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Clive Waller: Building relationships with experts

Please stay with me for a moment while I discuss dentists. I have been in Petersfield for 30 years. Every dentist has told me my gums are bad, but they can cure the problem. My super Russian dentist was the first and, after a few months, all was well. For 20 years, that is, until she retired and I moved on to Archie. He told me my gums were bad, but he could help. Of course, he did, until he retired on ill health and along came Charlotte, who told me my gums were bad. She, however, has sent me to a specialist in Winchester.

I am dubious about the specialist treatment I am paying a great deal for. However, I am a good public school boy and do (almost) all doctors and dentists tell me to. As such, I am following the plan. Will it work? Probably, because I am paying so much and committing so much time.

There is a parallel here with the financial adviser; not the dubious bit, I should add. Most people find adviser charges are higher than they anticipate, according to multiple research papers. However, if the adviser truly sells the plan and the client makes the decision to go with it, the battle is pretty much won.

The good adviser paints a picture of life goals being achieved because financial plans are set and adhered to. I hear few cases of clients not staying with a plan once agreed. 

Now I am going to look at another such relationship – that with my solicitor. Because of family circumstances, I have spent more time with my solicitor than I would choose to. They have carried out excellent work for me on wills, will trusts and lasting powers of attorney.

Their costs are incredibly low, for three reasons:

  1. I deal with the cheapest but highest-qualified person for the work;
  2. Because they are totally competent, they spend their day working and not researching;
  3. They are in competition on price. When I asked why they were so cheap, I was told a firm in Chichester was cheaper.

However, there is a downside: I have no relationship with my solicitor. Every time I want something new, I start again. The good adviser maintains a relationship.

I would prefer a situation with my solicitor combining the competence and good value I experience now, but where there was also a link with, say, a partner, who “owned” the relationship. There is a clear message for me here. I want the best of both worlds. When I have a problem, I want to deal with an expert, whether on trusts, defined benefit schemes, tax wrapper management, etc. Experts at good solicitors are not expensive unless you get into unusual or complex areas.

The same should be true at adviser firms. Experts at paraplanner level should be employed in all areas that form part of the firm’s proposition. The adviser’s role is gaining clients and managing the relationship. 

For me, I want a continuing relationship with the firm and with my adviser. That way, I am reassured someone knows all about my affairs and can direct me to an expert when required.

Clive Waller is managing director of CWC Research

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