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All singing, all dancing advisers

For several years, I have attended the Financial Planning Association&#39s Success Forum. This year, we found ourselves in New Orleans.

The last time I was in New Orleans, I decided to take advantage of a shoeshine. On completion, the gentleman performed a tapdance – not an uncommon sight in New Orleans.

The focus for discussions between delegates was the state of financial markets. I also attended a lecture by Roger Gibson, who is seen in the US as an asset allocation guru.

It was clear from many of the delegates that, just as Ron Sandler criticised UK advisers for not utilising asset allocation, the same complaints have been made of American advisers. If advisers are to be recognised as being competent in all matters of investment, we need to consider how we are going to increase our knowledge.

There are many methods that can be adopted, self study among them, but it is best to wait until the regulator proclaims what is needed in the light of the Sandler review.

While I was in the US, I was asked to explain withprofits. I said it was an investment account which used smoothing to take out some of the bumps in the market but more recently this smoothing was being negated by the application of a market value adjuster.

The gentleman who posed the question was confused – but no more so than many IFAs.

If advisers are going to develop their skills, then it is essential that the products we offer are honest, clear and are certainly not given to the individual in a confused state. This is not something I think we can honestly say is the position currently.

There is an anticipation of service that I am not convinced is actually borne out in reality. This leads to a very unsatisfactory position for the professional adviser.

Some time after my first visit to New Orleans, I was in Heathrow Airport and noticed that the Reid shoes were in need of a serious polish. It is always the way when you leave the house in a hurry to catch an early morning flight, especially when it is dark. It is hard to remember that there is something that you did not do the night before, that is, polish your shoes.

Anyway, to get back to my story, I sat down at the shoeshine in Heathrow and was asked by the gentleman if this was the first time I had taken advantage of such a service. I told him it was not. In fact, the last time I had taken advantage was in New Orleans.

He started to polish my shoes and I then remarked: “And at the end of that, the gentleman tapdanced for me.” With a deadpan look, he looked back at me and said: “Well, I am sorry but you are certainly not going to get that kind of service here.”

The IFA has the ultimate weapon in this marketplace – the ability to add that little bit extra.

I am not suggesting that we take up tapdancing but we need to make damn sure clients know just how talented we are.

Robert Reid is principal of Syndaxi Financial Planning.

He can be contacted via email c/o the editor at robert.reid@centaur.co.uk

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