Financial decisions: rational or pure emotion?

Optima finances Financial Planning Practice chair at Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School

Tax law, succession and financial planning are rational matters. But today, more than ever, money is a highly emotional theme among consumers. How can consumers see the wood for the trees, and how can an advisor help them make the right choices? To find an answer to this and other questions, Optima Financial Planners and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School have joined forces in the form of the ‘Optima Chair in Financial Planning Practice’. The partnership for this chair will be embedded in the ‘Vlerick Centre for Financial Services’ on the Brussels campus.

The banking crisis and the excess of – often highly complex – financial information often cause great uncertainty among consumers. Then there is the financial crisis that has damaged the confidence of many service provider clients. With their research, the two partners aim to understand the processes that play a part in financial decision-making, and help examine how to restore confidence.

“In general terms our research project concentrates on the question of how consumers make decisions concerning money,” says Vlerick professor Marion Debruyne. “And why do they choose a company such as Optima? We check our findings against the situation in practice and examine how Optima can apply these insights to its operational management.”

“We also want to obtain insight in what we call the consumer decision journey,” continues Professor Debruyne. “The steps a client takes when he chooses a financial partner. Which criteria does he use with each step? And how can we correctly lead him through this process so he receives the right information at the right time for his specific needs? We can also widen the context and make use of good ideas from other sectors.”

Philip De Hulsters, manager at Optima, emphasises that the key to a good financial and fiscal plan lies in uniting client knowledge and legislation. “Getting to know our clients well – including their decision processes – is essential if we want offer them a comprehensive audit of their personal situation and develop financial forecasts within the framework of the highly complex Belgian legislation. And this requires a very meticulous academic approach.”

“We also rely on the permanent exchange of knowledge and insights. In addition we want to know how we can deploy and develop the knowledge we dispose of as a company to the fullest. Sharing our knowledge and experience with Vlerick will contribute to gaining better strategic insight for Optima and innovative research insights for Vlerick,” says Philip De Hulsters.

About Optima Financial Planners

Optima Financial Planners provides its clients – mainly self-employed entrepreneurs and members of the professions – with a complete overview of their financial and fiscal situation through a thorough audit. Based on the audit and the personal objectives of the client, an individual financial plan is drawn up and clients are guided towards concrete solutions if required. Optima Financial Planners has 380 employees with offices in Ghent, Brussels, Waterloo and Madrid. The company was set up in 1991, and over 20 years has built up a portfolio of some 14,000 client files.

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