Like “going to hell and back”. Battling Cancer Gave This Financial Advisor the Skills to Build Trust and Listen Better

Derek Amey and his wife tried for a child. When that didn’t happen, he had a urology exam. The urologist’s office called shortly after. “You have to go back,” he was told. “You don’t need an appointment.”

It turned out that not having kids wasn’t her biggest concern. The day before Thanksgiving in 2013, Amey, then 38, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“I had no pain,” said Amey, a partner at StrategicPoint Investment Advisors, a wealth management firm in Providence, RI. “It was only because of the tests for my infertility issue that led to her discovery. We caught it early enough to treat it.

Still, the treatment was aggressive because the cancer had started to spread to her lymph nodes. For five months, he underwent three cycles of chemotherapy.

Amey describes the experience as “going to hell and back”. He lost all his hair as he struggled with the uncertainty of battling an invasive and terrifying disease. In early 2019, five years after his last chemotherapy treatment, he received the clear sign from his doctor that marked a full recovery.

“In hindsight, it made me a much better counselor and I wouldn’t change my diagnosis,” Amey says. For starters, he’s developed a deeper level of empathy when talking to prospects. He works with many young professionals who have never hired a financial planner before. He understands the anxiety and fear they can bring to the initial consultation.

“When I first meet them, they may be scared or embarrassed like me,” he says. “They can come here with luggage and be worried about it.”

Now 46, Amey has over 13 years of experience as a counsellor. He learned how to support newcomers while giving them simple guidelines on the changes they need to make to build their financial future. “I know what it’s like to receive devastating news and I know it will be okay in the end,” he says.

He is also sensitive to the importance of establishing trust from the start. From his experience as a cancer patient, he appreciates the power of first impressions.

“You place a lot of trust in an oncologist that you don’t really know,” Amey says. “But you have to decide within a short period of time” whether to trust the expert’s care. Likewise, he realizes that new customers must decide to trust him. And his actions and behavior can influence his level of comfort.

Early in his career, Amey says, he faced impostor syndrome. He has at times questioned his good faith in offering financial advice. “How could a 37 year old talk to a 60 year old about retirement when I never retired?” he said. To compensate, he used a lot of jargon and overeducated customers without letting them lead the conversation.

After his cancer diagnosis, Amey became more considerate of others and less concerned with showing off his technical expertise. Rather than talking too much, he paused and looked for nonverbal cues to gauge whether customers seemed interested and engaged.

He also learned to speak clearly and deal with sensitive issues. “My oncologist did it well,” Amey says. “He was completely honest the whole way through. He communicated with me even when the news was bad or there was a risk of bad results.

When market volatility shakes clients’ serenity, Amey follows the same playbook. He reassures them while acknowledging the risks and perils. “For those who are prone to panic, it’s about trying to get ahead of their concerns,” he said. “He says, ‘Your financial plan allows for a 30% market correction with no long-term impact. “”

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