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Profiling gets to the root of what a client wants from an IFA

This week, I am giving a speech at the Marketforce conference on the impact of the retail distribution review. My chosen subject is client profiling and the need for wealth managers to develop more sophisticated segmentation.

This is a topic I had not given much thought to previously. It is strange what taking over as CEO of a national wealth management business does to you.

What does client profiling actually mean? For many, client profiling is aligned to a client’s attitude to risk and taking this information to determine the most suitable portfolio. For others, it is understanding the demographics of the client in terms of age, wealth and previous investment experience.

I am leaning further toward the latter. For me, a client’s profile is the understanding of what that client expects from my company and our financial advisers that provide the core of that relationship. I think risk profiling is a separate task that is applied to all clients, irrelevant of their service.

The way we approach profiling as an industry is something that has been the subject of much debate, especially during this year of great change as the RDR draws nearer. There is a standard process in place but it could be argued that we need to develop a more sophisticated method.

We have been conducting a series of in-depth interviews with our clients to try and understand exactly what they want from us and what they want to pay for.

For example, if clients want a full advisory service, how can we make it easier for them to interact with us? What do they need from us to support them? On the other hand, some clients may wish for a lighter service from their adviser, with the ability to check in as and when desired.

Profiling a client goes well beyond the amount of money that they are looking to invest – it is far more about understanding preferences and aligning our services and finding solutions to support this.

In the run-up to the RDR, the industry will be focused on transparency and treating the customer fairly and our method of client profiling is directly in line with this.

Rather than using standard wealth management segmentation, we are taking the time to find out exactly what our advisers and clients really want and need. Only then can we deliver the best possible service.

Jonathan Polin is chief executive of Ashcourt Rowan

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