course, means thinking through, with the input of aging experts, the criteria that would trigger the use of the special authorization.

Further, one should develop an agreed upon plan of action for the financial professional when the criteria that demonstrate diminished capacity are identified.  This will take collaboration among all the players in institutions, so that policy development is uniform, regulation-compliant, and fair to the aging person who may be developing impairment.

Most importantly, a secure path of communication and action for the institution needs to be in place. No one with a questionable aging client should be left wondering:

Should I escalate this to compliance now, or does it take more?

Do I have the authority to contact a family member, or does that violate my client’s privacy and the laws about privacy?

What steps should I take now to protect myself?

Clients with memory loss are likely going to become impaired for making financial decisions at some point.  Do you want to lose the assets under your management because your aging investor can’t figure out what you are saying and can’t approve what you need to do to protect him from disaster?  We see an absolute connection, based on very solid research, between the dangerous red flag of memory loss and financial loss.

If you have heard the term “sliver tsunami” you may know that it refers to the massive wave of aging folks in our population.  In case you haven’t noticed, it has already hit and your feet are getting wet.

Get a one page checklist you can use to identify ten signs of diminished capacity by clicking HERE. Be ready for aging clients and know what to do!

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