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Alastair Conway: Life sucks

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Made you look, eh? It had the same effect on me. It’s the title of a recent blog posted on Adviser Lounge by @PaulGormanCFP.

As a tactic to solicit a click through it worked a treat. Fully expecting to read a litany of cruddy first-week-back-at-work clichés, yet intrigued by just how bad it had to be to say that it ‘sucked’ (everybody revels in a spot of schadenfreude every now and again) I clicked on the link in the tweet.

It is not often that something has the power to stop me in my tracks. But this blog did. In 304 simple, un-boastful words the author describes a recent interaction with a long-standing client. The client had contacted his adviser to let him know that his wife had died, using language that you would if telling a friend. I urge you to read the blog for yourselves as I can’t do it justice.

But what I will say is that for me it typifies the reason why some got it so spectacularly wrong when they predicted the RDR-induced demise of the financial adviser community. The blog shone a spotlight on the fact that for the vast majority of advisers it’s not about fees, it’s about doing right by their clients. It’s a relationship.

And while there is undoubtedly the beginning of a groundswell of people wanting to do more for themselves it simply means a change in focus of the relationship not an end to it. Smart technology gives people access to their finances when they want it, where they want it, even placing trades on the way to work if they feel like it. But it does not – and I can not see a time when it ever will – replace the adviser/client relationship. It should complement it.

An adviser’s value is in being trusted to provide strategy, planning and performance reviews. It is in providing the tax planning, investment planning, cash flow planning and knowing how to blend the various pots of money their clients hold between pensions, Isas, GIAs.

We are into the second year of the RDR and I believe we are a few years away from really knowing whether it has been a success or not. However, the fact that good advisers have flourished despite all the regulatory hurdles just goes to show the strength of the relationship between adviser and client.

The call to client described in the Life Sucks blog will not have been easy but there should be comfort to be had in the knowledge that it comes with the territory of being trusted and relied upon.

Alastair Conway is chief executive of James Hay

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