Time and again when I meet people in a personal capacity and tell them what I do they recount some horror story, often decades old, which they say has put them off financial advice for good.
It might be memories of being sold an endowment promised to repay their mortgage or being told to transfer out of a very good final salary pension in the 1990s.
Or perhaps it was just a meeting in which the adviser left them cold by focusing on products,
charts and benchmarks, clearly not understanding what it was they needed.
Despite the fact most advisers offer free initial appointments, people continue to be scared of even picking up the phone due to the perception they will be put under pressure, talked into something or made to feel stupid.
Can we really be surprised most would not rush to put themselves
in that sort of situation? The revolution in our profession has been radical – but I am not sure the word is getting out to the public fast enough.
I am continually bowled over when I hear about other peoples’ businesses at conferences and the like.
There are so many people out there really trying to raise their game, with an increasing focus on the softer side of helping to coach clients.
But while many of us are clearly concentrating on making both ourselves and our firms the best they can be, we cannot overlook the fact a huge number of potential clients are avoiding advice because of bad past experiences – whether that be their own or from stories they have heard.
I know many advisers give back in various ways, and taking the time to talk to people without any expectation of business is a really good way to do this. It also helps improve our public relations.
I have always screened potential clients quite strictly, because I am conscious of not wasting my time.
That is not to say I only meet those where I can see potential business. I get a lot of calls from people who would benefit from a short chat and some guidance. Often a simple explanation of pensions tax relief, death benefits from workplace schemes or what an investment fund is can be game changing for people.
Understanding finance is so empowering, but what comes naturally to us is a complete enigma to so many.
Giving a little bit of time and expertise benevolently can restore people’s faith and will mean that, if and when they or someone they know needs advice, they are much more likely to remember the person that gave them their time.
Following this ethos has seen my own enquiries snowball. I generally get several new enquiries a week – much more than I can possibly handle – but I will often recommend a colleague or another adviser who is better suited. There is plenty of business for everyone.
The more we demonstrate good practice and promote our profession, the wider reciprocal benefit for all will spread.
Claire Walsh is a chartered financial planner at Aspect 8